The Dalemark Quartet, Books 1 and 2

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These are among the only novels by Diana Wynne Jones to win big awards. And they’re pretty damn good–better than most people could dream of. But to be honest, I was pretty unimpressed by the first two.

The merits of those two books, I felt, rested most strongly in their last pages. The young boy protagonists were each faced with a choice, which would determine what sort of man they would be.

Lesser writers would have shied away from touching on topics as “grown up” as these. Not Diana Wynne Jones. The characters of her books came face-to-face with themselves, and neither emerged fully happy with what he saw. And that is perhaps one of the truest parts of growing up: realizing that we won’t always like everything we see in the mirror, and we’re just going to have to live with that.

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