Review: Diana Wynne Jones – Conrad’s Fate

Excellent – I’ve finished the first book in my Year of Reading Women! Diana Wynne Jones was certainly not a name that I was familiar with, even though she wrote the novel Howl’s Moving Castle – which may or may not be my favourite Miyazaki film (soft spot for My Neighbour Totoro, I watched it a thousand times as a child.)

Anyway, Howl’s Moving Castle is in the post, winging its way to me across the globe. So I’ll read that too.

Conrad’s Fate is a novel about a small boy, cursed with a heavy fate – the Lords of Karma have passed judgment, and his karma hangs around him like a millstone, one that must be lifted before the year is up, or he is doomed.

This is a young adult novel, I guess (I should have guessed after seeing the cover.) Although they’re not usually my cup of tea, I rather enjoyed Conrad’s Fate. Sure there’s romance, and trouble at school, and a dead parent. But most of that is kept in the background. None of the romance involves Conrad, and the trouble at school is more the fault of his mother, who is always upstairs, writing feminist pamphlets and essays (she sounds brilliant, just through her titles: Women in Crisis  and The Case for Females, for example.)

“Mum has this little bare room with creaking floorboards…with nothing in it much except dust and stacks of paper.”

I’ll be putting this book on the shelf, squarely where my soon-to-be eight year old daughter can see it. Some of the prose in this novel is brilliant, and some is quite funny, if in a sad way (“I rather liked the idea of father gambling half a bookshop away.”) – as Conrad is sent away to kill the one responsible for his bad karma, we get to see a portrait of a small boy being manipulated and exploited by his uncle, who wants to take the castle on the hill (“…just a glint and a flashing in the place where green hills faded into rocky mountains.”) for his own and begin to play with the causalities of this world in the same way that the current Count in the castle is doing.

He is sent to be a footman in the Count’s service, and to carry with him a cork blessed by his uncle’s Magic Circle in order to summon a Walker, who will give him the implement he’ll need to carry out the assassination.

Toward the end of the book a deus ex machina makes an appearance, unfortunately – the ghost of a murdered child, who is never shown being killed and in fact never mentioned until the book begins to canter into it’s ending. Still, it was a fun, light read, and one that I will give to my daughter to read – if you like YA fantasy, then this might be for you. It’s got the whole disaffected child suddenly summoned to greatness thing…

Now I just want to put in a couple more quotes, but I guess I’ll give it…

“I fell asleep and dreamed slow, cloves-and-metal scented dreams…”

“She was wearing a dark blue dress that was both flowing around her and clinging to her in an expensive way…”

If you’ve got any suggestions to add to my Year of Reading Women list, let me know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “Review: Diana Wynne Jones – Conrad’s Fate

  1. Ah. I’m not sure what you’ll think of “Howl’s Moving Castle” if you’ve already seen the film. I read the book first and then could barely get through the movie (though that doesn’t say much, as I’m not a huge fan of animes in the first place). I loved Calcifer though, in both forms. 🙂

    I may have to give Conrad’s Fate a whirl when I have the time. It sounds like it must be similar in tone to HMC, so it would probably be an enjoyably light read.

    • Really? I’m quite looking forward to Howl’s, I loved the film (but then, Miyazaki’s visual style will always win me over, regardless.) And Conrad’s Fate was alright, a book’s gotta be pretty damn good to get four stars from me, so a three star result is a recommendation…

  2. […] is the second book I’ve reviewed for my Year of Reading Women. The first was Conrad’s Fate, by Diana Wynne […]

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