March Magics: Meeting some new friends

I’m always pleased to join in with March Magics, which celebrates favorite authors Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. Both departed this life in the month of March, leaving us readers sad yet grateful for all the wonderful books they gifted us with over many years.

For this 11th session of MM, I picked up some tales for younger readers that I had not read before. Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a collection of stories that Pratchett wrote as a teenager when working for the Bucks Free Press, finally published in book form late in his career (I believe some further volumes were published posthumously). The stories are slight, silly and effervescent, already demonstrating the interest in exploiting the conventions and tropes of fantasy literature that would make the Discworld books such a joy, but with less maturity and incisive humor. But hey, not bad for a 17-year-old! Most interesting for the glimpse they give into Pratchett’s early writing talent, more than for any special merit in the stories themselves.

From one author’s first stories to another’s last, I went to Jones’s Earwig and the Witch, published posthumously as a standalone with illustrations by Paul Zelinsky. A tale of an feisty orphan adopted by a horrid witch and her menacing companion, it was a delightful sketch, but also slight in comparison with the author’s more substantial work. I wish it could have gone on a bit longer — I especially wondered what happened to the person who dropped Earwig off at the orphanage with a note promising to return — but we have to be grateful for what we have.

Have you read either of these? What are your favorite books by Pratchett and Jones?

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12 thoughts on “March Magics: Meeting some new friends

  1. I haven’t read either of these, I’m afraid. I read a chunk of the early Discworld books, which I loved, but kind of lost touch with them. As for DWJ, Fire and Hemlock is my all time favourite of hers – a wonderful book!

    1. Absoutely, it would be my desert island DWJ book. Earwig is like a bit of candy fluff compared to that complete meal.

  2. I read each of these shortly after they were published, and my feelings are much as you describe.

    My favorite DWJ is probably Howl’s Moving Castle, this is the one I re-read the most often. As for Prachett, I have a fond spot for Truckers and the sequels, and also for the sub-group of the disc world series that deals with Tiffany and the Wee Free Men, so I suppose this means I like his books about very small peoples?

    1. Haha, it seems you do! This book was my introduction to the Carpet People, but I feel no need to read more about them. Overall he obviously loves to play with differences of scale and perspective, and push us to put our own absurd problems into a larger picture.

  3. A good friend of mine is a mad Pratchett fan, but I’ve just listened to a couple of the novels on audio, which was probably not the best introduction, I think I might have enjoyed reading them more.

    1. I have a hard time focusing on audiobooks, especially Discworld books, which have no chapters to help me orient myself. I’ve also found are stronger or more appealing –probably a personal taste, each fan has their own favorites. I favor Wyrd Sisters for its wacky mashup of Shakespeare.

  4. Having made the mistake of starting with The Colour of Light, which really didn’t pull me in, I’ve never gone back to Pratchett… but I fully intend to, someday. I do enjoy the Diana Wynne Jones books I have read, particularly Howl’s Moving Castle and Glass Magic; I should probably seek out more of them.

    1. I have not read that one because I heard it was weaker. There’s no need to read Discworld in order, so it’s unfortunate if someone starts at the beginning and gets put off. I recommend Wyrd Sisters if you’re a Shakespeare buff. Or jump into the middle like I did — the first one I read was The Truth which is #22 or something. And there are so many great DWJ books to enjoy, I envy you for still having more to discover.

  5. I’m currently enjoying The Spellcoats all over again, having run through my store of DWJ titles; the Earwig book is not currently one of them. Luckily I have some TP books new to me still to enjoy, with many more waiting!

    1. I might reread The Spellcoats myself (I need a bedtime book now that I’ve finished The Silver Chair.) I’ve got loads of Pratchett to choose from too. I can’t believe the month is almost over.

  6. Since I tend to read so much of the YA and adult books from DWJ and Pratchett, I do forget sometimes how fun their stories for younger readers are! I’m glad you enjoyed both of these and I actually suggest picking up The Carpet People as he revised the expanded version several times after that original story.

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