8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review Double Feature: Eight Days of Luke & Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

After a few disappointing reads in the past few weeks, I was in need of some well-deserved comfort reading and some laid-back review-writing. So, I turned to the always reliable Diana Wynne Jones.

Title: Eight Days of Luke

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Norse Mythology

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: First published 1977
Paperback: 203 pages

It’s summer vacation, but David’s miserably stuck with his unpleasant relatives. Then a strange boy named Luke turns up, charming and fun, joking that David has released him from a prison. Or is he joking? He certainly seems to have strange powers, and control over fire…

Luke has family problems of his own, and some very dark secrets. And when David agrees to a bargain with the mysterious Mr. Wedding, he finds himself in a dangerous hunt for a lost treasure, one that will determine Luke’s fate!

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Why did I read this book: I love Diana Wynne Jones’ books and when I read The Other Ana’s review recently, I IMMEDIATELY bought the book.


Young orphan David dreads the upcoming summer holidays as he will be stuck with his horrible relatives. When he meets the charming and friendly Luke he is willing to oversee the fact that Luke doesn’t operate under the same rules as everybody else. But then things start to get dangerous and a Mr Wedding shows up offering David a bargain…one that will determine Luke’s faith and will send David on a quest for a missing treasure.

As usual, this is a freaking brilliant DWJ novel. Even though I expected no less given The Other Ana’s review, I was completely taken by surprise by how good it was. The elements of the quest, the bargain with Mr Wedding, it is all very cleverly done without being obvious. It always fascinates me how DWJ never underestimates the children she is writing for; and David is written in a way that makes his smarts completely believable and therefore possible for me to buy into the idea that he would face head on some of the wisest, smartest characters in Norse Mythology without it coming across as ridiculous.

The book is a reworking of Norse Mythology, featuring some of my favourite Norse characters in prominent ways. If you know anything about Norse Myths, you will be able to guess who exactly Luke is the minute he shows up. David is at first oblivious of all of this, but as he meets more members of Luke’s family, and as he spends time on his quest, he slowly begins to realise who he is dealing with. I really appreciated how the author is able to show how complex the relationships between family and friends can be even when one of them turns out not to be entirely good.

More than anything though I loved how the book is about families and how it addresses David’s own horrible family. Their treatment of him is terrible, they obviously don’t like him and still they expect David to be grateful. David is no martyr though and he is fully aware of the mistreatment he receives and he is angry about it as he should be. And the way one of the family is able to break away from the vicious circle and help David was really awesome. Loved this book folks, and really recommend it.

Notable Quotes/ Parts: No quotes but can I just include ONE image which is kinda of spoilery but I just have to as it fits really well with the book.

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Title: Witch Week

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: First published 1982
Paperback: 302 pages


When the note, written in ordinary ballpoint, turns up in the homework books Mr Crossley is marking, he is very upset. For this is Larwood House, a school for witch-orphans, where witchcraft is utterly forbidden. And yet magic keeps breaking out all over the place – like measles!

The last thing they need is a visit from the Divisional Inquisitor. If only Chrestomanci could come and sort out all the trouble.

Stand alone or series: Book 3 in the Chrestomanci series

How did I get this book: Bought

Why did I read this book: I love this series and I have been slowly reading it. Next up: The Lives of Christopher Chant


SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH says the anonymous note found by Mr Crossley amongst the books he was marking at the Larwood House boarding school for witch orphans. It is a Very Serious note as in this world, witchcraft is forbidden. What shall people do? Keep it a secret, start an investigation, call the inquisitors? Well, this being a boarding school and all, secrets can not be kept for long and soon gossip spreads and teachers and students start to turn on each other. Plus, there might be more than ONE witch. HECK, there might be more than TWO. But this is a book in the Chrestomanci series after all – so really, who you gonna call?

Witch Week is the third book in the Chrestomanci series and OH MY GOD, I can’t even describe how awesome it is. It has so many different threads and even, different narratives: parts of it are the students’ journal entries and you should know by now how much I ADORE epistolary narratives and each student has a voice and each journal entry is awesome in the way that it shows each of these students’ personalities but also how HORRIBLE this world is in terms of prejudice against witches and how dangerous it can be for the budding witch to grow up without knowledge of what they can or can not do. *pauses for breathing* This is a very clever, deeply complex story with several points of view narrative as well – teachers, students – and each has a different view of what is happening and why. It is kind of fun yes, but also very serious and OMG trust DWJ to have so much head hopping without turning the book into a mess. Beyond that, the book also deals with the very grave subject matter of bullying and how it affects the lives of these kids. One of the kids is Nan, a girl at the lowest end of the pecking order and she has this fantastic observation about it:

I do not know if 2Y is average or not, but this is how they are. They are divided into girls and boys with an invisible line down the middle of the room and people only cross that line when teachers make them. Girls are divided into real girls (Theresa Mullett) and imitations (Estelle Green). And me. Boys are divided into real boys (Simon Silverson), brutes (Daniel Smith) and unreal boys (Nirupam Singh). And Charles Morgan. And Brian Wentworth. What makes you a real girl or boy is that no one laughs at you. If you are imitation or unreal, the rules give you a right to exist provided that you do what the real ones or brutes say. What makes you into me or Charles Morgan is that the rules allow all the girls to be better than me and all the boys better than Charles Morgan. They are allowed to cross the invisible line to prove this. Everyone is allowed to cross the invisible line to be nasty to Brian Wentworth.

And of course, there are stereotypes but also subversion of those and even the very real truth about how being so bullied and how being afraid all the time impacts on someone’s character development and so on and so forth. There are great character arcs and relationships that develop between characters. And them Chrestomanci shows up and it all becomes even more cool BUT then there is the ending which is the only thing preventing me from giving this book a 10.

ATTENTION: SPOILERS SPOILERS! Because I felt the ending negates basically everything that went on before by erasing these kid’s lives – literally – when Chrestomanci discovers that their horrible world is not supposed to exist. Although I appreciate the idea that a prejudiced world should not exist, wouldn’t it be better to deal with the prejudice, to address it?? The resolution – as well done and clever as it was – left a sour taste in the mouth.

Still, Witch Week is a delight to read and my favourite Chrestomanci book so far even with my dissatisfaction with how it ends.

Rating: 8- Excellent

Additional Thoughts:

It is not going to be easy to talk about this. I LOVE DWJ’s books, I think they are absolutely brilliant and it is really hard to criticize those books that I love so much. But I think I kinda came across something in these books that makes me really uneasy: a certain pervasive disdain for fat characters. I had noticed before in other books but always put it down as me being too critical. But reading these two in a row made it REALLY plain and obvious and I asked myself: is there a certain fat-phobia in these books? Cause I think there is. There are fat characters in most of her books and unfortunately they are not really presented in a positive, fat-acceptance, diversity-is-good way, you know? It is always “she is pretty…but fat” or “smart… yet fat”. And sometimes, when we are talking about a villain or someone that is not sympathetic or a minor character, the way these characters are described, it is really quite harsh and uncomfortable. There is one scene in Witch Week that made me really uncomfortable and even though the thoughts described below belong to a character who is kind of a problem-kid, this scene is so completely pointless and random, I have no idea why it even needed to exist:

“Charles could see the thin boy’s fingers digging into the girl’s fat when his arm was round her. He wondered how anyone could enjoy grabbing, or watching, such fatness.”

This is only but one example and I don’t like it. I really don’t. And it utterly devastates me to be even writing about it.

Is this fat-phobia a Thing? Am I imagining it? Has anyone noticed this? Comments are welcome.

Reading next: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth


Buy the Book:

Eight Days of Luke:

Witch Week:

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  • mary anne
    May 7, 2012 at 4:00 am

    I started reading DWJ when I was a kid and I devoured all the books. I remember the first two I read – Nine Lives, and The Magicians of Caprona. My name filled every other slot on the library card inside the books (Remember when they had those lined index cards that you would write your name on and give to the librarian to file each time you borrowed? Way back when before computers?) She also wrote Howl’s Moving Castle, which was made into that great animated movie. When the Harry Potter series came out, I remember thinking, “But this is a lot like Diana Wynne Jones, why are people acting like this author just invented the wheel?” – Not that I don’t love me some Harry Potter! Have not read one of DWJ’s books in recent years, so I don’t remember noting the “fat” thing, but it is ringing a little bell in my head. And now I;m wondering about similar prejudices in other authors – it may not be as blatant, but I need to stop and think if any of them even have People of Heft in their stories.

  • mary anne
    May 7, 2012 at 4:04 am

    Oopes, I was mistaken on the name of one of the books – it was “Charmed Life” – I was mixing it with “The Lives of Christopher Chant.” Which was also good. Only my library didn’t have it, so I didn’t read it til I was older.

  • jillheather
    May 7, 2012 at 4:59 am

    I really enjoy DJW, but yeah, the fat hatred stuff shows up in a number of her books. It’s not always a bad character who says it, either.

  • Andrea K Host
    May 7, 2012 at 5:24 am

    I’m fairly sure the quote outlined above is very much Charles’ opinion, not DWJ’s.

    I’m trying to remember if there’s been any fat characters presented positively, but none spring to mind. I guess you could call Archer’s Goon positively presented (in his own inimitable way) but I think he’s more “big all over” than strictly fat. Black Maria is an evil fat person, but she’s fat in a gooey grandmotherly usually considered nice way.

    At the same time, I usually notice fat snark and it’s never stood out to me in DWJ’s work. Not all the bad people are fat. Not all the fat people are bad.

    Millie, for instance, ends up rather plump, and her two kids are plump, but they prove to be good people despite Gwendolyn and Cat’s initial disdain for them – and they don’t magically become unplump after we discover they’re nice people. They just rather like their sweets.

  • Anonymous
    May 7, 2012 at 5:45 am

    I’d echo Andrea’s comments above re: Millie and her children Julia and Roger (the latter are meant to be on a slimming regimen for their health, but blithely ignore it, and go on doing what they want). Also I’d add Maree from DWJ’s “Deep Secret”, who if not fat is at least on the heavier side of plump iirc. And she is the heroine, and fabulous.

    Isn’t Nan from Witch Week meant to be at least plump as well?

    Basically I think the quote you mentioned is Charles, not DWJ. 🙂 DWJ was good at writing MCs with imperfect worldviews…

  • Maya S
    May 7, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Yeah, I think any prejudice against fat people that is written into the books is a reflection of the characters rather than DWJ herself. Maree from “Deep Secret” is written as being rather plump and plain, but she’s still the heroine and still gets her man all while being awesome and nerdy. Yeah, she’s pretty much my idol.

  • Linda W
    May 7, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Diana Wynne Jones is sorely missed.

  • Alice
    May 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

    What everyone said! I admit there were a few instances when I read a book certain aspects felt off, but as everyone mentioned before, it was more the character’s voice than DWJ – sometimes I think she was trying to make people uncomfortable. Other times, it was more for humorous effect. Like in the short “The Fat Wizard,” literally about a selfish fat wizard.

    My favorite is probably Dogsbody and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. And of course Howl’s Moving Castle. Oh, Fire and Hemlock. So many good books.

    DWJ was a great writer. *sigh* I do miss her.

  • Karen
    May 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Standard DWJ is wonderful and I adore her work on the whole disclaimers aside… Yeah, it does occasionally throw me for a loop while reading her work – such as in Castle in the Air –

    “With the sort of bump a magic carpet might make if loaded with two such weighty females – always supposing it could even get off the ground with them on it in the first place. They were so very fat. As for thinking they would make companions for Flower-in-the-Night – phooey! She was intelligent, educated, and kind, as well as being beautiful (and thin). These two had yet to show him that they had a brain cell between them.”

    And that after about 15 seconds of seeing the girls! Always bothered me…

  • KMont
    May 7, 2012 at 11:09 am

    This reminds me that I recently intended to get another DWJ book son. I think I’ll go with the Chrestomanci series. Thaks for the inspiration. 🙂

  • willaful
    May 7, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Speaking as someone who read (and loved) DWJ as a fat kid:

    1) I don’t remember if she seemed any more fat-phobic than anyone else. That sort of depiction was, and as far as I know, still is, ubiquitous in children’s books.

    2) The fact that DWJ had some positive portrayals of plump characters really didn’t undo the pain of having to read such disgusted reactions to fatness.

  • Aly
    May 7, 2012 at 11:15 am

    i haven’t read her work. so can’t say i’m a fan or anything of the sort. i’m going to be completely objective here and just say that the quote you shared is quite unsettling. if it’s been said a few times in a few of her books then i don’t really know what to think.

    I plan to read her books soon so I guess i’ll be able to decide for myself then. 🙂

  • A_nna
    May 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    ‘The Homeward Bounders’ is my favourite DWJ book and I hardly ever see it mentioned – just wanted to advertise it a bit.

  • Michelle
    May 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Yeah, I never noticed these comments until I started re-reading some of her books. She can be very descriptive. I think it does have a lot to do with the characters’ p.o.v.; in Deep Secret, Maree notices her cousin, who is demonstrably shallow in the beginning, watching a character known as Fat Wendy. I was really uncomfortable; he was basically staring at her boobs and being repulsed yet fascinated by how fat she was. And yet he has no problem with the gender-ambiguous poly family. So it is kind of odd. Did DWJ expect that males would react this way?

    On the other hand, in The Crown of Dalemark, the king ends up marrying a ‘big-boned’ woman, and they were apparently very happy. The main character is kind of upset because she had a thing for him, but again it’s her description, not the author’s.

    And on the third hand, I think a lot of books don’t even mention people’s size. A Sudden Wild Magic, A Tale of Time City, Hexwood, Fire and Hemlock (actually on of the girls, Nina, is described as fat, but the main character admires her immensely).

    So my theory is that it’s an easy way to show prejudice, and flawed or unlikable characters (Charles really isn’t that great a person for a while) without taking a more heinous position about something else. I really love these books, and I don’t remember any other overt prejudices, so I honestly think it’s something to be aware of, but not a serious flaw.

  • Chachic
    May 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Glad to see two back to back DWJ reviews here. :mrgreen: I really need to read more of her work – aside from the Howl books, I’ve only read the first two Chrestomanci novels. My next DWJ read will probably be Fire and Hemlock since I recently bought that along with two other reissued DWJ novels.

  • NiceOrc
    May 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I may be completely off the mark here, but if we read the “fat” descriptions in the light of DWJ’s childhood, does it become any more understandable? She had a very difficult childhood, (The Time of the Ghost is partly autobiographical) and the combination of the war’s problems and parental neglect must have given her self-esteem a fair battering. If you look at photos of her before her last illness, she isn’t exactly sylph-like, so I feel that her expressions of dislike of fat is in some way an expression of not liking herself which may be unconscious, and a remnant of her upbringing. (Obviously in later years she was a wonderful confident woman but one’s childhood does tend to cling, no matter how one tries to shake it off!)

    She is my favourite author, and I love the truth and honesty embedded in her books. I have just finished Enchanted Glass, and wish DWJ had had time to expand this – it looks set to have at least a sequel.

  • Emily
    May 16, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Yes! The fat thing! Just yesterday I ran across the same issue in Castle in the Air and it made me supremely uncomfortable.

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  • Kate
    August 5, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    That bothered me too. Abduluh had his heart set on Flower, but was this negative comparison really necessary? In the chapter that quote is from it seems to go on and on about how fat those two women are. Also, he seems so surprised at Flower in the Night’s intelligence, as if it’s a shocking thing for a woman. I’m not really enjoying this book’s portrayal of female characters and their worth being defined by their level of education and sex appeal.

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