Mixed Magics

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Mixed Magics (audio CD) by Diana Wynne Jones, read by Anthony Head
March 2006
Originally published in 2000, this collection of magical short stories is being published as a CD audiobook for the first time. Not having previously read any of the other Chrestomanci books, I admit to being tempted into starting with this one purely on the basis of it being read by Anthony Head. I was not disappointed - his mellifluous tones are easily absorbed and his subtle delivery perfectly complements Wynne-Jones's lively prose. I discovered that the stories work fine as a stand-alone collection and you need not have read the others in the series in order to appreciate them. Each of the four tales is linked by the mercurial and often unpredictable presence of Chrestomanci, an enigmatic enchanter who presides over many worlds, intervening when needed to maintain harmony and balance.

The first story, Warlock at the Wheel is a farcical romp, featuring a hapless warlock who has lost his magic powers and gets himself transported to another world in order to find them again. There follows a catalogue of disasters as he steals a car and in doing so accidentally kidnaps a demanding young girl and her aggressively protective dog. Stealer of Souls is an altogether darker yarn, in which two young enchanters are kidnapped by a wicked soul-stealer and have to use all their wits, without the use of magic, to overpower him. I found Carol Oneir's Hundredth Dream hugely entertaining, with echoes of 'The BFG'. Young Carol has the unusual gift of being able to control and record her dreams, but needs Chrestomanci's help when her characters go on strike. The final story, The Sage of Theare is the most complex and atmospheric of the four. It deftly confronts weighty issues through the eyes of the unwitting 'sage' Thasper, who threatens the supremecy of the gods with his incessant questions.

Each story varies in tone, and as a collection, Mixed Magics strikes a satisfying balance between humour, intrigue, fantasy and philosophy. This (unabridged) audio version is bound to go down well with parents and children alike - Mums especially will be charmed by Head's dulcet tones, and Wynne Jones's clever, multi-layered narrative allows her stories to be appreciated on many levels.

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This page contains a single entry by Rowan Stanfield Miller published on February 4, 2006 3:17 PM.

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