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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

The Pinhoe Egg - Diana Wynne Jones Saddened by the passing of Diana Wynne Jones, I thought it appropriate to commemorate her by dipping into her vast bibliography of books. She can be a charming writer, with interesting characters, gentle humor, pointed social commentary, and creative plotting and world-building. An unplanned stop at an unfamiliar library turned up The Pinhoe Egg, described as "Book 6 in the Chrestomanci Chronicles." As I had read two or three of the Crestomanci books in the past, I thought I could get by in the world--in my experience, her books are more like loosely related stories in the same world with some of the same characters, and not an epic novel in installments like Harry Potter. It turned out to be a bit of a wander through the woods but had some nice stops along the way. Super-fast non-spoiler summary: teenage girl, Marianne, with a large, intrusive and witchy extended family. Although she is supposed to be heir to the family position of power, she has little say in what she does, and is delegated to deal with a failing grandma. Meanwhile, teenage boy enchanter, Cat, discovers his own growing powers as he meets a horse. On their explorations he encounters the complicated witchy dynamics of the surrounding town.The good stuff: DWJ has an interesting world idea, the concept of multiple variations of a basic format (ex. World A having 1-9 similar realities). Love the idea, although she doesn't play with it at all here. There is a lot of magic thrown about, and I enjoy her applications of magic in creatures and activity, and the fact that there are limitations to it and it can't solve everything. I thought Marianne and Cat were characterized well--when she takes the time, DWJ's characters shine. Touches of humor were sprinkled throughout, from a contrary magical cat (aren't they all?) to Crestomanci's variety of dressing gowns, to magical shenanigans. The little girl in me squealed at the appearance of the griffin; I would have been right there with Cat, taking an egg home to hatch. Griffins and the magical creatures made the story worthwhile. Unfortunately, "Pinhoe" could have used more development. It generally suffers from an assumption that the reader is familiar with the world. The Crestomanci world is never really very well explained in any book but the first, and even then the level of explanation is questionable. While a telephone makes a singular appearance, people are forever being sent on errands to deliver messages, and a crucial plot point involves mistakenly knocking on one person's window in an attempt to reach the brother's. As cars also exist, it seems to be about an early 1900s sort of time/tech level, but it bugs my Virgo soul that no one calls each other if the tech is available.Unfortunately, uneven pacing almost hamstrung it from the start, where the first seventy-five pages deal with moving Grandma ("Gammer") out of her giant house and into the hands of someone who can care for her. Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the drawn-out problem of dealing with an aging but incompetent relative, but as this is a young adult book, it would likely be a section that lacked relevance to younger people and contained too much detail. Had I been a teenager and in Marianne's place, I would have wandered away from the adults tout de suite and found my own thing to do, but instead there is far too much story focus on "Uncle Edgar did this," and "Aunt Dinah did that" that detracts from Marianne's story and own conflict development.There were also rather disturbing actions by the adults, who not only behaved in typically ignorant adult ways (ruining holidays, ignoring talented children, discounting their ideas, etc), but flagrantly homicidal ones like deliberate leg-breaking, imprisonment and attempting to unleash smallpox on a rival family. Including those crimes into the repertoire of childish pranks was an odd decision on the author's part that seemed to either inflate the seriousness of their earlier crimes, or minimize the seriousness of ones the teens didn't know about. It takes the story to a rather disturbing level that doesn't fit well into the whimsy of the rest of the book.Heavy-handed application of A Message at the end hurt an otherwise nicely dovetailed wrap-up. Like Neil Gaiman, I do love me some DWJ, but this isn't one of the books I'd recommend. Try The Dark Lord of Derkholm for a better story, even stronger characterization and even more griffins. or The Year of the Griffin for a lovely little "magical college" storyline that's told with humor, wild creativity and left me wishing DWJ could write at least six more.Three stars for beginning, three for the ending, four for a fun, fast-paced middle, leading me to three and a half stars.