It was either this book or Dogsbody that was my first Diana Wynne Jones novel, many, many years ago now. I no longer remember which one, and both have a special place in my heart and my memory.
I went into the book remembering the basics – who Luke was and that it was based on Norse mythology – but the details were missing and I found I remember less of the aforementioned Norse mythology that I used to do. I also wonder if it would have been more generally knowing in Britain in the 70’s than now in New Zealand in teh 2010’s, since Astrid figured it all out pretty quickly, while I was still trying to remember what I could. (By the end, I felt I knew who everyone was except Mr Chew, who I shall look up when I get a moment.)
I think Wynne Jones did a lovely job with Luke as a manifestation of you-know-who (I don’t want to have to spoiler lock this) as he’s appealing and you end up cheering for him, but there’s an awareness that he’s not exactly reliable either.
As for David, he’s a delight; not perfect (Wynne Jones’ characters never are) but a lovely portrayal of a realistic boy caught up in hugely unrealistic events. He’s a loyal friend to Luke (and indeed to Astrid as the story continues), and does his best to do the right thing. He’s smart without being obnoxiously so and I enjoyed sharing the adventure with him.
Diana Wynne Jones was a brilliant author who could write amazing stories for children without ever “writing down” to them, while making those stories just as great for adults as well. It is a great pity her works are not better known and the world is indeed that bit reduced by the fact she won’t be giving us any more stories.
If you haven’t read her books, do give them a try. If you have, enjoy a reread.