cover image A Sudden Wild Magic

A Sudden Wild Magic

Diana Wynne Jones. William Morrow & Company, $22 (412pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11882-2

The acclaimed author of children's fiction has turned her considerable talents to writing for adults, and has come up with a buoyant and boisterous romp through several universes. Unbeknownst to most people, a group of benevolent witches are hard at work keeping the world--and Great Britain in particular--safe from evil and destruction. Meanwhile, from their vantage point in another universe, the celibate magicians of Arth are busy spying on earth, and sending any likely-seeming ideas and inventions back to their own home planet, a Pentarchy--a world where magic is rife and originality is absent. Not satisfied with simply stealing ideas that already exist, Arth's magicians have taken to dispatching various disasters to earth (the latest is global warming) in order to learn from its inhabitants' reactions. Fed up with Arth's practice of using their world as a giant lab animal, earth's witches fill a magical bus with enchantresses and send it to Arth, with orders to make as much trouble as possible. They do. Matters are further complicated when a young woman (who may or may not be an embodiment of the Great Goddess) stows herself and her toddler son onto the witches' bus. Because there are a great many details that must be established before Jones can begin telling her story, the novel's first few chapters are relatively slow going. However, once the large cast of characters has been introduced and the three distinct worlds sketched out, the narrative careens ahead at a merry, headlong pace. Jones's sly sense of humor and her accurate, affectionate depiction of relations between women and men give an extra kick to this effervescent tale. (Oct.)