cover image Hexwood


Diana Wynne Jones. Greenwillow Books, $16 (295pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12488-5

Somewhere in the middle of this rather bewildering novel, its heroine, Ann, realizes that she is not--as she and the reader had thought--the 12-year-old daughter of suburban London grocers, but is in fact a 20-something rebel from another galaxy. Ann (whose name is really Vierran) has come to earth as the unwilling handmaiden of the evil Reigner Three who, along with four other Reigners, controls most of the known universe. An ancient and powerful machine known as the Bannus has been reactivated and poses a threat to the Reigners' rule. Vierran must join forces with Mordion, the Reigner Servant, in order to keep from becoming a pawn in Reigner One's dastardly scheme to breed future Servants. These are just a few of the plot-lines that come together in a confusing finale that invokes the legends of King Arthur as well as the gods and heroes of Northern Europe. Certain moments in the muddled narrative will reward the persevering reader: Mordion's long-repressed recollection of his sad and brutal childhood possesses a spine-chilling intensity. But on the whole, Jones is not at her bewitching best. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)