Authors: Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula Jones
Aileen was supposed to be a magic-working Wise Woman, just like her aunt Beck with whom she has lived for years. But she manages to mess up the initiation ceremony so royally she can’t even tell Beck what really happened. To make matters worse, before they can repeat the ceremony, they get sent off on a super-secret, super-dangerous mission to fulfill a prophesy, break a magical barrier that’s currently shielding an entire country, and rescue the crown prince. Joining Beck and Aileen are prince Ivar (Aileen’s crush–very cute, but honestly pretty stupid) and his servant Ogo (a foreign kid who got left behind when the magical barrier went up–and a kid that no one actually takes particularly seriously). Their travels through the Chaldean Isles will include wondrous landscapes, dangerous escapades, mysteriously intelligent (and sometimes invisible) animals, and more surprises that Aileen has ever had before in her life. She might even discover some surprising things about herself.
Have I mentioned that I adore Diana Wynne Jones’ books? Well, I do–for good reason. The Islands of Chaldea is no exception, although I admit to a bit of trepidation when picking it up. This is her only posthumous publication, to my knowledge, and it was completed after her death by her sister, Ursula Jones. All I can say is, her sister is also an excellent writer and must have known her very well–I honestly can’t tell where Diana Wynne Jones’ writing stops and Ursula Jones’ takes over. The entire story is full of the quirky, wonderful, and surprising characters and plot twists that I’ve come to expect and love. As with all of Jones’ stories, this one is full of delightful little hints that you don’t even notice until they come to fruition–and then you’re just like, “oh yeah, that’s what needs to happen.” The characters in this story are amazing, especially Ogo (well, and the cat). Ogo, as seen in first-person through Aileen’s eyes, is initially rather bucolic and stupid–but she’s seeing him while “in love” with Ivar the idiot. When she finally starts really seeing him, you get a completely different picture; the development is wonderful. I could gush for ages, but let’s just say that The Islands of Chaldea is highly recommended, period.