Read Recently — November 2008 — YA

Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones

David Allard (no relation) has it slightly better than Harry Potter. Yes, he’s an orphan who has to live with his horrible relatives, and yes, they make him go to a boarding school, but at least when he’s home he has a room of his own and isn’t stuck in the closet under the stairs. Of course, that isn’t to say that they treat him well, and one day early in the summer holidays he is driven out of the house and inspired to curse the lot of them. It’s a very impressive curse; he doesn’t remember any of it a few minutes later but the ground shakes so hard the garden wall falls down, flames run across the ground, and giant snakes force their way out of the earth. Fortunately, David is able to beat the snakes back with a garden shovel and the help of a stranger: a red-headed youth named Luke, who claims that David has freed him from some horrible prison.

David and Luke quickly become friends, for all that David doesn’t believe that Luke was in prison. He soon learns that Luke wasn’t kidding when he said that all David had to do to call him is to light a flame. He also learns that Luke has scary powers over fire when Luke causes a nearby building to burst into flame, nearly killing several people (to make matters worse, he does so trying to entertain David). Soon, strangers appear in David’s neighbourhood, like a new gardener taking over his uncle’s yard, and neighbours moving in down the street, and they all seem to be looking for Luke. Can David keep his new friend safe against powerful opposition? Should he?

Guessing Luke’s identity is half the fun of this story. I don’t mind telling you that I made what I thought was an obvious guess and got it completely wrong. On the other hand, you should get it long before David does (you really should; the book quite gives it away about halfway through), and this book gives quite a different take on the situation than elsewhere and I can’t even talk about that without spoiling it.

Anyway, even the worst of Jones’ work is excellent, and this is far from her worst. Highly recommended.

The Edge Chronicles: the Curse of the Gloamglozer by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

Prequel to the first Edge Chronicles trilogy, as Maris, the daughter of the Most High Academe of Sanctaphrax, meets Quint, the son of a sky pirate, who comes to be her father’s apprentice. We learn how the titular monster came to be in position to torment Twig back in the first book.

Mildly recommended.

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