Reviewed by Pauline J. Alama
[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:9 (#350) in September 2011.]
When Andrew Hope, a thirty-something academic, inherits his grandfather’s stately old home, he also inherits a more nebulous trust, a magical “field of care.” Andrew is just exploring his new inheritance, and rediscovering memories of magic that he had suppressed for years, when an unexpected refugee comes to Melstone House. Aidan, a 12-year-old orphan pursued by strange specters, follows the dying advice of his grandmother to seek protection from the master of Melstone. Together, Andrew and Aidan each discover the powers they hold within themselves, and the powers in the peculiar colored glass window in the back door of Melstone House. They join forces to battle mysterious forces determined to take over the field of care.
Enchanted Glass is classic Diana Wynne Jones fantasy, portraying a world where magic inhabits ordinary things and seemingly ordinary people. Comic scenes with the cranky staff of Melstone House are deftly interwoven with glimpses of a world of wonder. Contemporary and mythic elements intertwine in whimsical ways, as when Andrew magics his car out of a ditch by meditating on Einstein and relativity, and a mysterious Midnight Visitor is delighted with a gift of clothes that zip.
Devoted fans will find few surprises here: the themes of discovering one’s hidden inner powers and assuming responsibility for the proper governance of magic are familiar from Jones’s popular Chrestomanci series. But it is noteworthy that here Jones chronicles the self-discovery not just of an adolescent, but also of a mature character who has ignored his heritage and his talents for too long. Like many of Jones’s previous works, Enchanted Glass is accessible enough for middle-grade readers, but never talks down to them; adults, too, can read it for pleasure without condescension.
Diana Wynne Jones has always been a delight; her death is a sad loss to fantasy literature. If Enchanted Glass proves to be her last work, it is very worthy of her legacy.