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The Game
Diana Wynne Jones
Firebird, 192 pages

The Game
Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones was born in London, England. At an early age, she began writing stories for herself and her sisters. She received her Bachelor of Arts at St. Annes' College in Oxford and went on to to write full-time in 1965. She has won many awards and honours including the Carnegie Commendation for Dogsbody, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award twice, and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Merlin Conspiracy
SF Site Review: Year of the Griffin
SF Site Review: Deep Secret
SF Site Review: The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

The great Diana Wynne Jones returns with The Game, a short novel, indeed a novella, and marketed as such. Firebird is a first rate Young Adult imprint, and it seems they are starting a program of YA novellas in hardcover. I can only applaud such a move -- I am thrilled with every effort to get more novellas in print. (That said, The Game is quite a long novella at perhaps 36,000 words -- not so very much shorter than early Diana Wynne Jones novels like Witch's Business -- which is to say, more power to Firebird for offering it at such an attractive price.)

The heroine is Hayley Foss, an orphan living in London with her Grandparents. Her Grandma is a stickler for rules, and hardly ever even lets Hayley out of the house. When Hayley meets a curious pair of musicians she calls Flute and Fiddle on an excursion with the maid, her Grandma goes ape, and sends Hayley off to the family castle in Ireland. There she meets a grand assortment of cousins and aunts -- though oddly enough no uncles. Some of the cousins are annoying, particularly Tollie, a boy her own age. But some are rather nice, such as the cute older boy Troy, and the nice older girl Harmony, who organizes something all the cousins play called The Game.

Hayley is confused at first, but makes a mark fairly quickly by unplugging the gutters. And she plays The Game like a natural. It turns out The Game involves something called "the strands," which we learn are paths to the "Mythosphere" -- the collective set of stories people have told. (I was reminded of the "Noosphere" in Matthew Hughes's Guth Bandar stories (now united as the novel The Commons), and also of Jones's oft-repeated idea of a multiverse.) The players travel along the strands, into myths and stories, to retrieve objects from the stories, such as a scale from a dragon. Hayley's journeys along the strands soon reveal to us that her family is actually something special -- they seem to all be gods and demigods from the Greek myths. And they are all under the rather sinister sway of Uncle Jolyon. Hayley, of course, is central to resolving the problem of Uncle Jolyon, and the way he keeps the family from living natural lives -- or at any rate lives as natural as Greek gods and goddesses ever lived!

It is all quite a lot of fun. The character's names are all significant, and I enjoyed decoding them -- I admit I missed the significance of Hayley's name until Jones's afterword revealed all! The plot is nice enough but a bit thin, a bit abruptly resolved. I actually think the story could have supported a full-length novel of 50,000 words or so. Diana Wynne Jones is truly a treasure, and every one of her stories is to be cherished. The Game is very enjoyable -- I wouldn't place it in the top rank of her works, but I certainly recommend reading it, no matter what your age.

Copyright © 2007 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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