The Islands of Chaldea

The Islands of Chaldea

4.7 4
by Diana Wynne Jones

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A stand-alone novel of magic and adventure by the renowned fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, who also wrote Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci books. Almost finished upon her death in 2011, the manuscript was completed by Diana's sister Ursula Jones, an acclaimed novelist and actress. Publishers Weekly called The Islands of Chaldea "a


A stand-alone novel of magic and adventure by the renowned fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, who also wrote Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci books. Almost finished upon her death in 2011, the manuscript was completed by Diana's sister Ursula Jones, an acclaimed novelist and actress. Publishers Weekly called The Islands of Chaldea "a story to cherish" in their starred review.

Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But Aileen's magic has yet to reveal itself, even though she is old enough and it should have by now. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she'll be useless and in the way. A powerful talking cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident, until her magic blooms. This stand-alone novel, by the beloved and acclaimed author of such classic fantasy novels as Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci books, will be welcomed by fans old and new. "Jones's imaginative vigor is unabated in this last, picaresque novel; her deft, fluid style and penchant for precise, characterful description are amply present," proclaimed The Horn Book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/17/2014
Set in a luminous and beguiling magical land, this standalone novel was begun by acclaimed fantasist Wynne Jones before her death in 2011 and has been seamlessly completed by her sister Ursula, an actress and writer. Just a day after Eileen seems to fail her initiation into her family’s magical tradition, she and her Aunt Beck—a fully-fledged Wise Woman—are sent on a quest to breach the mysterious barrier that separates the islands of Skarr, Bernica, and Gallis from the enemy land of Logra. Accompanying Eileen and Beck are Ivar—the haughty prince whom Aileen plans to marry (“Until then I feel free to admire him greatly in secret”)—and Ogo, an awkward Logran boy. More companions join the travelers, including a sometimes-invisible giant cat that Aileen nicknames Plug-Ugly. As Aileen grows into her own powers, she reunites with long-lost family and reassesses her romantic plans. Though the plot twists are slightly less fiendish than in previous works, Wynne Jones’s humor, compassion, and invention continue to delight throughout this exhilarating tale. A story to cherish. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
The fates of four countries hang in the balance, and only an apprentice magicworker can save the day. For the ultimate in bittersweet feelings, fans must confront the final novel of master fantasist Jones, posthumously completed by her sister Ursula. In a little stone house on the island of Skarr, Aileen's being raised as an apprentice Wise Woman and magicworker by her aunt Beck. When Aunt Beck is sent on a quest by the High King to rescue a kidnapped prince, Aileen tags along. Their journey takes them across all the little islands of their world (a wee European-style fantasyland that stretches from skirling pipes and heather on Skarr to olives and grapes on Gallis). Quiet at first, Aileen is forced to come into her own when her aunt suffers a mishap. Now, a band of ragtag adventurers, including an invisible cat named Plug-Ugly, depends on Aileen to lead them, as they take nearly every transportation method in the fantasyland guidebook: sailing ships, donkey carts, floating wagons and hot air balloons. Affectionate chaos and loving revelations follow, forming a classic, joyful screwball comedy. Aileen says of one of her friends, "[w]e stay awhile with each other, then part." If that's all we get, we can be grateful for the while we have. (Fantasy. 10-13)
Toronto Star
“In the realm of other-world fantasy, this season’s gem is the late Diana Wynne Jones’s The Islands of Chaldea, completed by Ursula Jones. Humour, wisdom and inventive genius suffuse the tale . . . challenging readers’ minds while creating a full world of sympathetic characters.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Beautiful and intricate…A strong, elegant fantasy [that] will linger with readers.”
Neil Gaiman
“The best children’s writer of the last 40 years.”
The Horn Book
“Readers are treated to a nonstop plot, memorable characters, and signature DWJ touches. … For younger readers, a worthy introduction to the delights of the late, lamented master fantasist.”
“Only in an unorthodox children’s book does a girl hope that she won’t be … taken away from the orphanage. But then, Earwig isn’t your typical orphan. … An amusing story in which it takes hard work as well as magic and cleverness to bring about a happy ending.”
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—When Aileen turns 12, she is required to go to The Place for her initiation into a long family line of Wise Women. Disappointed that her magic has not been revealed during the ceremony, she is assured by her Aunt Beck that it will come. Aileen lives on Skarr, one of the four magical islands of Chaldea. The largest and most magical of the islands, Logra, has been isolated from the others by a huge barrier that prevents anyone from leaving or entering. As a result, it is draining the magic from the other three islands. Aunt Beck, Aileen, and a representative from each of the three islands have been sent to use magic to break the Logra barrier. It is during the ensuing adventures that the gifts bestowed upon Aileen come to fruition. On their journey, Aunt Beck is rendered powerless by a drunken queen who takes offense at her outspoken manner. Aileen is forced to take charge, and with each encounter her power grows. The author passed away before finishing the book, and her sister has kept it alive. Continuing the medieval magic of wizards, witches, and supernatural animals, she gives the ending a sweeping flourish of action, romance, and humor. Although there are some inconsistencies in the characterization, diehard fantasy fans will not be deterred. Recommend this novel to the Jones's many fans and other avid fantasy readers.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones (1934‒2011) wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards—and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter—her books are filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy.

Ursula Jones is an actress, children’s author, and playwright. She has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Unicorn Theatre for Children. Her books include The Youngsters and The Lost King. She lives in London.

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The Islands of Chaldea 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed it. If u like magic and adventure read this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. A must read!
ImaginaryReads More than 1 year ago
I've been in love with Diana Wynne Jones's writing since picking up Howl's Moving Castle after watching the animated film adaptation by Miyazaki, and I've been looking forward to reading this since learning of its existence. It's everything that I hoped for. If it wasn't late and I wasn't sleep deprived, I would have finished this in one go. The Islands of Chaldea is cute, magical, and all that I want in an MG fantasy! The premise behind the story is simple and enchanting. Aileen lives in a world with magic, princes, and Guardian creatures. Within this fantastical world, a dark plot is brewing, and a prophecy requires Aileen and her companions to lend their aid in righting the wrongs that have been committed. Along the way, they run into various misadventures, and Aileen learns that she has more strength and power than she thought. It pretty much adopts the standard MG fantasy formula. The magic is in the crafting of the story—how it keeps the plot moving and how it tells us what we need to know with such authority and 'matter of factness' that we take it as it is. It's how the world operates after all. I also love how it's narrated by an older Aileen looking back on this journey and how it ends with her reflecting on the vision of what's to come. It's a heart-touching, beautiful end to the story. The characters have unique quirks and character traits that make them memorable. There are too many to name all of them, so I'm going to stick to the highlights. For the most part, they remain static except for Aileen, who grows from a girl with low self-esteem to a strong, confident girl capable of taking charge as needed. She still has fears and doubt, but she has embraced who she is, which allows her powers to emerge. She's also a little boy crazy but gradually learns what she truly wants in a partner. Aileen is a character to whom I believe tweens will be able to relate as they adapt to the changes that puberty brings and grow to recognize and embrace their identities. For older readers, we can recognize some of ourselves in Aileen, making this a magical book with the potential to touch readers of all ages. Some other characters that I love include Ogo with his clumsy yet well-meaning, warm personality; Finn with his simple honesty and good humor; and Rees with his dreams (I would have liked to see a little more of him). And how could I forget Plug-Ugly and his wandering ways? The Islands of Chaldea is a wonderful, inspiring, coming-of-age story filled with magic and a fantastic cast of character. I recommend this for those looking for a little magic in their lives.
dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
I am prejudiced and I admit it! I love Dianna Wynne Jones books. They are marvelous stories. Each one is unique and wonderfully crafted. She has not gotten the recognition she deserves as a writer (in my humble but accurate opinion). This is not necessarily one of her finest, but the fact that it exists is a major plus for me. Ursula Jones has done an admirable job finishing her sister's unfinished manuscript. You really cannot tell where Dianna stopped and Ursula picked it up. Ursula says she felt like Dianna was standing next to her, helping. I wish she could channel many more books.