This should have been posted on the 3 March, but I’m catching up!
There are so many great protagonists in Diana Wynne Jones’ books, it’s hard to pick just one. I really like her double acts in Deep Secret (Rupert and Maree), The Merlin Conspiracy (Roddy and Nick) and The Pinhoe Egg (Cat and Marianne), for example, and the changing points of view through the Dalemark books – Taqui, Moril, Mitt and Maewen. There are a fair few prickly or difficult female characters, such as the sisters in The Time of the Ghost, or Polly in Fire and Hemlock, or Charmain in The House of Many Ways, but they’re never caricatured or unlikeable.
Some of the books, such as The Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Year of the Griffin, have so many good characters that picking out a main protagonist is actually quite difficult (though I love Elda in the latter book)! And, of course, there are no characters as such in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland:
PanCelts … have NAMES you must consult the glossary in order to pronounce … but there is no such thing as an ordinary PanCelt. Each of them is either a MAGIC USER or a BARD or a Druid (pronounced like a sneeze), or sometimes all three (in which case you pronounce it Merlin). They are governed by strong and beautiful QUEENS called things like Maebdh Aeiolaien (pronounced Mad Eileen) or strong and serious KINGS called, for instance, Daibhaeaidhaibh MacAeraith (pronounced Dave Mate)…
pp 142-143 (1996 Vista paperback)
Diana Wynne Jones’s characters, however minor, are sharply drawn and realistic (even when the setting isn’t). I’m going to have to nominate several favourite main characters, since I can’t narrow it down to just one:
1. Roddy in The Merlin Conspiracy – she deals realistically with treason, family, Nick, learning new magic, and learning that she’s had a spell on her for years, and remains likeable and interesting, and a good foil for Nick.
2. Maewen in The Crown of Dalemark – she gets plunged into a time with which she’s not familiar, has to impersonate someone else, deals well with discovery of murder and treachery, and grows in determination through the course of the book.
3. Cat Chant in Charmed Life and The Pinhoe Egg – Cat is a passive character at the start of Charmed Life, used to being told what to do by his masterful sister Gwendolen, but he takes control of his own powers, and later develops them in conjunction with Marianne in The Pinhoe Egg, as they try to right wrongs and learn about dwimmer. Mind you, Marianne is fantastic, too.
4. Mordion in Hexwood – how do you get over the shittiest possible childhood, having been trained to be an assassin for a bunch of people you loathe, even with the help of four other people who are invisible to you? Mordion is a hugely sympathetic character, despite his job, even before Jones reveals how he got that way, but the way she does it is just heart-breaking.
Do you agree? Who are your favourites?