Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones: Magic and Fantasy Outclassing J.K. Rowling!
Muggles & More: Post Harry Potter, What Are The Best Children's Fantasy Books
Do you love kids’ books, especially ones packed with fantasy and fantastical adventures like Harry Potter and Philip Pullman's books? A lot of grown-up people will admit to a fondness for some children’s literature these days. If you are a real fan of J.K. Rowling and other such kids’ magical literature, then you would be totally missing out if you failed to check out Diana Wynne Jones.
Mystery and Magic In Kids' Literature: Who Is Diana Wynne Jones?
Undeservedly obscure (except to her small army of truly devoted fans), Wynne Jones has been churning out crazy, intense, magical kids’ fantasy books for decades now. In fact her work ethic is such that it’s really amazing to note the sheer quality and originality of most of her work. In my humble opinion she is superior to Rowling (but don’t throw anything at me here!)
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Fantasy Novel The Homeward Bounders: Who Are They?
So if you’re planning to investigate further, then what are Wynne Jones’s greatest books? Again, going purely by my own opinion, I would say that ‘The Homeward Bounders’ is right up there as possibly her best book (although with strong competition from ‘Dogsbody’ and ‘The Time of the Ghost’. And possibly ‘Charmed Life’. There are so many good ones!) But if you’re going to pick a Wynne Jones book to start with, then ‘The Homeward Bounders’ is a good one to go for.
What's it all about? The Homeward Bounders are a disparate group of people who have been cast out of their original worlds by a mysterious and sinister conglomerate of gamers. These gamers don't play with Playstations and Wiis, oh no: they make game and play dice with worlds – and with people's lives. But who are the gamers, and how have they made the worlds their playthings?
The protagonist, one of these lonely folk made to 'walk the bounds' that exist at the borders of the worlds, is a young boy called Jamie. We – the readers of the book – are led to strongly suspect that Jamie's world is an earlier version of our own, perhaps in the nineteenth century.
How To Survive Hell-worlds and Magic
Fortunately for Jamie – and unusually amongst Homeward Bounders – Jamie manages to meet up with a couple of others of his kind and embark upon adventures with them. His companions are an aristocratic outcast girl from a hell-world, and a rather posh slave-boy whose benevolent owner is trying to find and rescue him. The mishaps that befall them are both funny and frightening. They fall into many magical, weird and wonderful worlds, but when they find a relatively 'normal' one that is rather like our own, they stick out like sore thumbs. Their experiences have rendered them freakishly abberrant – but they still manage to make friends, and allies, of some of the natives... With their new pals, could they take on the Gamers and destroy the Game?
What is the charm of the Homeward Bounders? Jamie, a rough-n-tuff, lower-class little boy – you could visualize him as a nineteenth century Just William - is a fighter. (And rather smug about his accumulated experience on the subject of surviving while travelling 'the bounds'. You might imagine him as the otherworldly alternative to the reality show survivalists such as Bear Grylls, teaching the newbies how to correctly eat giant beetles and be diplomatically smarmy with the homicidal natives.)
It doesn't matter what outrageous slings and arrows the creepy gamers throw at Jamie: he just keeps on fighting to get back to his home world and family. Does he make it in the end? You'll just have to read the book and see. Do it, you won't regret it!