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Power of Three Paperback – August 12, 2003

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1 edition (August 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064473597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064473590
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,822,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Her most ambitious book yet. Highly distinctive, funny, exciting, and with one marvellous twist." (Times Literary Supplement (London))

"Fast-paced and suspenseful." (School Library Journal)

"Teems with adventure and suspense." (ALA Booklist)

About the Author

Diana Wynne Jones was raised in the village of Thaxted, in Essex, England. She has been a compulsive storyteller for as long as she can remember enjoying most ardently those tales dealing with witches, hobgoblins, and the like. Ms. Jones lives in Bristol, England, with her husband, a professor of English at Bristol University. They have three sons and two granddaughters. In Her Own Words...

"I decided to be a writer at the age of eight, but I did not receive any encouragement in this ambition until thirty years later. I think this ambition was fired-or perhaps exacerbated is a better word-by early marginal contacts with the Great, when we were evacuated to the English Lakes during the war. The house we were in had belonged to Ruskin's secretary and had also been the home of the children in the books of Arthur Ransome. One day, finding I had no paper to draw on, I stole from the attic a stack of exquisite flower-drawings, almost certainly by Ruskin himself, and proceeded to rub them out. I was punished for this. Soon after, we children offended Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat. He complained. So likewise did Beatrix Potter, who lived nearby. It struck me then that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant (even if, in Ruskin's case, it was posthumous), and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness.

"I started writing children's books when we moved to a village in Essex where there were almost no books. The main activities there were hand-weaving, hand-making pottery, and singing madrigals, for none of which I had either taste or talent. So, in intervals between trying to haunt the church and sitting on roofs hoping to learn to fly, I wrote enormous epic adventure stories which I read to my sisters instead of the real books we did not have. This writing was stopped, though, when it was decided I must be coached to go to University. A local philosopher was engaged to teach me Greek and philosophy in exchange for a dollhouse (my family never did things normally), and I eventually got a place at Oxford.

"At this stage, despite attending lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, I did not expect to be writing fantasy. But that was what I started to write when I was married and had children of my own. It was what they liked best. But small children do not allow you the use of your brain. They used to jump on my feet to stop me thinking. And I had not realized how much I needed to teach myself about writing. I took years to learn, and it was not until my youngest child began school that I was able to produce a book which a publisher did not send straight back.

"As soon as my books began to be published, they started coming true. Fantastic things that I thought I had made up keep happening to me. The most spectacular was Drowned Ammet. The first time I went on a boat after writing that book, an island grew up out of the sea and stranded us. This sort of thing, combined with the fact that I have a travel jinx, means that my life is never dull."

Diana Wynne Jones is the author of many highly praised books for young readers, as well as three plays for children and a novel for adults. She lives in Bristol, England, with her husband, a professor of English at Bristol University. They have three sons.

More About the Author

In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones 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 were filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy. From the very beginning, Diana Wynne Jones's books garnered literary accolades: her novel Dogsbody was a runner-up for the 1975 Carnegie Medal, and Charmed Life won the esteemed Guardian children's fiction prize in 1977. Since then, in addition to being translated into more than twenty languages, her books have earned a wide array of honors--including two Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honors--and appeared on countless best-of-the-year lists. Her work also found commercial success: in 1992 the BBC adapted her novel Archer's Goon into a six-part miniseries, and her best-selling Howl's Moving Castle was made into an animated film by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki in 2004. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006, and became one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The author herself has also been honored with many prestigious awards for the body of her work. She was given the British Fantasy Society's Karl Edward Wagner Award in 1999 for having made a significant impact on fantasy, received a D.Lit from Bristol University in 2006, and won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention in 2007.

Born just outside London in 1934, Diana Wynne Jones had a childhood that was "very vivid and often very distressing"--one that became the fertile ground where her tremendous imagination took root. When the raids of World War II reached London in 1939, the five-year-old girl and her two younger sisters were torn from their suburban life and sent to Wales to live with their grandparents. This was to be the first of many migrations, one of which brought her family to Lane Head, a large manor in the author-populated Lake District and former residence of John Ruskin's secretary, W.G. Collingwood. This time marked an important moment in Diana Wynne Jones's life, where her writing ambitions were magnified by, in her own words, "early marginal contacts with the Great." She confesses to having "offending Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat," erasing a stack of drawings by the late Ruskin himself in order to reuse the paper, and causing Beatrix Potter (who also lived nearby) to complain about her and her sister's behavior. "It struck me," Jones said, "that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant, and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness." Prompted by her penny-pinching father's refusal to buy the children any books, Diana Wynne Jones wrote her first novel at age twelve and entertained her sisters with readings of her stories. Those early stories--and much of her future work--were inspired by a limited but crucial foundation of classics: Malory's Morte D'Arthur, The Arabian Nights, and Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages. Fantasy was Jones's passion from the start, despite receiving little support from her often neglectful parents. This passion was fueled further during her tenure at St. Anne's College in Oxford, where lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis increased her fascination with myth and legend. She married Medievalist John Burrow in 1956; the couple have three sons and six grandchildren.

After a decade of rejections, Diana Wynne Jones's first novel, Changeover, was published in 1970. In 1973, she joined forces with her lifelong literary agent, Laura Cecil, and in the four decades to follow, Diana Wynne Jones wrote prodigiously, sometimes completing three titles in a single year. Along the way she gained a fiercely loyal following; many of her admirers became successful authors themselves, including Newbery Award winners Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman, and Newbery Honor Book author Megan Whalen Turner. A conference dedicated solely to her work was held at the University of West England, Bristol, in 2009. Diana Wynne Jones continued to write during her battle with lung cancer, which ultimately took her life in March 2011. Her last book, Earwig and the Witch, will be published by Greenwillow Books in 2012.

Customer Reviews

I will definitely recommend it for a school library.
A really well-crafted book - one of my favorites by Diana Wynne Jones.
Each event is exactly right for propelling the story towards its end.
Scott Fisher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Diana Wynne-Jones's books are enjoying a much-deserved resurgence, thanks to the renewed interest in well-written juvenile fantasy. One of the latest reprinted novels is "Power of Three," a unique story about three very unusual siblings, and the Moor that is under attack.
The leader of the mound of Garholt has three children. Eldest Ayna has the Sight, and youngest Ceri has the Gift of Finding AND the Gift of Thought. The middle child, Gair, considers himself extremely ordinary, and tries to become wise and skilled to make up for his lack of extraordinary gifts. Gair isn't as ordinary as he had thought, but his secret talents lie hidden until a disaster falls.
Long ago, their uncle Orban killed a Dorig (a water-dwelling reptilian creature) for its golden collar, and the Dorig's brother laid a curse on everyone. Now the Dorig invade the mound when the chief is out on a hunt and the three kids manage to escape, taking refuge with the Giants (who are apparently ordinary human beings). They learn that they're running out of time -- the Moor will soon be turned into a lake, driving out the Giants and killing the Moung People and Dorig, unless they find a way to stop it.
"Power of Three" is in some ways a much darker book than many of Jones' others. There are more complex issues about morality and ethics. Not to mention the enviroment, and the question of what makes a person special. (Even before Gair's gift surfaces, he's considered special for his hunger for knowledge) There's murder, trickery, there are battles (not magical ones either), hostage situations and curses that affect entire populations.
Jones gives the Mound People a semi-Celtic flair; the story about how the kids' dad had to win their mom is reminiscent of old Irish legends.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Scott Fisher on August 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'd be willing to bet that most Diana Wynne Jones fans may have missed this book because on first glance it doesn't seem as exciting as some others of hers. What a mistake, since Diana really shows her craft as a writer in this book. She shows she can do a different kind of book and pull it off as well as any of her more fun, or humorously fanciful books.
In many of Diana's books, she works by creating a difficult situation and then piling unexpected situations, images and twists on top. Usually, you wonder "what more could possibly go wrong" and then something else does--to humorous effect. By the end, you find you've come out the other side and chaos has somehow turned into order--much like a Shakespearean comedy such as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or "Comedy of Errors."
If most of Diana's books are comedies, Power of Three is more like a tragedy. From the moment at the first of the book when an innocent Dorig (sort of a water sprite) is killed, a curse is laid, and revenge is sworn, you know that "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
Diana uses intricate plotting to move the story towards the expected climax. Even with happy events, the reader knows that something else lurks behind. The plot works in a unified way to forward the story towards its climax. Each event is exactly right for propelling the story towards its end.
The book deals nicely with issues of trust between people, understanding between parent and child, and the effect a small minority can have for good or evil.
This is a darker book than many by this author (though it works out nicely in the end), so you may want to try something else if you're looking mostly for free-spirited fun. It's moodier, more "realistic," has less whimsey, and more suspense than you'd expect.
Overall, a very well-crafted book that is something different for the author. I recommend it highly, but you may want to adjust your expectations of Diana Wynne Jones before reading it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Fisher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Combining the atmosphere of Celtic folklore with a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare's "Hamlet", as well as an intricate plot (including a huge twist halfway through that will completely turn your perception of the story on its head) and likeable characters, "Power of Three" is one of Diana Wynne Jones's best novels - and so inevitably it is one of her least known.

Set on moorlands inhabited by Giants, reptilian Dorig and tribes of warrior-like clans, the first two chapters introduces the rest of the story to come. First, Adara and her bullish brother Orban come across a young Dorig princeling, and Orban demands the beautiful collar around its neck. Refusing, the Dorig places a deep curse upon the collar that will bestow bad luck upon the holder and the surroundings.

Chapter two takes place several years later when Adara elopes with the chief of a neighbouring Mound. This reads like a Celtic legend as the hero Gest must perform three impossible tasks concerning riddles, collars, standing stones, Dorig and Giants, and exactly how he manages to accomplish these feats is a mystery that (like the influence of the curse) is explored more deeply in the rest of the book that skips onto the next generation.

Gest and Adara's three children are Ayna, Gair and Ceri. Ayna the eldest can answer any question posed toward her, whilst Ceri can not only find anything that is lost but manipulate matter with his mind. Gair however is devastatingly normal, and so considers himself a disappointment to his entire community. But with the evil of the curse winding its way into all aspects of life (including food supply, war with the Dorig, and an unwelcome invasion of relatives into their Mound), Gair finally reaches breaking point and heads for the countryside.
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