Thursday, September 29, 2011

Archer's Goon

Whew!  Just got back from a wedding in Pittsburgh of one of my bestest of bestest friends.  It was a whirlwind of sleeplessness.

So.  Once again we are getting into our wayback machine, Sherman, to examine one of the most elegant YA/adult urban fantasy novels:  Archer's Goon.

Diane Wynne Jones died this year, and we lost a powerful force in fantasy.  She was a Welsh author, and far more known in Britain than here.  My mother read several of her books to me as a child.  Throughout the years, my family searched out her out of print books.  Then Rowlings blew up and Jones was back on the shelves!  When I read Rowlings, I can't help but see Jones's influence.  She was friends with Neil Gaiman.

You could put it down to my childhood bias, but I generally prefer Jones's earlier works out of her formidable contributions to literature.  When I say I prefer the earlier works, I mean Archer's Goon, Charmed Life, Witch Week, and Howl's Moving Castle stand out to me as contributions to literature that stand up to any adult fantasy, or, for that matter, stand up to any other form of literature.  The rest of her literature may not be as perfect, but I'd still pretty much rather be reading Jones than virtually anything else.

Having made myself sound like a rabid and unreliable fan, I'll continue with the summary.

Archer's Goon


An urban, YA fantasy novel.  Howard Sykes comes home from school in a terrible mood, having had defend his sister, Awful, from a hoard of girls that probably had every reason to be angry at awful Awful, to discover a Goon filling up his parents' kitchen.  The Goon professes to be from Archer, here to collect his due two thousand words from Howard and Awful's dad, Quentin, a writer.  Archer is one of the seven magical brothers and sisters that control the town.  The only problem is that as soon as Archer has made his demand, the others begin chiming in that the words belong to them, and the Goon has yet to leave the house.  When Quentin refuses to write the words for anyone, life gets unpleasant for the Sykes.  Howard is left trying to maneuver through the tangled world of the magicians, and why the words are so important.


Magic aside, Archer's Goon is a YA exploration of family and what it means--good or bad--for both the Sykes and the family pressuring them.  I can state that baldly now, but while reading about the eccentric Sykes and the equally eccentric magicians, you can only break your captivation with your laughter.  All you see is a rich landscape of characters, sewn together into a twisting, mystery filled plot with a concept I have never seen before or since.  What might not hold together for adult readers are some of the mystery aspects.  As a child, puzzling together each piece took work.  However, an adult reader may get to the end of some of the mazes ahead of time.  There is a fusion aspect to the book, but I'm not given that one away.  


  1. Bets, I'm glad you reviewed this book. What fascinates me about this book is that although children love it, every "adultl" I know who has read it who has any interest in theater (no direct connection) D & D, music, etc has a closet addiction to it, and we all tend to curl up with it at least once a year, as though reviewing it will keep our own world less chaotic. Odd that an Awful-besting, knife-throwing Goon's story (and the families described, at their best and worst) have that anchoring effect

  2. It is a comfort book. I read it at least once a year, too. So glad to hear I'm not alone!! I try to spread the word about Jones as much as I can. It's a little depressing how few people haven't heard about her ground breaking works. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I still list Diana Wynne Jones whenever I list my favorite authors! And this and Howl's Moving Castle are probably my very favorite of her books. I love, love, love this book.

    Diana Wynne Jones is an author that I love enough that when I was on my honeymoon in Scotland, and they were in print there but not in the United States, I bought as many of her books as I could find, even though it was expensive and then we had to carry the books all day. I was so happy when they reprinted them here.

  4. Yup, you! I am a Harry Potter fan, but would give them up in a second in favor of Wynne Jones rereads if I were forced to make a choice. I always thought there were GREAT YA and adult movies in her stuff. However, the Hayao Miyazaki film of Howl's moving castle (which I interupted a Florida vacation to see) was an abomination! Keep additional books out of his hands and don't let Tim Burton get near them either.