Fire and Hemlock Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Why on earth did I never read DWJ in middle school? Probably because I was too busy rereading Robin McKinley, Madeleine L’Engle and L.M. Montgomery. But I think the real answer is so that I have a whole pile of new-to-me books to read as an adult, with delights around every corner, I’m sure. Thanks, Laura!

When I picked this one up at Powell’s, I’d forgotten that it was a Tam Lin retelling. And really, you could read most of the book before you realize it – the beginning of the book has a very subtle fantasy element – the occasional odd encounter that could be explained away somehow. Towards the end of the book, Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer (which I wasn’t familiar with) come in much more heavily. Oddly, exactly the same thing happened in another version of Tam Lin.

I wouldn’t describe the book as action packed at all – it’s more of a thoughtful fantasy, perfect for readers who like to try and puzzle out what it will all mean rather than rushing headlong into action. It’s got a nice spooky element, too, that will appeal to mystery fans. The book begins with Polly remembering her childhood, but she’s in college in the ‘present’ part of the story, which I think makes this a good choice for both middle school and high school readers. There’s a bit of romance (it IS Tam Lin after all) but that really takes a back seat to the more mysterious elements in the story.

Now, off to think gleefully about all the DWJ books waiting for me to read them…

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