On my desk calendar at work I have the words "Fire and Hemlock" written across this Thursday, April 12. That's the day three of Diana Wynne-Jones' earlier novels -- Dogsbody, A Tale of Time City, Fire and Hemlock -- are going to be reissued by Firebird, in paperback and Kindle editions, with new introductions by Garth Nix and Neil Gaiman, among others.
Jones wrote a lot of books and they're all worth reading, but I like seeing these particular examples of her early work made available. Dogsbody is the story of a celestial object -- a star -- who falls from heaven to earth and is reborn as a mongrel dog with a task he must perform (but, being a dog, he can't ever concentrate on this task for very long.) There's a quest in there, and a phantom hunt, and strong emotions -- jealousy and unhappy families. It came out in 1975, when YA novels weren't expected to be quite so magical, and like many of her novels never got much recognition in the US. A Tale of Time City starts with a girl being evacuated to the British countryside during World War II, and then pitches forward, dazzlingly, through the eons, to an era when humanity is very different, and still somewhat the same (at any rate, people still eat toffee), in a place called Time City, where time seems to be coming to an end.
As for Fire and Hemlock, which was originally published in 1985, it happens to be one of the few Jones novels I've never read -- out of print and the library didn't have it. I pre-ordered it back in January and I'm trusting that when I fire up the Kindle on Thursday it will be there. All I really know about it is that it's Jones' take on the Tam Lin ballad...which is quite enough for me.