Book review

Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones (1976)

Have you ever wondered how it feels to be special in some kind of way? I mean, for instance, how do you think Daniel Radcliffe feels, when he isn't busy being Harry Potter? Or Sebastian Clover, that remarkable fifteen year old boy who sailed single-handedly across the Atlantic? How do you think he feels now he's back at school with his old friends again?

I suspect the answer is that they feel pretty ordinary, because we all feel ordinary inside, don't we, whatever we are doing?

Well, that is how Gair feels in this story. Ordinary. He's the son of a Chief, and his father is a hero as well. His mother is a wise woman. His sister and younger brother both have astonishing magical gifts. But Gair is just Gair ... or at least he thinks so. He believes his father is disappointed in him.

That is what drives him to try and make the best of himself. He decides to learn as much as he can from his mother about the three Great Powers, the Sun, the Earth and the Moon, and the three peoples ruled by the powers, the Dorig, the Giants, and his own people.

But Gair doesn't think he'll every understand his own father, and when he learns that his father Gest accomplished his heroic deeds by trickery he is devastated:

And it made him even more unhappy that he could not understand why he should be so miserable to find that his father had cheated. It ought to have been comforting, since it meant that his ordinariness was hereditary. But it was not. Gair felt as if the roots of his life had been cut away. Nothing grand or good was left. It would not have surprised him to find that Adara was nothing like as Wise as she was said to be. And he would have given anything to have gone back miraculously to thinking Gest was a hero out of a story -

Anyway, Gair is living in difficult times. His people are at war with the Dorig, and the Giants have plans to flood the moor where his people live in order to build a reservoir. Perhaps he is trying to thwart his father, but Gair sets out to befriend the Dorig and the Giants. He even begins to see a way to save his own people, though at great cost to himself, and through all this Gair gains some insight into what it takes to be a hero:

The funny thing was, now that he knew what Giants and Dorig were really like, Gair suspected that Gest was a hero after all. No one but a hero could have come out of those adventures unharmed, with Adara into the bargain. But Gest had done it all in an ordinary way and must feel quite ordinary to himself. The giveaway had been when Gair had sat on the bridge as bait to catch Dorig and felt just as ordinary as before ...

So, how many heroes are there in this story? Read it for yourself and see. If you enjoy magic I think you'll love it.

What can I read next?

Diana Wynne Jones has written many books. If you enjoy Power of Three I think you might also like to look at this one:

The shape-changing reminds me of this brilliant trilogy by Catherine Fisher:

If you are interested in the possibility of different races living side by side without realising it, you might like to look at this superb story by Sally Prue:

Or you could look at this haunting and haunted story by Chris Wooding:

If you really prefer something a little more light-hearted you might enjoy something by Stephen Elboz. Plenty of magic!:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Power of Three features in these lists: