Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade February 2002

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The title of the book is Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones. Nobody is who he or she seems to be in this wonderfully crafted sci-fi tale, which is set in a future universe. It all begins when the sector controller in charge of Earth receives word about a disarmed machine previously sealed by the Reigners, a team of five people who control the universe, has been turned on mysteriously. It has set up a "star gate-like" mechanism in the woods around Hexwood Farm. Many people from the past are transported through this mechanism. The protagonist of the story, Ann, is the teenage daughter of a British couple living in a village outside of Hexwood Farm. She witnesses a number of strangers enter the farm at different times; but never stick around long enough for her to interact with. Ann becomes very curious about these happenings and discovers not only are the woods are much larger than they seem but a castle also sits on the other side.

She also finally understands she is the catalyst in the events leading to the downfall of the Reigners and the establishment of a new order. The Grim reaper, known for signaling the time of death, finally takes on a helpful persona and aids Ann to go back in time to stop the Reigners from setting up a clone machine on their side to keep this "star gate" alive and indestructible. This book is great and very much recommended because of the mystery surrounding the characters, the way the grim reaper puts on a smile, and also the way Jones uses suspense in the novel really makes it enjoyable.

Hume and Mordion are the two characters who are flung into the "save the world" dilemma with Ann. Mordion is in a box made out of wood which Ann discovered. He unintentionally wakes spooks her and then uses the power of the wood for energy and food. He even makes a little boy out of it. This part is particularly confusing, because he is portrayed as someone Ann has known for a while and brought thoughts of Ann maybe reliving her past life. Ann finds the castle not only has the structure, but all the bells and whistles too. This includes dungeons, dragons, knights, etc. Mordion is a Reigner, but is sent to help Ann "save the world." Hume is a character who simply appears with the same mission as Mordion. The rest of the people who appear are Reigners experimenting with the portal. This is the really confusing part; all of the characters are revealed yet only 3 main ones have any impact in the story at all. When they fight against the Reigners, Mordion and Hume's intelligence comes in handy when battling the rest of the mindless Reigners.

Hume, who portrays the role of the Grim Reaper, is Ann's biggest help. The Grim Reaper in reality is a character who is feared by all since he is the one who decides when we go into the afterlife. In this novel, it seems as if he is furious about the Reigners trying to take over earth and killing people when they want. Then, he "puts on a smile" and finds Ann, "the one" and aids her and Mordion in killing the remaining Reigners. He helps her transport through the portal, and of course, since he decides when we die, he can kill the Reigners with the swing of his sickle and the touch of his hand. Then, when the fight is over, he smiles knowing his place in the world is back and as powerful as ever.

Suspense seeps through every crease in the pages. When Ann goes to find out what is in the wooden box, many thoughts rumble on inside her head. Then, when the box starts to shake, she is scared out of her wits and jumps back. The suspense building up to this event was incredible, almost unbearable. Another moment of suspense was towards the end, when the machine disappeared. At first nothing was happened, a rumble was heard, and they all expected more Reigners to come, then the ground shook and finally "zip!" it all disappeared before their eyes. And of course, smaller events of suspense were splattered all over, in particularly when she found the castle and dragons seemed ready to strike.

Throughout this novel, Diana Wynne Jones uses suspense, confusion, uncertainty, and unsuspected twists of character roles to make this one of the best books I have ever read. The whole book was very interesting, it brought along with various levels of vocabulary making some parts sound like a 4th grade fantasy novel to a college accredited novel. To sum it all up, this novel deserves two thumbs up served on a golden platter chilled with ice, accented with a black and brown sickle.