One of the most memorable aspects of Dalemark is the range of technologies in a fantasy setting. Cart and Cwidder seemed (at first reading) the most traditional of Diana Wynne Jones’ fantasies – the family of travelling musicians in a semi-medieval setting – until the moment when someone is almost shot by a bullet, and then I realised that it was simply a situation of countries with different levels of industrialisation. The series moves between epic past and highly developed futures, between green ways and pipers and magic on the one hand and trains and planes and schools at the other, without ever leaving its own world (unlike Dark Lord of Derkholm, which is a direct intrusion by our world, and The Power of Three which, well, just read that one). Now that I think about this, C. S. Lewis touched on this in Narnia, with the institution of schools and factories and so forth in Prince Caspian and (it is intimated) The Last Battle, but industrialisation in Narnia is just as much a sign of decay as in The Lord of the Rings whereas in Jones it is a natural progression, as real and morally neutral as spells woven into the fabric of coats.
In other news, I am writing this in the middle of a group of friends designing tea labels, writing haiku and looking up Romeo and Juliet (and the Disney Robin Hood) on YouTube which is a very agreeable way to spend the evening, although it has been raining and the waters are rising again.