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Eight Days of Luke (1975)

by Diana Wynne Jones

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7021324,373 (3.91)38
A teenage boy learns that his new friend possesses supernatural powers, and as they encounter a series of mysterious people, he discovers his friend's true origins.
  1. 21
    Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (foggidawn)
    foggidawn: More fun with Norse mythology!
  2. 00
    Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren (Aquila)
    Aquila: Everything about Weave the Circle Round reminds me of Diana Wynne Jones, but the Norse link makes 8 days of Luke the most appropriate to rec.
  3. 22
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (guyalice)
    guyalice: Neil Gaiman was surprised to discover that the concept of Eight Days of Luke was very similar to what he had initially planned for the plot of American Gods. He dropped the day-theme to avoid too many similarities and gave props to Wynne Jones.
  4. 01
    Dust by Arthur Slade (francescadefreitas)
  5. 01
    Runemarks by Joanne Harris (guyalice)

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» See also 38 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
This is a re-read -- I probably haven't read it in over 30 years, and there were a lot of details that had been completely forgotten. What I remembered of this one is the exploration of ideas from mythology that don't require that the reader have any understanding of the myths, including the summoning of 'Luke' by the main character, David, by the breaking of the bonds by the random recitation of the necessary words. On rereading, I noticed that there are many little details that can be useful for a more knowledgeable reader to feel smug about, but I didn't feel that it mattered that I couldn't work out who one of the characters was.

What I hadn't remembered of the story is how much of it was about the emotional neglect and abuse of the main character by his family, and how the summoning of 'Luke' changes that all, not only for him, but people around him. While David is certainly complicit in this change, he is not the person with the agency to effect it -- possibly a common theme through many of Jones' books. And the way that David's view of his aunt by marriage changes as she takes opportunities to spend time with him, away from the rest of the family (which leads directly to one of the conclusions of the book, but I'll leave that out here).

While this is one of my four (or so) favourite books written by Jones', I don't actually think it is one of her stronger ones. The worldbuilding, including the incorporation of Norse mythology, is good, but sometimes patchy. The characterisation is mostly fine, but sometimes a bit wooden. The writing is mostly smooth, but aspects of both the worldbuilding and the characterisation kept throwing me out of the story -- I was sometimes too busy wondering what it was that I was missing in a particular scene to actually read it properly the first time through, and thus ended up rereading multiple pages. The plot is fairly straightforward. While I found it clunky in places, I'm not sure how much of that is due to the other aspects already mentioned.This is a relatively early book of Jones', and thus it is understandable that it doesn't have the strength of some of her later ones (it was first published in 1975; her earliest [Changeover] was published in 1970), but I actually don't think that it is as strong as others she was publishing at the time or shortly after (eg. Homeward Bounders) ( )
1 vote fred_mouse | Aug 15, 2017 |
Jones, D.W. (1975). Eight Days of Luke. New York: Greenwillow Books.

226 pages.

Appetizer: David Allard is on break from school and instead of being sent of on an educational tour, his relatives have forgotten he was supposed to come home and so he is stuck with them and their criticisms of him.

At first it seems like it will be a complete torture, but after chanting a random mix of words, a strange boy named Luke appears. Luke claims that David released him from his prison and is indebted to him. David just thinks Luke is one of the kids from the neighborhood, but when it becomes clear that Luke has a magical talent with fire and strangers appear looking for Luke, another each day. David makes a deal with one of the strange men to try to keep Luke out of his prison for good, if only David can prevent the strangers from finding Luke for one week.

Although the actual story is subtle and readers who aren't already familiar with Norse mythology may not even notice that all of the strangers who visit David trying to find Luke are gods from Norse myth (and Luke himself is also one of the gods). It becomes a little more obvious by the end, but I feel like this is one of those books where a teacher has to explain some of the details to get the broader significance. Otherwise it's just this boy who helps this other boy. And there are weird adults. Unhappy relatives. Unexplained magic. People unsurprised by unexplained magic. And lots of talk about cricket.

I've met dozens of readers who are in love with Diana Wynne Jones's books. Literally. They want to marry her despite the age difference. But I have to say, when I had read some of her young adult books in the past, I had trouble getting into them. Her characters just don't draw me in. I had less trouble with this as I read Eight Days of Luke. I think I had an easier time because this is more of a middle grade book and because, after Luke was introduced, it was a pretty fast-paced read.

I still felt the book lacked tension though. It's one of those older fantasy novels in which a character only has a limited time to, say, save the world, perhaps. And instead of immediately running off to save said world, the protagonist has tea. Or runs off to play cricket. And I'm left wondering if this is proper day-saving behavior.

Because if I were ever tasked with saving the world, I'd make sure that that bit of work would be my number one priority. I'd be on top of it. Probably, I'd even make a check list on a sticky note to make sure I didn't forget any of the world-saving steps. You hear that, fates/hero-audition-panel? I would devote all my efforts to saving the world. No tea or cricket for me. Just full-time world saving effort. Now, I wouldn't say the world is actually at stake in Eight Days of Luke, but David also delayed his efforts to save Luke because he feared he'd be inconveniencing his aunt who would have to give him a ride. Or something.

*Yawn* How un-tense is that situation? It's like getting a myth-y brain massage that, at the end of the massage session, you can't help but wonder of you were cheated because you fell asleep and couldn't properly keep track of the time the massage took. But on the plus side, you're tension free.

Who else could use a massage right now?

ALSO, also, whenever I read the title of this book in my head, I inevitably wound up with the song Eight Days a Week by the Beatles stuck in my head. That woke me up a little. Then I had to sing the song out-loud as I wandered around my place. My cats did not appreciate the noise. My neighbors probably didn't either.

Who can't carry a tune? This girl.

Eeeeeeight DAAAAys a WeeeeEEEEEEK! I LoooOOOOOOoooOOOOoooove You!

Dinner Conversation:

"Unlike most boys, David dreaded the holidays. His parents were dead and he lived with his Great-Aunt Dot, Great-Uncle Bernard, their son Cousin Ronald and Cousin Ronald's wife Astrid; and all these four people insisted that he should be grateful for the way they looked after him.
David tried to be grateful. They sent him to a boarding school which, as schools go, was not bad. Most holidays they arranged for him to go on an Educational Tour or to a Holiday Camp, and these were usually interesting enough to make up for David's not knowing any of the other boys who went to them. He did feel grateful when Cousin Ronald pointed out that he had opportunities which few other boys were given. But when he was at home in Ashbury and not on a Tour or at Camp, he found it much harder to be grateful. And the older he grew, the harder he found it." (p. 1)

"At last he found the best combination of all. He could really almost believe it was words, fierce, terrible words. They asked to be said. And they asked to be said, too, in an important, impressive way, loudly, from somewhere high up. David climbed to the top of the compost heap, crushing baby marrows underfoot, and, leaning on the handle of the spade, he stretched the other hand skyward and recited his words. Afterward, he never remembered what they were. He knew they were magnificent, but he forgot them as soon as he said them. And when he had spoken them, for good measure, he picked up a handful of compost and bowled it at the wall.
As soon as he did that, the wall started to fall down." (pp. 28-29).

"I'm truly grateful to you. You let me out of a really horrible prison." He smiled happily and pointed with one slightly blistered finger to the ground under the wall.
This was too much for David, who, after all, had been there to see that nothing but flames and snakes had come from the ground. "Pull the other leg," he said.
Luke looked at him with one eyebrow up and a mischievous, calculating look on his filthy face. He seemed to be deciding just how much nonsense David could be brought to swallow. Then he laughed. "Have it your own way," he said. "But I am grateful, and I'll do anything I can in return." (p. 37).

"...You have to say that if I can keep Luke safe till the end of the holidays, then you'll stop looking for him and won't punish him or hurt him if you find him after that."
"Agreed," said Mr. Wedding. "But let's not make it so long. Let's say that if you can keep Luke safe until next Sunday, then he's safe for good. All right?"
This shook David a little. Mr. Wedding must be very sure of winning to set such a short limit. But he felt he had agreed to too much already to refuse a detail like that. "All right," he said." (pp. 114-115)

Tasty Rating: !!! ( )
1 vote SJKessel | May 31, 2012 |
Eight Days of Luke was published in 1975 but is a remarkably well-preserved story. I didn't feel that any part of it was dated at all. There are arcades and radio programs rather than video games and television but they didn't seem like something that couldn't exist naturally now. And the language seems surprisingly modern. A modern Brit might think differently but I can't speak to that! This is another story where Diana plays with family dynamics, especially dysfunctional ones, and in a very interesting way. David, the main character, is an orphan who is forced to constantly prove his "gratefulness" to his aunt and uncle and cousin who are caring for him. It is a rather revolting situation but also entirely believable. This book is just so well crafted that I enjoyed every minute of reading it.

http://webereading.com/2012/03/dwj-march-eight-days-of-luke.html ( )
1 vote klpm | Apr 3, 2012 |
David has gone home for the holidays to find himself unexpected and at a loss for what to do. Then one day when he loses his temper Luke turns up, full of jokes, plans and mischief and David finds himself caught up in some serious adventures.

I did catch where she was heading with this story fairly early on, and it was a fun trip. A bit of a period piece in places but fairly good and very readable. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Dec 22, 2011 |
DWJ's gods are rather kindlier than they ever used to be, but it is, after all, a children's book. Her adult characters are, as is quite often the case with her, more monstrous than anything the otherworld can throw at us. ( )
1 vote phoebesmum | Aug 14, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diana Wynne Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stawicki, MattCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, DavidIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A teenage boy learns that his new friend possesses supernatural powers, and as they encounter a series of mysterious people, he discovers his friend's true origins.

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