Diana Wynne Jones
This is a difficult book to describe, not only because the plot is of labyrinthine complexity, but because any description that made sense would inevitably involve spoilers for the many surprises Jones springs upon her readers. Suffice to say that it involves a (possibly) malfunctioning super-computer, an infinite wood where time doesn’t run straight, assassins, the tyrannical rulers of the entire galaxy, psychic links, Merlin, a robot, and Ann Stavely, the twelve-year-old daughter of modern English shopkeepers who one day notices that people are walking into the forest and not returning.
This is one of Jones’ best books; she manages to balance her zany humor and madcap invention with some extremely dark elements, and she pulls together a bizarrely unlikely set of elements into a unified plot. Plus, she takes a slightly more mature than usual look at the “innocent girl loves man with dark past” motif while still delivering a touching romance. It’s a very enjoyable and sometimes quite moving read. The only flaw in the book is its structure: not everything happens in chronological order, and many things are not as they seem. Jones largely pulls it off, and everything makes sense by the end, but there were some parts where the structure seemed a little haphazard.
The morality of this book is largely of the standard fantasy kind: evil people kill people, good people save them. Content-wise, it gets fairly dark at points–those tyrannical rulers of the galaxy torture and brainwash little children into becoming assassins, and though Jones avoids any graphic descriptions of gore, she does not shy away from the brutality.