Eight Days of Luke is written by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 1975 by Macmillan. Jones’s website can be found here.
“There seemed nothing strange about Luke to begin with, except perhaps the snakes. If they were snakes—David wasn’t sure. He was just grateful for a companion as agreeable as Luke, who seemed able to twist anyone round his finger, even David’s odious relatives. “Just kindle a flame and I’ll be with you,” Luke said, and he always was—which turned out to be more awkward than useful in the end. For who were the people who seemed to be looking for Luke: the man with one eye; the massive, malevolent gardener, Mr. Chew; the offensively sprightly Frys; the man with ginger hair? Why were there ravens watching, one in front and one at the back gate? And then of course there was the fire….”
What I Liked:
So, basically this is Jones’s take on Norse mythology. She has a handy note at the end that tells you who the characters are, which I found really helpful because I’m unfamiliar with Norse myth. Even the reactions of the people to the gods were related to what that god was (such as the Frys), which was great.
David’s relatives reminded me a ton of Harry Potter’s. I kept thinking “Harry Potter” when David was around his relatives. It was very similar treatment, although Harry had no Astrid (or Luke).
I loved the “outwitting” parts of the book, such as David and the meat, and trying to confuse Mr. Chew. I also liked the more mythological aspects, such as the Tree and the cave where Brunhilda lay.
I found it most interesting that Luke here is portrayed as someone around David’s age, despite the fact that his (Luke’s) wife is in the book, too. Although, Jones does slip in a few times that Luke seems or looks older than David. I suppose Luke did it that way to get closer to David.
What I Didn’t Like:
This book isn’t nearly as plot-twisty or deep as Jones can usually go. It’s much more simple. It’s still a very good book, but it lacks some of the depth of her other works. This could be due to audience, however.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Realistic (in parts), Middle Grade
The next second, the gravel was covered with angry orange flames, pale and vicious-looking in the sun and dust. David backed out from them desperately, until his shoulders hit the hedge and held him up. But the flames had gone by then. They just flared through the dust as if someone had dropped a match in a pool of petrol, and then went out. David was sure his curse had punctured a gas-main. He looked the heaving ground over hurriedly, to try and locate the leak before going to confess and get help. He saw a round thing, something like a pipe and at least as thick as his arm, writhing among the rubble, and he thought it was a gas-pipe. It was covered with an ugly mosaic pattern which glittered in the sun. There were others, too, further off, and if David had not known they were gas-pipes, he would have sworn they were snakes—snakes somehow swimming in the rippling ground, as if it were water.
“You don’t know much about me, do you?” said Mr Wedding.
David looked up at him to agree, and to protest a little. And he saw Mr Wedding had only one eye. David stared. For a moment, he was more frightened than he had ever been in his life. He could not understand it. Up till then, there had been nothing strange about Mr. Wedding’s face at all, and it had been perfectly ordinary. David had not noticed a change. Yet one of Mr Wedding’s eyes was simply not there. The place where the second eye should have been had an eyelid and eyelashes, so that it looked almost as if Mr Wedding had shut one eye—but not quite. It did not look at all horrible. There was no reason to be frightened. But David was. Mr. Wedding’s remaining eye had something to do with it. It made up for the other by gazing so piercingly blue, so deep and difficult, that it was as wild and strange in its way as Mr. Chew’s face. As David looked from eye to empty eyelid and back, he had suddenly no doubt that what he was seeing was Mr Wedding’s true face, and his real nature.
Eight Days of Luke, while being slightly more simple than some of Jones’s other books, nicely interweaves Norse mythology into David’s everyday life in a way that is both a great introduction to Norse myth and a pleasure for those more acquainted with it. David deals with the Norse gods so nicely that you’d almost expect him to be connected with that world in some way, and it makes for some of the better parts of the book. Another great work from Jones.
You can buy this here: Eight Days of Luke