Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review: The Dark Lord of Derkholm

Diana Wynne Jones. Dark Lord of Derkholm. HarperTrophy: 1998.

I was in the mood for some fantasy with wizards and adventure, and this was the perfect choice. Diana Wynne Jones creates wonderfully imaginative magical worlds and Dark Lord of Derkholm was a brilliant meditation on tourism and exploitation in the form of a sweet magical adventure that also works as a spoof of other sword and sorcery novels. It's a clever novel without being ostentatiously so and it's a simple adventure in which all the characters are rather sweet and lovable and well-meaning (with the exception, of course, of the evil Mr. Chesney who exploits the the land with his magic tourism).

This is the story of the Wizard Derk, who has a lot of talent with plants and animals, but otherwise not much magical skill. He is chosen to play the role of the Dark Lord to harrow and intimidate the tourists who tramp through his land every year. Derk and his family must play their roles in an extended play creating adventure for the tourists all the while trying to find a way out of the demon-enforced contracts and financial dependence that place them at the mercy of the tourists from the non-magical world next door.

This book was great as a fast-paced magical adventure story filled with good, honest characters. The story kept my interest all the way through its 517 pages and I look forward to reading the sequel, Year of the Griffin. This has the feeling of Terry Pratchett's wizards but with less biting satire. If you like a good-natured fantasy adventure, this one is definitely for you.


  1. I still haven't read any Diana Wynne Jones (too many books, too little time!). Which book of hers would you recommend that I check out first?

  2. I started with Howl's Moving Castle and I really enjoyed that. It has 2 sequals (Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways). The nice thing about Diana Wynne Jones is that it doesn't really matter where you start - everything stands on its own really well. I do recommend Howl's Moving Castle or the Chrestomanci books to start out. Several of the Chrestomanci books have recently been released in omnibus additions, so that might help.

  3. I've heard a lot of great things about Howl's Moving Castle, so I guess it's fitting that I should start with it. Thanks.