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Dark Lord of Derkholm

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Everyone - wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike - is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and Everyone - wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike - is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they've had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it's up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year's Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade's griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney's depredations.


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Everyone - wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike - is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and Everyone - wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike - is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they've had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it's up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year's Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade's griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney's depredations.

30 review for Dark Lord of Derkholm

  1. 5 out of 5

    Celeste

    Full review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest. You’ve probably heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I think that’s true to an extent, but there is an art form that goes beyond imitation that, when done well, can often be the best representation of that which it set out to mock. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is a perfect example of this. She set out to mock gothic literature, which she did beautifully, but what impresses me so much about that story is Full review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest. You’ve probably heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I think that’s true to an extent, but there is an art form that goes beyond imitation that, when done well, can often be the best representation of that which it set out to mock. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is a perfect example of this. She set out to mock gothic literature, which she did beautifully, but what impresses me so much about that story is that she managed to craft a near-perfect gothic novel as the vehicle for her parody. Thus far, it remains my favorite example of a gothic novel, even though the entire book was written as a way to poke fun of the genre. In Dark Lord of Derkholm, Jones accomplishes the same for classic fantasy, particularly the subgenre of portal fantasy. Here, we have a beautifully crafted fantasy world that basks in its own cliches. But there’s something plaguing this world: Mr. Chesney, a business mogul from a magic-free planet that must be ours, has basically enslaved this lovely world to his Pilgrim Tours, a way for people from our world to experience a fantasy adventure. While the residents of this fantasy world are supposedly reimbursed from their troubles, everyone is miserable and just wants out of the contract binding them to Mr. Chesney. So they select as the Dark Lord for this year the bumbling, affable, country-bumpkin Wizard Derk, with hopes that he’ll fail so miserably that Mr. Chesney will give up and go home. But Chesney has more invested in this world than they know. And Derk has built for himself a wonderfully supportive and capable family, including five griffins, and they are determined to help him succeed. Hilarity ensues. This was such a funny book. It’s categorized as YA, but it felt more like some weird hybrid of middle grade and adult fantasy because of the tone. I don’t know how to describe it exactly except to say that the protagonists didn’t feel like YA protagonists. I loved watching Jones take cherished cliches and turn them on their heads. The cast of characters she built were incredibly varied, and the vast majority of them were very likable and sympathetic. I especially loved the Derk’s seven children, two human and five griffins. The siblings’ relationships with one another were wonderful. The premise of the book was very tongue-in-cheek, but Jones managed to insert an impressive amount of drama into such a short little book. So much was happening, and there were very few dull moments. (The marching, though. Too much marching.) Also, there were plot twists! Ones that I actually didn’t guess! After the first couple of chapters, I stopped thinking of this as a parody and started thinking about it as a legitimate fantasy novel in its own right. The only book I had read by Jones prior to this was Howl’s Moving Castle, which is one of my favorites. I’m so happy that I enjoyed this. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still fantastic. I’ll definitely be reading its sequel, Year of the Griffin!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    Just over six years ago I met the person I want to spend my entire life with, in that time I was very quickly made aware of her affection towards the fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones and regularly told to give her a try. Being such a considerate husband I finally relented on the proviso that she choose me one that wasn't for kids, wasn't too massive and was one of her better novels. Apparently the first two choices are already lent to a friend of ours and so I was provided with a well loved copy Just over six years ago I met the person I want to spend my entire life with, in that time I was very quickly made aware of her affection towards the fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones and regularly told to give her a try. Being such a considerate husband I finally relented on the proviso that she choose me one that wasn't for kids, wasn't too massive and was one of her better novels. Apparently the first two choices are already lent to a friend of ours and so I was provided with a well loved copy of this Derkholm book. I quite enjoyed it, not that I'm surprised by this fact, she's a highly awarded and regarded author in the genre by all those in the know, and those that don't know are quite probably the type to gush over something interminably "epic". The Dark Lord of Derkholm is actually just the wizard Derk, prophesied by an oracle to be the chosen one, the wizard who would finally bring the world peace and free it from an evil overlord who holds the world in his vice-like grip via a portal from Earth. Derk is an outcast in the wizard community, a man who prefers to invent interesting new creatures rather than focus on more every day spells such as conjuring feasts and enchantment. Every year a wizard is chosen to be the Dark Lord for a series of tourist parties from Earth arranged by the villainous bean counter Mr Chesney, a position of great importance as you're responsible for keeping the entire planet organised to service the tourists or face death by Chesney's pocket demon. How the hell did she come up with this stuff? Derk has help from his loving family of wizards in training and magical creatures adopted as children, even the genetically altered flying pigs are dragged in to things despite their only real desire in life to nuzzle their father, Derk. The plot is labyrinthine, the characters plentiful, the prose incredibly playful, but it is the interraction between the many members of Derk's family that provide the real pleasure of this novel, they're all interesting and unique creations and they all have their own relationships with each other, factions and favourites etc, but as it's still technically a novel aimed at the teenage market they're all very loving towards each other when all is said and done. The other great skill displayed is that of world building without info dumps, the information is provided in short bursts as it naturally comes up in each chapter, sometimes only obliquely referenced and other times actually experienced by a character, in direct contrast to one of the major issues I have with most other books in the fantasy genre, "epic" books that take six pages to discuss the history of a valley that you'll never come across again in an entire sixteen novel sequence type of thing. I won't be reading more of this stuff I'm sure but I had a great time discovering Diana Wynne Jones all the same.

  3. 4 out of 5

    MrsJoseph *grouchy*

    http://bookslifewine.com/r-dark-lord-... DNF at 45% I've been sitting on Dark Lord of Derkholm for a while now. Initially I really liked it and found it humorous. It reminded me of Pratchett's DiscWorld a bit (in its humor only). So color me shocked when I ran into a vaguely worded but pretty obvious gang sexual assault. There was no need for it but it still happened. I was shocked to find something so...dark in a humorous book. The gang (rape?)/sexual assault just...threw me out of the book and I p http://bookslifewine.com/r-dark-lord-... DNF at 45% I've been sitting on Dark Lord of Derkholm for a while now. Initially I really liked it and found it humorous. It reminded me of Pratchett's DiscWorld a bit (in its humor only). So color me shocked when I ran into a vaguely worded but pretty obvious gang sexual assault. There was no need for it but it still happened. I was shocked to find something so...dark in a humorous book. The gang (rape?)/sexual assault just...threw me out of the book and I put it down. (view spoiler)[So, the MC and his sister are ushering a huge group of criminals to a fight via a magical moving "prison." The criminals find a way out of their moving "prison" and attack everyone. The MC hears his sister screaming but can't get to her. Shortly after a good guy stops the criminals and re-cages them. The sister is crouched down on the ground with bruises and ripped clothes and as soon as they walk up to her she starts screaming "Don't touch me! Don't touch me!" She then gets hypnotized by a dragon and then "everything is ok." WTF??! Haven't picked it up since. (hide spoiler)] That was in Jan 2015. It's now December 2016...and I decided to call it quits. I hate rape and sexual abuse.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    Rereading via the Audible audiobook which is very good. I'd forgotten so many details and, indeed, the whole second half of the book since I first read this back in 2011. It is such a fun and enjoyable book. Original review below. ========= Imagine that your world has real elves, dragons, wizards, and all those items necessary for a good fantasy tale. Then imagine that an enterprising person from an "otherworld" much like ours stumbled through a portal and discovered this real "fantasy" world. For Rereading via the Audible audiobook which is very good. I'd forgotten so many details and, indeed, the whole second half of the book since I first read this back in 2011. It is such a fun and enjoyable book. Original review below. ========= Imagine that your world has real elves, dragons, wizards, and all those items necessary for a good fantasy tale. Then imagine that an enterprising person from an "otherworld" much like ours stumbled through a portal and discovered this real "fantasy" world. Forty years later you might have a problem much like that in this book where Mr. Chesney's Pilgrim Parties come on tour wanting to enjoy a classic fantasy adventure. The only problem is that Mr. Chesney's contract is so airtight that it devastates the fantasy world and everyone is at their wits' end trying to fulfill their obligations. So when the Light Oracle and the Dark Oracle tell the ruling council what to do to end this devastation, no one asks questions. Except, that is, for Wizard Derk since part of the requirement is that he becomes this year's Dark Wizard. He's a mild mannered wizard who only wants to develop new forms of animals, but finds his life turned into an increasing spiral of trying to overcome chaos. This is a unique concept for a story that hooked me from the beginning. When you add in Diana Wynne Jones' brand of humor you will understand why I read this book in a dead heat in one day, occasionally cackling with laughter ... which everyone got used to as the day progressed. I will never again be able to say, "when pigs fly" without cracking up. Get this book and read it. UPDATE I'm rereading this for some light bedtime entertainment. Will it be as enjoyable the second time around? Let's find out. The answer to that question: yes. Yes it is.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    The Dark Lord of Derkholm is one of those novels that provides an entertaining story as well as subverting the typical ideas and expectations of the fantasy genre. Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who writes wittily and absurdly at the same time, weaving bizarre ideas together into a mix that perhaps should not work as well as it does. The overall concept of this novel is one which hinges around the idea that people from our world (or at least a world very similar) travel across worlds i The Dark Lord of Derkholm is one of those novels that provides an entertaining story as well as subverting the typical ideas and expectations of the fantasy genre. Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who writes wittily and absurdly at the same time, weaving bizarre ideas together into a mix that perhaps should not work as well as it does. The overall concept of this novel is one which hinges around the idea that people from our world (or at least a world very similar) travel across worlds into a fantasy land populated by peaceful groups of elves, wizards, dragons and so forth. The tourism company that manages these escapades happens to have made an arrangement with the people of this world, that every time a group is brought across a show of fantasy might and magic must be performed. A show that leads the tourists to believe that this world is one of magical battles and dark, evil lords. A kind of roleplaying adventure if you will. The year in which the story begins features the Wizard Derk having been chosen to become this year's archetypal Dark Lord. Of course it also so happens that the inhabitants of this magical land have had enough of the tours, despite the tour organiser being backed by a powerful demon and so a plan begins to turn this year's tour into a means of removing the tours altogether. I mentioned that this novel plays on the archetypes of fantasy cleverly. It does so by providing a world which pretends to be what people expect from a fantasy land, when in reality the inhabitants of this world are a little more settled and realistic than all of that. It is this subversion of fantasy that leads to plenty of humour and also plenty of clever moments within the book, and the major reason why I can recommend this novel as a fantasy book to investigate.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    3.5 stars. Almost 4.0 (As I write this review, I'm actually rounding up to 4) This was a fun read. I liked it better than Howl's Moving Castle, which I'd read earlier in 2014. There was a nice mixture of wit and magic, and some characters I could really get behind. The concept was absurdly brilliant - a fantasy world used as a theme park by Pilgrim Parties that come to live the adventure. Derk is chosen to be this year's Darklord and must go out of his way to give the tourists the best possible ep 3.5 stars. Almost 4.0 (As I write this review, I'm actually rounding up to 4) This was a fun read. I liked it better than Howl's Moving Castle, which I'd read earlier in 2014. There was a nice mixture of wit and magic, and some characters I could really get behind. The concept was absurdly brilliant - a fantasy world used as a theme park by Pilgrim Parties that come to live the adventure. Derk is chosen to be this year's Darklord and must go out of his way to give the tourists the best possible epic thrillride. Execution was nice too. Jones had a way of smooth prose and timing. This book was actually much darker than I'd expected (despite the title) and I'm not really sure I'd call it "YA", as the marketing has it. The light tone (though darker subject matter at times) and satirical approach might have played into that, but it certainly wasn't childish. Much. There was a moment or two near the end that almost ruined the story somewhat, but things worked out fairly well by the end. The ending almost disappointed me too, but then I put into perspective the type of book I was reading. I'm actually giving extra props for Jones being able to make me take this story seriously enough to question that ending. Not to be vague, but I don't want to spoil any of it. Anyway, this was an enjoyable read and I'm interested enough to consider the sequel.

  7. 5 out of 5

    colleen the convivial curmudgeon

    From what I'd heard, this is meant to be a parody of the tropes of traditional fantasy - and all the tropes do seem to be represented - but , as a parody, I expected it to be much funnier than it was. Maybe it's just because when I think of parody I think of "lovingly tongue-in-cheek" but this book took itself far too seriously, in my opinion, to really be a funny send-up. Coupled with that is the fact that there are just so many characters and things going on and it's hard to follow or to really From what I'd heard, this is meant to be a parody of the tropes of traditional fantasy - and all the tropes do seem to be represented - but , as a parody, I expected it to be much funnier than it was. Maybe it's just because when I think of parody I think of "lovingly tongue-in-cheek" but this book took itself far too seriously, in my opinion, to really be a funny send-up. Coupled with that is the fact that there are just so many characters and things going on and it's hard to follow or to really emotionally connect with any of the characters. I mean, I get that part of the plot of the story was that there was so much going on and things were getting out of everyone's control... but it just seemed like it was too much. And there was one thing towards the end which tipped it over the edge - i.e. (view spoiler)[when Blade got captured and forced into a gladiatorial arena. Really? (hide spoiler)] Speaking of too much and too serious, there was some dark stuff that happened in this book, but it's all sort of glossed over either by magicking it away or by it not really happening. I probably would've rated this a 2-star read for most of the book, but I liked the ending. It was a bit pat and even a touch anti-climactic, but it was a big 'ole HEA type fest which tugged the old heart strings. Still, overall, it's probably 2.5, bumped up to three for leaving off with happy jujube vibes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Juho Pohjalainen

    This book came out a year after Ultima Online, a year before Everquest, and another few years before World of Warcraft. I wonder if Diana used to play enough video games to know what was going on, or if it was sheer serendipity. Either way, this book fits pretty well as an MMO parody from the angle of the final boss, who has to face like five raids a day and always respawns right after. It's not the ha-ha-funny type of parody, though. It has very few laughs and most of the time is actually far mo This book came out a year after Ultima Online, a year before Everquest, and another few years before World of Warcraft. I wonder if Diana used to play enough video games to know what was going on, or if it was sheer serendipity. Either way, this book fits pretty well as an MMO parody from the angle of the final boss, who has to face like five raids a day and always respawns right after. It's not the ha-ha-funny type of parody, though. It has very few laughs and most of the time is actually far more serious than you'd think from the premise.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I've only read a couple Diana Wynne Jones books before so I wasn't too sure what to expect. Lately I've not been reading reviews or even blurbs before starting a book because I want to go into it with a completely open mind. Unfortunately my previous experiences with her books led me to believe this would be aimed at a younger audience so as things started getting a bit darker I was a tad perplexed. Eventually I managed to get my mindset in the right place and realise that this book was intended I've only read a couple Diana Wynne Jones books before so I wasn't too sure what to expect. Lately I've not been reading reviews or even blurbs before starting a book because I want to go into it with a completely open mind. Unfortunately my previous experiences with her books led me to believe this would be aimed at a younger audience so as things started getting a bit darker I was a tad perplexed. Eventually I managed to get my mindset in the right place and realise that this book was intended for young adults and the dark behaviours seemed less out of place. And at times it could be rather grim and a little unsettling. Derk has a little bit of a Dr Moreau meets Dr Doolittle feel about him. Blade needed (and I think at the end of the book still does) a good kick in the ass. That character annoyed me the most. I quite liked the griffins and Scales. I would have liked to have seen more of Mara and Shona. They got relegated to the sidelines for the most part. Apart from requiring me to shift my preconceptions out this book was really enjoyable and I can see why Diana Wynne Jones was such an acclaimed author. I look forward to reading more of her work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sesana

    It took me some time to get into this book, which is likely my fault. I find it hard to read anything with more depth than your average bubblegrum wrapper when I have a head cold, so it probably isn't a coincidence that this book finally clicked with me the same day that I started to feel better. Because really, this book is often funny, wonderfully inventive, and features characters I came to care about a great deal. A literal family of characters! I love constructed families in my fiction, but It took me some time to get into this book, which is likely my fault. I find it hard to read anything with more depth than your average bubblegrum wrapper when I have a head cold, so it probably isn't a coincidence that this book finally clicked with me the same day that I started to feel better. Because really, this book is often funny, wonderfully inventive, and features characters I came to care about a great deal. A literal family of characters! I love constructed families in my fiction, but I can also really get behind a loving biological family, too.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nic

    What an excellent book! This is the fastest-paced DWJ book I've ever read, and several of the revelations at the end truly surprised me without seeming unreasoned. There were many powerful moments, both action- and emotion-based, and some great characters. There's a cast of zillions, but you get the hang of everyone pretty well. And of course, the book is full of Diana Wynne Jones' perfect word choices ("a tuft of flame"), neat critters and spells (Friendly Cows!), and great descriptions of feel What an excellent book! This is the fastest-paced DWJ book I've ever read, and several of the revelations at the end truly surprised me without seeming unreasoned. There were many powerful moments, both action- and emotion-based, and some great characters. There's a cast of zillions, but you get the hang of everyone pretty well. And of course, the book is full of Diana Wynne Jones' perfect word choices ("a tuft of flame"), neat critters and spells (Friendly Cows!), and great descriptions of feelings. I love that she's not afraid to make good characters feel jealous of other good characters who are stronger, smarter, etc. They feel jealous, and they feel bad about feeling jealous of someone so nice or helpful - just the way a real person would. I like that good characters can genuinely like, respect, and appreciate each other and still fight and feel envious or annoyed. The jumping not-quite-omniscient point of view, while sometimes frustrating to me, shows this pretty well. The grittiness, too, is staggeringly well-done - I really get the exhaustion of the characters during the long marches. And the plot itself is sheer brilliance. *SPOILERS* Like pretty much all DWJ books, this one has a sudden series of revelations at the end. Because the book is longer than many, this scene of discoveries is both longer and more intricate. Half the characters turn out to be other people, two-thirds of them provide answers to questions or solutions to problems, and everything is tied up in an incredibly complicated package. I'm actually really impressed by some stuff here - the Deucalion revelation and Geoffrey and Sukey's parentage, in particular, seem well set up but I never would have guessed. (I also never saw Barnabas' betrayal coming.) Brilliant. I also think Kit's fake death is one of the most convincing I've ever read. I'm enough of a longtime fantasy reader to know that if you don't see a body, possibly with the head ten feet away, he ain't dead. This one is very well done, though. What's more, Kit's family's grief is so strong that I found my cynicism slipping - it's hard to keep saying, "Well, I know he's alive and will reappear later," when his family is sure (with good reason) that he's dead and they're so sad! That's most of what I have to say, but I will conclude with a brief list of people who got better in the end than I thought they deserved. 1. Querida. The crazy crusty magical old bat bespells Mara into leaving her husband, tries to kidnap Callette, and mercilessly dooms Derk to fail in every way. It's only through luck and the intervention of other beings that half of Derk and Mara's family didn't die for real. I think Querida's new job, fixing their world, could be made to sound like just a little bit more of a punishment - after all, it's going to be a lot of work and trouble - but in a sense, they almost make it seem like a reward, what with her extended life and apparent new strength. And personally, if I'd been Mara or Derk (or any of their kids), I'd have thrown a pig at Querida's head. I guess they're just too happy to be back together. 2. Geoffrey. I don't actually have problems with Big G; I just don't see much reason to like him other than his making Shona happy. He's bossy and seems sort of too shiny and great. The only indication of his being less than "perfect" is that his feet blister after weeks of marching. What? :P Seriously, he kind of takes the Party over from Blade right away, steals Shona's attention with his dazzling-yet-totally-undeveloped character, and even bums Derk out by insisting on taking care of Shona himself. I didn't want anything actually bad to happen to him, and I'm fine with him staying with Shona; I just would have liked to see him fitting more neatly into her really cool family - maybe being forced to bow to the smarts/judgement/abilities of Blade or Derk. 3. Sukey. Again, not hating her, but I don't think she's one of DWJ's stronger examples of the seemed-to-be-annoying-but-really-isn't character, a type she ordinarily does really well. 4. Mr. Chesney. I would have thought his punishment was fair, except that Barnabas sets the bar pretty high by having his soul devoured by a demon in front of everybody. Barnabas is a total traitorous douche, yes, but Mr. Chesney could at least have been eaten by something . . . I do really love the endings for Kit and Blade, the demons (Awww?), and Umru. This book is epic, and I was super-impressed. Go DWJ.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Imagine being able to take tours of another world, another world that appears to be evil and sinister. Seeing demons and dragons, battles. Except this world isn't really like that and the people who reside are getting tired of the act they have to put on each tour. I found this book to be delightful, entertaining and funny. I felt so bad for our main character, Wizard Derk, now this years Dark Lord. Derk is a kind wizard, who just wants to breed different animals and zero interest in pretending t Imagine being able to take tours of another world, another world that appears to be evil and sinister. Seeing demons and dragons, battles. Except this world isn't really like that and the people who reside are getting tired of the act they have to put on each tour. I found this book to be delightful, entertaining and funny. I felt so bad for our main character, Wizard Derk, now this years Dark Lord. Derk is a kind wizard, who just wants to breed different animals and zero interest in pretending to be evil.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Miss Naseweis

    This was such a cozy, feel-good read. Perfect for rainy days, when you cuddle under the blanket and drink your favorite tea. The idea of Pilgrim Parties for profit to a magical world was unique (guilty as charged, I would participate as well) and the magical world itself was great. Dragons, dwarves, magicians, witches, elves – it had everything. Derk’s family was so precious and I found myself wanting a gryphon sibling as well. While the story wasn’t exactly gripping, I was constantly smiling or This was such a cozy, feel-good read. Perfect for rainy days, when you cuddle under the blanket and drink your favorite tea. The idea of Pilgrim Parties for profit to a magical world was unique (guilty as charged, I would participate as well) and the magical world itself was great. Dragons, dwarves, magicians, witches, elves – it had everything. Derk’s family was so precious and I found myself wanting a gryphon sibling as well. While the story wasn’t exactly gripping, I was constantly smiling or outright laughing. This book had such a subtle humor, not the slap-in-your-face comedy that many fantasy authors nowadays use. And those reveals at the end of the book! There were plenty and I didn't see them coming at all.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    I don't think I've read this more than twice before. It's not one of Diana Wynne Jones' strongest books, though it's still excellent YA fantasy, but listening to the audiobook (the narrator is fantastic) slowed me down enough to appreciate it better. The concept is so good: a man from an industrialized world (it's never said that it's our world, but I like to think so) manages to enslave a world in which magic is powerful. He doesn't turn himself into its ruling lord. He doesn't take advantage o I don't think I've read this more than twice before. It's not one of Diana Wynne Jones' strongest books, though it's still excellent YA fantasy, but listening to the audiobook (the narrator is fantastic) slowed me down enough to appreciate it better. The concept is so good: a man from an industrialized world (it's never said that it's our world, but I like to think so) manages to enslave a world in which magic is powerful. He doesn't turn himself into its ruling lord. He doesn't take advantage of its magic--well, he does, but in a secondary way. No, he turns the world into a Fantasyland theme park. Every fall and winter, he brings "pilgrim parties" into the enslaved world to have a Fantasy Adventure, including war, enchantresses, wizards, slave girls, and a real-live Dark Lord. What makes this work is that most readers of fantasy have at some point wished they could travel to one of the fantasy worlds in the books, and can you imagine a more exciting vacation? But DWJ chooses to tell the story from the POV of the people whose lives are annually turned upside down to cater to the tourists. Specifically, the POV of the current Dark Lord, Derk, and his family of humans and griffin children. Derk is a wizard who specializes in creating and modifying living creatures (hence the griffin children). He's at odds with most of the official wizards, but the Oracle decreed he should be chosen, and everything proceeds to go horribly wrong from there. There's a lot of adorably ridiculous stuff going on in this book, all in a good way--flying pigs! the Friendly Cows! a 14-year-old wizard guide forced to grow a long white beard because Mr. Chesney, the slave master, insists that all wizards are male and have long white beards! And there's also a lot of serious stuff, some of which I don't think DWJ handles well. (view spoiler)[I'm particularly disturbed by how a teenage girl is assaulted by soldiers (not raped, but that's their intent) and her "treatment" is to have those memories made distant as if months had gone by. That's not the problem, really, because the person who does that for her admits that it's the best he can do and it's not ideal; it's that no one addresses the situation later, and it *is* considered to be a solution. (hide spoiler)] But there are some great moments, such as Kit the griffin being made to face the reality of the battles he's planned so blithely, and how (view spoiler)[the denouement has the adult wizards being chastised for how they let this go on for forty years, and how it's going to take time to teach the world not to be a slave anymore (hide spoiler)] . I also am fond of the romances, though I'm a little sad they happen between non-POV characters. And the dragons are wonderful. Now I'd like to borrow the other half of this idea, the one from the pilgrims' point of view, and tell a completely different story. If it turns out the sequel is read by the same narrator, I think I'll pick that one up.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tyas

    What I love about Diana Wynne Jones is how she can present a fantasy novel with a different angle than other fantasy novels with a standard plot - a boy or a girl, fated for something big, learning through ordeals, obtaining greatness. In The Dark Lord of Derkholm , the world of magic had been forced to kneel down in front of a powerful force - namely, a Mr Chesney - and provide 'entertainment' every year for his Pilgrim Parties. These tourists from another world wanted to be involved in a fan What I love about Diana Wynne Jones is how she can present a fantasy novel with a different angle than other fantasy novels with a standard plot - a boy or a girl, fated for something big, learning through ordeals, obtaining greatness. In The Dark Lord of Derkholm , the world of magic had been forced to kneel down in front of a powerful force - namely, a Mr Chesney - and provide 'entertainment' every year for his Pilgrim Parties. These tourists from another world wanted to be involved in a fantastic adventure - fight bad wizards, fight fanatics, fight dragons etc. We might laugh at some of the rules Mr Chesney laid down for the ones organising the tours: Wizards must have long beards (well, we think of wizards as having a bushy appearance round the chin, eh?); normal name places must be converted into something sounding more fantastic like Gna'ash or the likes; etc. A bit of parody of the fantasy genre. And the fights must be real. So real that cities were sacked down, people were killed, fields were destroyed. After 40 years of devastation and slavery to Mr Chesney's moneymaking, the leaders of the world decided that they had had enough and went to the Oracles to consult for a way to end it all. It turned out that to banish Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties for all, they had to appoint an obscure wizard named Derk the Dark Lord of the year, and his son Blade as one of the Wizard Guides. Well, Derk was not a household name in the world of wizardry. What he's interested in was creating new creatures: much like a geneticist. He had five griffin sons and daughters, apart from his two human children. He kept flying pigs, flying horses, friendly cows... how could this man succeed in playing the Dark Lord? He'd just fail miserably - wait, that could probably, eventually, put an end to Mr Chesney's tours. The problem was Derk tried hard to be a good Dark Lord... I felt very entertained by this novel. It's not only about wizardry; it's also about family. Not only we observe how the whole world trying to organize the tours while trying to finish it at the same time, we also observe how Derk and his wife, Mara, and also their human-children and griffin-children, tried to stay together as a family. We may argue that the ending is a bit deus ex machina, but I think it still can be accepted by the way the story builds up to that ending.

  16. 5 out of 5

    R.F. Gammon

    This was definitely a fun story. I didn't like it as much as Howl's Moving Castle, but there's not much to top Howl, so that's not bad. Basically, the idea is given in the synopsis. Derk is a nice, mild-mannered man who just wants to be left in peace and make weird animals, such as pigs and horses with wings, griffins that behave like members of the family, geese that are out for blood, carnivorous sheep, and friendly cows. His wife, Mara, is a master at making mini universes, while his (human) This was definitely a fun story. I didn't like it as much as Howl's Moving Castle, but there's not much to top Howl, so that's not bad. Basically, the idea is given in the synopsis. Derk is a nice, mild-mannered man who just wants to be left in peace and make weird animals, such as pigs and horses with wings, griffins that behave like members of the family, geese that are out for blood, carnivorous sheep, and friendly cows. His wife, Mara, is a master at making mini universes, while his (human) daughter Shona is an aspiring bard and his son Blade is a wizard in his own right. The characters in this book were amazing. There were a LOT of them, but I didn't have any trouble keeping them all straight after the first couple of chapters (I may be weird in this respect). I especially loved the griffins. -Kit: The oldest and biggest griffin. He's fifteen or so, a year older than Blade, and he's very sour and very intelligent. He's also kind of a magic user. -Calette: The oldest girl griffin. She's very fast, very bossy, and very self-conscious of her looks. -Don: The other boy. He had kind of the smallest part, but he may have been my favorite one of the five (besides, of course, Kit :D) because he was so understated. -Lydda: A great cook whose food is constantly declared "godlike". She thinks she's fat, and can hardly get off the ground to fly. It's great. -Elda: The youngest, and as such acts like it. A general worrier. Overall verdict: This book fell a little flat, especially in the last few chapters where it was sometimes difficult to have any idea what was going on. However, on re-read it may prove much the same with as with Howl and Dark Lord of Derkholm will become one of my favorites.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    This was a book that I loved so much growing up that I was actually quite nervous to re-read it as an adult. Could it really live up to expectations? Not only did it live up to them, this book knocked it out of the park. “The Dark Lord of Derkholm” has the kind of societal commentary that both young and old can understand and appreciate all while being set in an awe-inspiring fantasy world. I love Derk’s family as well. It’s the kind of chaotic, somewhat-unorganized, close-knit family that I thi This was a book that I loved so much growing up that I was actually quite nervous to re-read it as an adult. Could it really live up to expectations? Not only did it live up to them, this book knocked it out of the park. “The Dark Lord of Derkholm” has the kind of societal commentary that both young and old can understand and appreciate all while being set in an awe-inspiring fantasy world. I love Derk’s family as well. It’s the kind of chaotic, somewhat-unorganized, close-knit family that I think everyone aspires to. Having a griffin in the family wouldn’t be bad either - though the grocery bill would be atrocious. Jones is a master of weaving in basic truths during absurd circumstances tempered with British practical responses that creates a hilarious and fantastic story. I had to immediately re-read the sequel to the book and will soon move on to Jones’ other books. I just wish there were more in the series! Warning: Contains violence. Who should read it? Fantasy fans of all sorts – this is one of the classics that will last for many years to come! See all my reviews and more at www.ReadingToDistraction.com or @Read2Distract

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sydney White

    The first page of Diana Wynne Jone's novel Dark Lord of Derkholm felt like I had just turned on the TV to the fantasy channel in the middle of an episode half way into the forth or fith season of a new series I had never heard about. There I was sitting in the middle of a council of some type talking about a Mr. C-something that was repressing them. Various characters spoke out, even made allusions to past situations I obviously would not understand mid-way into the series. Unfortunately, the bo The first page of Diana Wynne Jone's novel Dark Lord of Derkholm felt like I had just turned on the TV to the fantasy channel in the middle of an episode half way into the forth or fith season of a new series I had never heard about. There I was sitting in the middle of a council of some type talking about a Mr. C-something that was repressing them. Various characters spoke out, even made allusions to past situations I obviously would not understand mid-way into the series. Unfortunately, the book continued like this throughout most of its pages. I was on my own as to figure out exactly what was going on, piece together a history of the civilization and make sense of the characters. I wished that she could have started the book with its pilot episode.

  19. 4 out of 5

    lucky little cat

    This YA fantasy from the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones reads as eerily prescient, but also homespun and of course, funny. Derk was no ordinary wizard Citizens of a fantasy alt world rebel against the Trump-esque fat-cat tycoon who has exploited them for decades with Westworld-style tourist quests. Warmly comforting for underdogs everywhere.* *Perhaps Trump, like the Derkholm villain, carries an all-powerful demon in his pocket? That would explain a lot. This YA fantasy from the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones reads as eerily prescient, but also homespun and of course, funny. Derk was no ordinary wizard Citizens of a fantasy alt world rebel against the Trump-esque fat-cat tycoon who has exploited them for decades with Westworld-style tourist quests. Warmly comforting for underdogs everywhere.* *Perhaps Trump, like the Derkholm villain, carries an all-powerful demon in his pocket? That would explain a lot.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Deborah O'Carroll

    Re-read August 5, 2016: THIS BOOK THOUGH. <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3 IT'S EVEN MORE WONDERFUL ON REREAD. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. ^_^ *huggles all of it* First read December 13, 2012 Re-read August 5, 2016: THIS BOOK THOUGH. <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3 IT'S EVEN MORE WONDERFUL ON REREAD. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. ^_^ *huggles all of it* First read December 13, 2012

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Reread of a childhood fave! I remember really liking both Derkholm books when I was a kid: it's a tongue-in-cheek version of medieval fantasy that pairs well with e.g. the works of Terry Pratchett or Robert Asprin. The premise and setup is wonderful: a magical world that's beset by tours from our own mundane reality, where witches and wizards and elves and dwarves and dragons all have to sigh and grudgingly put on a dramatic show every single year for the benefit of the tourists, leading them th Reread of a childhood fave! I remember really liking both Derkholm books when I was a kid: it's a tongue-in-cheek version of medieval fantasy that pairs well with e.g. the works of Terry Pratchett or Robert Asprin. The premise and setup is wonderful: a magical world that's beset by tours from our own mundane reality, where witches and wizards and elves and dwarves and dragons all have to sigh and grudgingly put on a dramatic show every single year for the benefit of the tourists, leading them through staid fantasy tropes, battles between the Forces of Good and Forces of Evil included, plus Dark Lord vanquishing and everything. Derk and his family are also adorable, with Derk like an absentminded mad scientist wizard, Mara his hypercompetent wife, and their human kids and griffin kids all with such clear identities and great bickering sibling dynamics. The 'man behind the curtain' nature of seeing them all scrambling and improvising and trying to put on a successful tour, while being vastly unprepared, was so much fun. 3.5 stars, rounded up; it wasn't quite as good as I remembered from my youth, mostly because it goes long and drags on a bit too much towards the end, but it's still a really fun read. The whole thing is full of self-aware whimsy and playful prose. Diana Wynne Jones was such a delight.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chafic (Rello)

    Dianna Wynne Jones is underrated. A lot of people don't realize they already know her (she also penned Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series) - and this was the first book I had ever read by her. As a kid, this was one of my first introductions into the realm of fantasy - and it was absolutely absurd. Who decides to turn a whole medieval kingdom into a theme park with a fictional 'Dark Lord' to appease the pilgrims in the most enjoyable experience imaginable. Well, look no further. This Dianna Wynne Jones is underrated. A lot of people don't realize they already know her (she also penned Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series) - and this was the first book I had ever read by her. As a kid, this was one of my first introductions into the realm of fantasy - and it was absolutely absurd. Who decides to turn a whole medieval kingdom into a theme park with a fictional 'Dark Lord' to appease the pilgrims in the most enjoyable experience imaginable. Well, look no further. This is an enjoyable read that's great for both kids and adults! 4.21 / 5

  23. 5 out of 5

    Punk

    YA Fantasy. The inhabitants of a magical world fight the evil forces of tourism. This book couldn't seem to get the bat off its shoulder -- baseball bat, not Chiroptera bat -- there was a lot of stuff going on, with a lot of different narrators, and I still didn't have the entire story. What's worse is that I wasn't satisfied once I did have it, thanks to the (anti-)climactic drawing room scene where the characters finally expose all the secrets they'd kept from me over the course of the book. T YA Fantasy. The inhabitants of a magical world fight the evil forces of tourism. This book couldn't seem to get the bat off its shoulder -- baseball bat, not Chiroptera bat -- there was a lot of stuff going on, with a lot of different narrators, and I still didn't have the entire story. What's worse is that I wasn't satisfied once I did have it, thanks to the (anti-)climactic drawing room scene where the characters finally expose all the secrets they'd kept from me over the course of the book. Throw in the more or less ignored issues of genetic engineering, lousy parenting, and war for the sake of capitalism, and this just didn't feel put together right. Two stars. Not Jones' best work.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Miss Clark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It is very much so classic Jones and has some humor and insight in its twist on fantasy tours on other planets and an entire world being destroyed through the greed of one man and the insatiable desires of people for the fantastic. But it never really lives up to its potential and is overly long and runs out of steam hundreds of pages before the conclusion even becomes a remote possibility. Not for me one of her best. As always, I love her ideas, I find them so wonderful, but I always feel like It is very much so classic Jones and has some humor and insight in its twist on fantasy tours on other planets and an entire world being destroyed through the greed of one man and the insatiable desires of people for the fantastic. But it never really lives up to its potential and is overly long and runs out of steam hundreds of pages before the conclusion even becomes a remote possibility. Not for me one of her best. As always, I love her ideas, I find them so wonderful, but I always feel like they a) go on too long and b) are underdeveloped (oddly given the length) and confusing. Alas.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jersy

    This book had a different focus that I expected and not only because of that leaves me undecited on what to think about it. Starting with the positive aspects: I should warn you first, this is less about an amazing tour through a magical world or a rebellion than it is about family dynamics and planning. It pulls these aspects off well, so I can't say this is a bad thing. The theme of the book was phenominal. Picturing this world as an allegory for a war-plagued country or a dictatorship in general This book had a different focus that I expected and not only because of that leaves me undecited on what to think about it. Starting with the positive aspects: I should warn you first, this is less about an amazing tour through a magical world or a rebellion than it is about family dynamics and planning. It pulls these aspects off well, so I can't say this is a bad thing. The theme of the book was phenominal. Picturing this world as an allegory for a war-plagued country or a dictatorship in general worked really well. There were a lot of subtle and interesting hints about how the people in this world are suffering (e.g. death and starvation) and are treated unfair (e.g. payment). While these dark themes are always there, the novel still manages to have a mostly fun and upbeat tone, however, it still makes you think. There is a diverse cast of characters and the family dynamics work great. The characters were all kind of likable without being to nice and good. Still I didnt care for anyone really, except Querida, and she's hardly in it. The creatures and other aspect of the world and Derks life are highly creative, though, and kept me intrigued. I still had some problems with this book: The aspect that made me want to read this book, seeing the actual tours, starts very late into the book and you have to put off with a lot of planning and family drama beforehand. Like I said, this isnt entirely negative, since it helps with worldbuilding and developing the characters and their relationships, but these topics just don't speak to me, so even though it was written very well, I found myself waiting for the actual tours to start, only somewhat enjoying the story. When we finally get to the tour let my one of our main characters, it was slightly frustrating, especially since the athor felt the need to implement even more characters to our already big cast of protagonists (spanning a whole big family). The new additions felt pointless to me and one of them, Sukey, had me expecting the developement of a hate to love relationship, that thankfully never came to be. The last 100 pages really blew it for me. I guess I see no reason for other people not to like them, but to me they felt chaotic and added so many things that just werent neccessary at all. To conclude, this book had so many great ideas and concepts to offer and its a shame that I didnt care much for most of the execution. I can still admire what it does right, creating a great world with depth and stakes and more real characters and relationships than most non-fantasy books. It just wasnt my cup of tea.

  26. 5 out of 5

    rosamund

    Two stars seems like a low rating, but I didn't hate this book: it's just not up to the usual standard of Jones's work. The pacing is all wrong, with a slow and confusing beginning and a rushed ending, and the tone is strange. Some of the time this is satire, sometimes it's drama. The story is about a world that has become overrun and destroyed by tourists: they come to experience a Dark Lord tour, in which they travel the land, fight in armies, and ultimately triumph over a Dark Lord. Every yea Two stars seems like a low rating, but I didn't hate this book: it's just not up to the usual standard of Jones's work. The pacing is all wrong, with a slow and confusing beginning and a rushed ending, and the tone is strange. Some of the time this is satire, sometimes it's drama. The story is about a world that has become overrun and destroyed by tourists: they come to experience a Dark Lord tour, in which they travel the land, fight in armies, and ultimately triumph over a Dark Lord. Every year, a new Dark Lord is chosen: this year, it's Derk. The country is desperate for exploitative tours to end, and they hope Derk's incompetence will bring this about. Derk is the father of two human children and five griffin children, and creates many strange hybrids, including flying pigs and horses, and geese who can do magic. The story veers around: there are some very entertaining griffin shenanigans, various encounters with livestock, and an excellent dragon. There are also some very gritty moments with soldiers, including a heavily implied gang rape, which feels completely tonally inconsistent with the rest of the book. The story, overall, is jarring: there are a lot of ingredients, some good, some bad, a lot of sudden changes in tone, and a very swift resolution. I was entertained while I read this, but I don't know if I'd recommend it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sadie Slater

    The Dark Lord of Derkholm isn't exactly a sequel to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which was published two years earlier, but its deals with the consequences for a fantasy world of the kind of tours that the Tough Guide purports to be a guidebook for. After forty years, the inhabitants are desperate to break the contract for the tours, which are a huge drain on resources; between planning, guiding the parties of tourists and putting on battles, ambushes and other events typical of a clichéd fan The Dark Lord of Derkholm isn't exactly a sequel to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which was published two years earlier, but its deals with the consequences for a fantasy world of the kind of tours that the Tough Guide purports to be a guidebook for. After forty years, the inhabitants are desperate to break the contract for the tours, which are a huge drain on resources; between planning, guiding the parties of tourists and putting on battles, ambushes and other events typical of a clichéd fantasy journey, no-one has any time to do anything else, and much of the land is left devastated by the required battles and sieges. When the Oracles suggest that the mild-mannered wizard Derk, whose skills are mostly in agriculture and breeding magical creatures and who just wants to be left in peace with his family and his garden, should be appointed as Dark Lord for the year, things don't quite go according to plan. On one level, this is a very funny parody of fantasy clichés and, like the Tough Guide to Fantasyland, points out the unrealistic nature of much epic fantasy (quite apart from the fantastic elements). But it's also a serious novel about Derk, his wife Mara and their two human and five griffin children working together to deal with adversity; it isn't just a romp and is really quite dark in a couple of places. On a third level, just because it's set in a fantasy world and not the real world doesn't stop in making an important point about the impact of tourism and the negative effects adapting to service a tourist industry focused on the "authentic" experience of a country can have on that country.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    This was the third book I've read by Diana Wynne Jones and it has easily become my favorite. I wish I'd read (or rather listened to it) sooner. It has a fair number of characters, but isn't overwhelming (though there are more griffins/cat-birds to keep track of than usual) and I liked most of them. Especially Derk, the griffins, and Scales. It was also very funny, I found myself laughing/chuckling out loud (or grinning widely if I was listening while in bed and trying not to wake up husband) qui This was the third book I've read by Diana Wynne Jones and it has easily become my favorite. I wish I'd read (or rather listened to it) sooner. It has a fair number of characters, but isn't overwhelming (though there are more griffins/cat-birds to keep track of than usual) and I liked most of them. Especially Derk, the griffins, and Scales. It was also very funny, I found myself laughing/chuckling out loud (or grinning widely if I was listening while in bed and trying not to wake up husband) quite a lot throughout the book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    *4.5 stars* I hadn't read anything by Diana Wynne Jones before and I'm glad I finally did. This book is goof and I like the world building. I love how this book started off in the action and I will definitely continue on with this series and I will read more of Diana Wynne Jones' books. *4.5 stars* I hadn't read anything by Diana Wynne Jones before and I'm glad I finally did. This book is goof and I like the world building. I love how this book started off in the action and I will definitely continue on with this series and I will read more of Diana Wynne Jones' books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shae

    What a fun, fantasy story! I can't wait to discuss it in my book club tonight! What a fun, fantasy story! I can't wait to discuss it in my book club tonight!

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