I returned to my 25 book challenge with Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones. I’ve been meaning to read more of her books, I really enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle, and I’ve had this one for a while.
Dark Lord of Derkholm is about a fantasy world that has essentially been turned into a theme park by the evil Mr. Chesney from what seems to be our world. Every year, Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties, packaged tours for adventure-seeking people, devastate the world. Basically the entire economy of the world revolves around these tours, which consist of staged adventures including a battle between the Forces of Good and the Dark Lord, attacks by leathery avian creatures, bandits and pirates, a Glamorous Enchantress, treasures guarded by dragons, etc. The inhabitants of the world spend all year trying to make this happen, but resent it thoroughly. However, Mr. Chesney has a powerful demon on his side, and they do not know how to end the contract with him without risking doom.
The Wizard Derk is chosen to play the Dark Lord this year, and the book follows the adventures of him, his family (his wife, two human children and five griffin children) and his menagerie of unusual animals as they struggle to pull it off.
This book is absolutely hilarious, but also makes you feel pretty touched in places. Derk the wizard was a really fun protagonist – I thought he was going to be pretty ineffectual (as did the rest of the wizards), but he dealt with everything really well, despite all the setbacks he kept running into. I loved the unusual family that he has – humans and griffins that consider each other siblings and are treated equally. All the characters were really fleshed out and charming in their own way. This applies to the supporting characters too – Querida the High Chancellor was a lot of fun to read about (I imagine that she looks a bit like Dame Maggie Smith), and so was Scales the dragon.
I thought the concept of the book was pretty awesome, too. It allowed the author to affectionately satirise common fantasy tropes and our perceptions of them, while remaining true to the fantasy genre. I loved it the same way I loved The Princess Bride.
Howl’s Moving Castle was pretty great, but after reading this, I’ve realised that Diana Wynne Jones definitely deserves her reputation.
This is book 13 of 25 of my Dec 11, 2011 book challenge.
Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones (Derkholm, #1)
Greenwillow Books, 1998 | Buy the book