Everyone - wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike - is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the next-door world 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. Nw 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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If, next door to our ordinary world, there existed a world full of magic, wouldn't you want to visit it? That's the situation that Diana Wynne Jones explores in Dark Lord of Derkholm, and she makes an effective and comical tale of it.
Groups of tourists, called Pilgrim Parties and organized by the cold-hearted profiteer Mr. Chesney, take a portal to the magical realm, where they are shepherded about the countryside by a wizard guide. Mr. Chesney sets the rules, such as that all wizard guides must have long white beards--even 14-year-old Blade--and every Party gets to "slay" the Dark Lord. No wizard wants to be chosen as the year's Dark Lord, because Mr. Chesney demands large battles that cause great devastation in the local villages and farms, and he doesn't pay very well, but he does have a captive demon to enforce his will. This year, things are going especially badly for the chosen Dark Lord, Derk. He can't seem to keep his evil forces on the right track, despite help from his son Blade, his daughter Shona the bard, and his griffin sons and daughters. His chief aide, Barnabas, is drinking heavily and muddling his spells. And the dwarfs are taking their baskets of gold as tribute to the one they say is the real Dark Lord--Mr. Chesney.
Jones spoofs many of the trappings of fantasy epics, while at the same time portraying a family, with its surface squabbles and underlying love, through a rollicking and somewhat unwieldy story. Her messages about exploitation and responsibility come through clearly. Although not as tightly focused as some of her earlier novels, the galloping pace makes Dark Lord of Derkholm a quick, fun read for her numerous fans. --Blaise SelbyAbout the Author:
Diana Wynne Jones is Britain's foremost writer of children's fantasy, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated Archer's Goon, which was made into a six-part BBC TV series, and the Guardian Award-winning Charmed Life
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