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Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998)

by Diana Wynne Jones

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Derkholm (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,994455,043 (4.11)169
  1. 100
    The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel by Diana Wynne Jones (foggidawn, Mossa)
  2. 70
    Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (fyrefly98)
    fyrefly98: Both are send-ups of fantasy conventions (and D-heavy titles!): Dealing with Dragons focuses more on fairy tales while Dark Lord of Derkholm deals more with high/quest fantasy.
  3. 20
    Witch and Wombat by Carolyn Cushman (infiniteletters)
  4. 10
    In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (nessreader)
    nessreader: both pick up on fantasy-novel tropes and wring them out like a dishcloth.
  5. 10
    The Dreamland Chronicles by Wm. Mark Simmons (TomWaitsTables)
  6. 10
    Frankie! by Wilanne Schneider Belden (infiniteletters)
  7. 11
    Magic Kingdom For Sale—SOLD! by Terry Brooks (erikrebooted)
    erikrebooted: Another crossover between the mundane and the magical.
  8. 00
    Bored of the Rings by Harvard Lampoon (TomWaitsTables)
  9. 11
    Grunts! by Mary Gentle (lquilter)
    lquilter: Send-ups of the tropes. *Dark Lord of Derkholm* is rather more humorous; *Grunts!* is rather more darkly and scatalogically humorous.

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» See also 169 mentions

English (43)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
DWJ Book Toast, #12

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite fantasy authors, growing up and now, and I was saddened by the news of her death. I can't say I'm overcome with emotion - as personal as some of her work is to me, its not like I knew her after all - but I wish I could put into words how I feel about her no longer being out there, writing new adventures and laughing at all of us serious fans thinking so hard about her words when we should simply get on with the business of enjoying them.

And that's...what I'm going to do. She's left behind a huge body of work, a large amount of which I haven't read yet, so I'm going to reread all my old favorites (and hopefully some new).

Biographical rambling --> This is where it all began for me -- I read 'Dark Lord of Derkholm' in the fall of 1999, I can place it that well because it was when I started 7th grade at this crazy charter school that had just opened in what had been the Elk's Club.

Even at 12 I knew the place shouldn't have been allowed to open, the place was unfit to be a school for the two years I went there. It was a touchy-feely, free expression type place (read: we did what the fuck we wanted with no supervision) and we had 'self-directed learning plans' (a lot of kids went off into the woods at lunch and came back with red eyes...). At some point in November it got too cold to be outside all day, one of my projects was the library.

We had no librarian. We had shelves set up in the old coat-room with books crammed willy-nilly on the shelves. A catalog? Index? Ha, right. Before I volunteered anyone could walk in, dig through boxes that no one had bothered to sort through yet, or scan the shelves and take whatever they wanted without signing anything. The system worked in its own way though, especially once I took everything out of the boxes, rounded up books from classrooms and hallways, and discovered that shelves that were overcrowded and too few in August, in February were plenty spacious. How? Magic!

While I was sorting things into fiction and non-fiction, then by subject, or author's last name, I came upon this book. Bright and shiny, the school had signed on to the service that taped or covered the books, labeled the spines and stamped the pages for you*, I was captivated by the scene on the cover and brought it home.

I never would have brought it back, but I had to share it with my friends and the book swiftly made the rounds.

ACTUAL REVIEWISH TALK HERE --> I have read this book at least once a year since '99. Some of her work hasn't aged on me well, some of it is scattered, but 'Dark Lord of Derkholm' is razor sharp and, despite having a sprawling cast it, never gets confused, and the plot neatly comes together.

The whole premise of this book still delights me: a fantasy world exploited for tourism and forced to enact the cliches and tropes of my favorite books and stories? The book is funny and warm, but there are several scenes where a dark realism comes through. War isn't a game, and neither are people's lives. That's an important theme of Jones' that isn't as often talked about.

*This might make you assume that the school had been given an inventory, or perhaps a bill, of what they had purchased. But on asking Tom the 'Main Planner', or whatever, (principal was too 'heavy') I was given a blank stare. "Why would anybody need that? They can just look on the shelves."


Next: 'The Year of the Griffin'

Previous: 'Tough Guide to Fantasyland'

DWJ ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
This is a really cute book about a crossing between a world much like ours and a fantasy realm. Great characterization! ( )
  Velmeran | Jan 26, 2019 |
The people in this fantasy land just want the Pilgrims Parties to end. Mr. Chesney has been bringing people from our world on tours, and they're sick and tired of renaming their towns, having wizards guide them along, and choosing a Dark Lord that must be defeated. It's ruining their economy. So Querida, the head of the wizard University, consults the Oracles to see how to stop the tours. This makes Derk, generally good guy and hopeless wizard with a menagerie at home (including a bunch of griffins that are a part of the family) the Dark Lord for the year, and mayhem ensues.

This book was almost my first introduction to Diana Wynne Jones (I'd read Cart and Cwidder as a kid, but didn't realize at first it was the same author). I almost immediately started reading everything I could get my hands on. In this one in particular, she plays with the conventions of the fantasy genre and pokes fun, all the while telling a fun, fantastical story. Some of it is more obvious, like the journey motif of the pilgrim parties and the adventures they get leading up to attacking the Dark Lord in his citadel. Others are nods that just made me laugh like the dwarf named Galadriel. It's really brilliantly done and such a fun read. 4.5 stars. ( )
  bell7 | Dec 22, 2018 |
I read this twice, once a few years ago. It made a lot more sense after reading Wynne-Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland. A tongue in cheek look at the typical quest fantasy - the twist here is that the locals are forced to put on tours for the non-magical tourists. ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
A sci-fi vibe in this book, with Pilgrim Tours to re-enact magical adventures for the tourists from other worlds. Meanwhile the Tour organizer is stealing the essence of this world for 'otherworld'. I found the devastation and pillaging that was supposed to 'entertain' the tourists depressing. I had great sympathy for the "Dark Lord" who was just an actor. It was classic DWJ with a twisty plotline, so overall an intriguing story. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Jun 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diana Wynne Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Campion, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paarma, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith,Jos.A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary
Comic fantasy
makes valid point: don't despoil
the lands you visit.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0064473368, Mass Market Paperback)

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 Selby

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:28 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Derk, an unconventional wizard, and his magical family become involved in a plan to put a stop to the devastating tours of their world arranged by the tyrannical Mr. Chesney.

» see all 3 descriptions

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