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Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998)

by Diana Wynne Jones

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Derkholm (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,418596,169 (4.09)187
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.
  1. 120
    The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel by Diana Wynne Jones (foggidawn, Mossa)
  2. 80
    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
    Frankie! by Wilanne Schneider Belden (infiniteletters)
  5. 10
    The Dreamland Chronicles by Wm. Mark Simmons (TomWaitsTables)
  6. 21
    Magic Kingdom For Sale—SOLD! by Terry Brooks (erikrebooted)
    erikrebooted: Another crossover between the mundane and the magical.
  7. 10
    In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (nessreader)
    nessreader: both pick up on fantasy-novel tropes and wring them out like a dishcloth.
  8. 00
    Bored of the Rings by Henry Beard (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.
  10. 00
    Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (lquilter)
    lquilter: I picked Dark Lord of Derkholm almost at random, but I would recommend any of Diana Wynne Jones's books to folks who enjoyed Zen Cho's "Sorcerer to the Crown". There's a similar sort of dry, wry, whimsical humor that is ticklishly familiar. Sorcerer to the Crown: "She started awake when Mr. Wythe entered the room, but before she could decide what to do, he began to talk. After a moment's confusion Prunella realised he was not speaking to her. Indeed, he did not seem to be addressing anybody that she could see. This was pleasingly sorcerous of Mr. Wythe." If that line tickled you, then Diana Wynne Jones' writing will also tickle and delight.… (more)
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» See also 187 mentions

English (55)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
This is faster paced than some of Diana Wynne Jones' novels and aimed at an older age group, being somewhat of a black comedy with some underlying serious issues. It is set in an archetypal fantasy world complete with elves, dragons, wizards et al which had the misfortune 40 years ago to be discovered by a ruthless businessman from another world. Since then, Mr Chesney has organised Pilgrim Tours of the fantasy world, where all the clichés of fantasy novels have to be demonstrated: a dark lord, battles, sacked cities and more. He pays certain people but compared to the money he is getting from the Pilgrims including insurance policies, golden tribute from the dwarves and even contract money for arranging the deaths of some Pilgrims who have enemies or heirs impatient to inherit, what he pays is paltry. Plus it takes no account of the devastation wrought by the Tours and the months of work imposed on so many inhabitants, not to mention the deaths caused as part of the various staged spectacles. But they can't get out of the arrangement because Chesney has a captive demon which enforces his hold.

This is the background gradually revealed during the first part of the book. The story opens when the leaders of the various communities are meeting to discuss what they can do to get out of their contract with Mr Cheney. This year's parties are about to start arriving - 126 of them. They decide to visit the two oracles for advice. They are told to appoint the first person they see as this year's Dark Lord and the second person as the wizard guide to the final Pilgrim Party. This turns out to be Derk and his young son Blade.

Derk is an affable wizard with two human children and five Griffin offspring which he created using cells from himself and his wife Mara. His interest is in working with living things, and among his creations, apart from the griffins, are flying pigs, intelligent geese, and winged talking horses. But he is unable to refuse and his whole family are sucked into the massive amount of work and planning necessary to make the Pilgrim Tours a success, otherwise Cheney makes it clear no one will be paid. And it is soon clear that someone is trying to undermine their efforts, perhaps more than one person.

This is a complex book with a lot of characters, most of whom are well developed as individuals with conflicting agendas. Some are very likeable including some of the griffins and some are irritating but even with those there are some surprising twists on stereotypes, such as the blonde woman in Blade's tour whom he can't stand but who turns out to be resourceful and level headed in a crisis. It is also a story of family conflict but ultimately love and solidarity. A good page turning read. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Inner-teenager rating of one of my favorite books at the time. ( )
  caedocyon | May 8, 2023 |
Listened to this one - loved it! ( )
  DocHobbs | Apr 16, 2023 |
Oh, the joy of a Diana Wynne Jones book I've never read, at age 37! Howl's Moving Castle has been my favourite book for over 20!! years and while I didn't fall in love in quite the same way (my nickname at age 12 or 13 *was* Howl), I adored this book and the feeling of family I got from it. I loved the concept - paid tours of fantasy land - having read plenty of 'people from earth suddenly transported to a land of magic and dragons' books but never seen it run as a profitable (to some) business and from the point of view of those acting out the fantasy clichés. Absolutely full of wonderful, well built characters (as Diana Wynne Jones is so, so good at!) and I'm not sure who I liked the most. Maybe Sc...no, Kit. Or Lydda. Ah I liked everyone. Some well done scenes that are actually horrific in their own way, but done so that a younger reader could gloss over, very clever. All in all a brilliant read and I really did mean to do something else today. My mother in law is here in an hour and I really shouldn't have sat down and read a book non stop for the last 5ish hours...but I did. I regret nothing! :D ( )
1 vote clairefun | Oct 27, 2022 |
I really loved the idea here and I've read a companion book (and found it pretty amusing). However, it was a sllllloooow slog. 500 pages and the story hasn't really taken off 180 pages in? I'm sorry. I don't have time for that right now. I wanted to get into it -- I absolutely adore her "Howl's Moving Castle" but I couldn't get into this one. And I'm sad about that. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diana Wynne Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Campion, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, GildartNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paarma, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Joseph A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sullivan, JonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Robin McKinley
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"Will you all be quiet!" snapped High Chancellor Querida.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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

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