Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Dark Lord Of Derkholm - Diana Wynne Jones

This is unusual for a DWJ book in that she has eschewed the use of her normal convolutions. And wisely so. That is not to say there are no twists, but the central idea of the book is, in itself, strong enough to hold a fairly straightforward story. For here we have a world where there is a lot of magic, held hostage to the whims of someone from another world. And he uses the magical world to run tours – parties of Pilgrims (as they are called) who are led along routes peppered with stage-managed events that owe more than a little to all those books that are, basically, bad re-writes of Lord of the Rings.

So far, so good. Or not. Because this off-world ‘entertainment’ is destroying the magical world – in more ways than one. And the inhabitants, those that have survived, have decided enough is enough.

As is to be expected from DWJ, this is well-written, inventive, by turns comical and thought-provoking, and packed full of interesting characters and events. There are one or two small holes in the plot, but they don’t spoil the book at all. And the story, whilst being an excellent entertainment, also tackles the question of what constitutes evil.

If you like fantasy that is intelligent, which subverts the genre and re-invents it, and which is well-written, then I cannot recommend DWJ’s books enough. Always fresh and engaging, often with the most unexpected of twists and turns (always true to the logic of the book), and with plenty of humour, she well deserves her place in the top rank of fantasy authors.