Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Reviews- A Diana Wynne Jones Duo

Dark Lord of Derkholm- by Diana Wynne Jones

From the book jacket: For forty years, Wizard Derk's world has been devastated by Mr. Chesney's Pilgrim Parties- packaged excursions for tourists from the next universe in search of adventure. When mild-mannered Derk is chosen to play the role of this year's Dark Lord, he is forced by the sinister Mr. Chesney to turn his bucolic country estate into a labyrinthine castle lit by baleful fires, manifest himself as a nine-foot-tall shadow with flaming red eyes, and lead his minions in a climactic battle against the Forces of Good. Can Derk find a way to put an end to the evil Mr. Chesney and his Pilgrim Parties- once and for all?

I LOVED this book. It does so many things so well- It's very funny, with touches of Jones' British humour, yet Dark Lord is also quite serious as Jones touches on the subjects of growing up, harmony between different cultures and races, dealing with bullying, and taking responsibility for your own actions. An expansive setting with several twisty surprises, the sparkling intelligence behind the book, plus the defeat of the bad guys make this book a delight. I've heard it said, 'if you like J. K. Rowling, try Diana". While the books have some similarities (British silliness, magic, mayhem, learning wizards, etc.), what I enjoy most about both of these series is the depth of reality to their worlds. Both Rowling and Jones inject their fantastical worlds with believable, sympathetic characters who must deal with believable, and awful situations. Love the magic! Love the fun! Well worth the time.

Year of The Griffin by Diana Wynn Jones

From the book jacket: It is eight years after the tours from off-world have stopped. High Chancellor Querida has retired, leaving Wizard Corkoran in charge of the Wizards' University. Although Wizard Corkoran's obsession is to be the first man on the moon, and most of his times is devoted to this project, he decides he will teach the new first years himself in hopes of currying the favor of the new students' families- for surely they must all come from wealthy, important families- and obtaining money for the University (which it so desperately needs). But Wizard Corkoran is dismayed to discover that one of those students- indeed, one he had such high hopes for, Wizard Derk's own daughter Elda- is a huge golden griffin, and that none of the others has any money at all.
Wizard Corkoran's money-making scheme backfires, and when Elda and her new friends start working magic on their own, the schemes go wronger still. And when, at length, Elda ropes in her brothers Kit and Blade to send Corkoran to the moon... well... life at the Wizards University spins magically and magnificently out of control.

I LOVED this one, too. Year of the Griffin has a different feel than Dark Lord- a little less desperate and smaller in scope, a little more silly- however, the problems of the students are very real, believable and life-threatening. I loved seeing characters from Dark Lord again, and getting to watch them grow up more. Loved the idea of educating wizards, even though the subject is treated quite differently than Rowling. Well worth the time.

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