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Dark Lord of Derkholm | Diana Wynne Jones | Reviewed by Anjali

"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?" 
- description from Good Reads 

This book sounded like a book that I would really enjoy. Derk is a wizard who has a large family, including talking griffins that he created with human-like personalities and whom he calls his children. Derk and his family have to make sure everything is ready before the tourists flock in and their tours begin. Over the course of the book, we follow Derk and his family as they prepare for the tours, overcome unexpected difficulties and disasters, leader Pilgrim Parties through their world, and uncover hidden secrets.

While I didn't really like this book, there were parts that I did like. I especially liked all the animals that Wizard Derk made. He had flying pigs, sarcastic geese, over friendly cows, and, of course, the griffins. The setting was really neat, and I loved the concept of an entire world being turned into what was basically a theme park for a duration of the tours. All very cool. But I struggled with the writing style. It’s written in third person, which is fine, but it’s third person eye-of-God perspective. There was no one or two main characters, and you could see into the mind of most of them, and read what they were thinking. I just find that style super annoying. For me, not having a main character or at least several main characters, doesn’t make me connect to any one of them. I couldn’t have cared less if the entire cast of characters in this story were eaten by dragons in the first pages, or the middle or right at the end. I wouldn’t have cared. I didn’t feel for any of them, or want them to succeed.

I think the other thing that I found difficult about this book was its length. I’m fine with long books, by all means – bring it on! – but I felt as I was reading this that there were parts that weren’t needed for the story, and it was really slow going at the beginning and nothing really happened until the end…argh! I don’t know! I think also because I really wanted to like this book, as it's my best friend's favourite, it was a bit of a let-down.

I can say, however, the concept was great, and there were dragons (woo! Dragons!).  Don’t let my review of this book stop you from reading it. It’s not a new book (it was first published in 1998), but the library will probably have it if you wanted to jump into this crazy world!

This review was written by regular reviewer Anjali, get to know her here
Image from Good Reads

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