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Dark Lord of Derkholm (Derkholm Series #1)

Dark Lord of Derkholm (Derkholm Series #1)

4.8 36
by Diana Wynne Jones

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Mr. Chesney operates Pilgrim Parties, a tour group that takes paying participants into an outer realm where the inhabitants play frightening and foreboding roles. The time has come to end the staged madness . . . but can it really be stopped? Master storyteller Diana Wynne Jones serves up twists and turns, introduces Querida, Derk, Blade, and Shona and a remarkable


Mr. Chesney operates Pilgrim Parties, a tour group that takes paying participants into an outer realm where the inhabitants play frightening and foreboding roles. The time has come to end the staged madness . . . but can it really be stopped? Master storyteller Diana Wynne Jones serves up twists and turns, introduces Querida, Derk, Blade, and Shona and a remarkable cast of wizards, soldiers, kings, dragons, and griffins, and mixes in a lively dash of humor. With all the ingredients of high fantasy, this unforgettable novel will delight fans old and new.

Editorial Reviews

Derk is a wizard who just wants to be left alone, but for as long as the mild-mannered mage can remember, the detestable Mr. Chesney has infiltrated his realm with horrible packaged "tours" of staged adventures. Today, Derk has had enough.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
On a par with Jones's best (Charmed Life; Fire and Hemlock), this expansive novel manages to be both an affectionate send-up of the sword-and-sorcery genre and a thrilling fantasy adventure in its own right. Something is decidedly rotten in the enchantment-laden world in which teenage fledgling wizard Blade has grown up. Each year, the country's magical agrarian economy is disrupted by the Pilgrim Parties--tourists from a world much like ours, come in search of Tolkienesque adventure. Organized by the sinister and implacably bureaucratic Mr. Chesney ("A Dark Lord's citadel must always be a black castle with a labyrinthine interior lit by baleful fire--you will find our specifications in the guide Mr. Addis will give you"), the Pilgrim Parties are in fact highly choreographed package tours. The local population is bullied, cajoled and paid hard cash to participate, all because of a deal struck with a demon some 40 years ago. This year's appointee to the onerous post of Dark Lord (who must act as chief villain and tour-coordinator) is Blade's mild-mannered father, Derk, who would far rather spend his time creating marvelous new animals (he already has flying pigs, talking horses and clever geese). When an encounter with a dragon puts Derk out of commission, Blade's entire family--including his five griffin siblings--must help. As elaborate charades are staged for the tours, a deeper magic also emerges which (in combination with some hilariously banal legalities) offers the hope of release from Mr. Chesney's domination. Thought-provoking and utterly engaging, this tour-de-force succeeds on numerous levels. The marvelously characterized griffins are a particularly noteworthy pleasure. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
This British author of the fantasy/romance Fire and Hemlock and a whole raft of other impressive offerings returns once more to the fray-literally, in this tongue-in-cheek look at a much put-upon planet. The offbeat wizard Derk and his human-plus-some family (if you count intelligent griffins, flying pigs, talking horses) have been chosen to host the annual onslaught of tourists from a neighboring world. The tourists come to see genuine magic in action, as well as genuine battles. They are organized by the wicked Mr. Chesney, and they must be pleased or their tourist dollars, which prop up the local economy, will disappear. How Derk and his children foil Mr. Chesney is the meat and drink of a very entertaining tale.
VOYA - Jamie Hansen
Wizard Derk, peacefully living on his plantation with his wife and seven children (five of whom are griffins), never wanted to be Dark Lord. Unfortunately, every year his world is overrun by offworld tourists expecting demons, dragons, spells, elves, dwarves, priests, magic users, and other exciting trappings of fantasy. This year it is Derk's turn and the oracles claim that he will end the devastating tours and bring down their mastermind, evil Mr. Chesney. In the meantime, Derk needs to rebuild his house as a fortress of evil, lay clues, and provide a demon. Chaos reigns when an accident with a dragon puts Derk in a healing coma and his griffin and human children take over for their father. Blade, Shona, and their griffin siblings trail miserably around the countryside leading an argumentative tour group, an unmanageable army, and a wacky menagerie as they organize Wild Hunts, battles, and the odd manifestation. In Jones's fantasy world nothing is what it seems, and demons might be rather helpful after all. The author reveals her satirical genius as she slyly takes on role-playing games, fantasy literature, and organized tours, even as she offers the reader some sharp truths about what constitutes a family. Surprising and uproariously funny, from the wizards' visit to the oracles to the final revelation about Blade's tour group and Mr. Chesney's downfall, this title is one of Jones's best. Fantasy lovers with a sense of humor will grab this title the way a dragon seizes treasure. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P M J S (Hard to imagine it being better written, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-An alternate world full of wizards, dragons, and other wonders is controlled by the ruthless Mr. Chesney. He operates a lucrative business in which tourists from his world enjoy staged adventures, and he holds the magic world at the mercy of a powerful demon he controls. When Derk, a goodhearted but apparently bumbling wizard, is chosen for the key role of "Dark Lord," the "Pilgrim Parties" begin to veer sharply from the script. Derk shares his duties with his unusual children; two humans and five griffins (created from a mix of cells, including his own and those of his enchantress wife). The chaos that ensues is exciting, mysterious, and hilarious. Myriad plot twists and undiscovered schemes are slowly unveiled as the seemingly invincible Mr. Chesney gets his just reward. The characters reveal the workings of their world in a delightfully well-paced, and roundabout way. For all of the magic and intrigue, however, the growth and development of Derk's unique family is really at the heart of the novel. All of his children have distinct personalities, and the family relationships are changed and strengthened as the various crises unfold. The griffins are delightful characters who experience the same adolescent concerns as Derk's human son Blade, an eager but uncertain young wizard. Mr. Chesney's power and heartlessness loom throughout the story, keeping a suspenseful edge to all of the fun. Fans of Jones's previous books will not be disappointed, and Dark Lord could also be an excellent introduction to high fantasy for other readers.-Steven Engelfried, West Linn Public Library, OR

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Derkholm Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.32(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Will you all be quiet!" snapped High Chancellor Querida.

She pouched up her eyes and glared around the table.

"I was only trying to say--" a king, an emperor, and several wizards began.

"At once," said Querida, "or the next person to speak spends the rest of his life as a snake!"

This shut most of the University Emergency Committee up. Querida was the most powerful wizard in the world, and she had a special feeling for snakes. She looked like a snake herself, small and glossy-skinned and greenish, and very, very old. Nobody doubted she meant what she said. But two people went on talking, anyway. Gloomy King Luther murmured from the end of the table, "Being a snake might be a relief." And when Querida's eyes darted around at him, he stared glumly back, daring her to do it.

And Wizard Barnabas, who was vice chancellor of the University, simply went on talking. ". . . trying to say, Querida, that you don't understand what it's like. You're a woman. You only have to be the Glamorous Enchantress. Mr. Chesney won't let women do the Dark Lord." Querida's eyes snapped around at him with no effect at all. Barnabas gave her a cheerful smile and puffed a little. His face seemed designed for good humor. His hair and beard romped around his face in gray curls. He looked into Querida's pouched eyes with his blue, bloodshot ones and added, "We're all worn out, the lot of us."

"Hear, hear!" a number of people around the table muttered cautiously.

"I know that!" Querida snapped. "And if you'd listen, instead of all complaining at once, you'd hear me saying that I've called this meeting to discuss how to put a stop to Mr.Chesney's Pilgrim Parties for good."

This produced an astonished silence.

A bitter little smile put folds in Querida's cheeks. "Yes," she said. "I'm well aware that you elected me high chancellor because you thought I was the only person ruthless enough to oppose Mr. Chesney and that you've all been very disappointed when I didn't immediately leap at his throat. I have, of course, been studying the situation. It is not easy to plan a campaign against a man who lives in another world and organizes his tours from there." Her small green-white hands moved to the piles of paper, bark, and parchment in front of her, and she began stacking them in new heaps, with little dry, rustling movements. "But it is clear to me," she said, "that things have gone from bad, to intolerable, to crisis point, and that something must be done. Here I have forty-six petitions from all the male wizards attached to the University and twenty-two from other male magic users, each pleading chronic over-work. This pile is three letters signed by over a hundred female wizards, who claim they are being denied equal rights. They are accurate. Mr. Chesney does not think females can be wizards." Her hands moved on to a mighty stack of parchments with large red seals dangling off them. "This," she said, "is from the kings. Every monarch in the world has written to me at least once protesting at what the tours do to their kingdoms. It is probably only necessary to quote from one. King Luther, perhaps you would care to give us the gist of the letter I receive from you once a month?"

"Yes, I would," said King Luther. He leaned forward and gripped the table with powerful blue-knuckled hands. "My kingdom is being ravaged," he said. "I have been selected as Evil King fifteen times in the last twenty years, with the result that I have a tour through there once a week, invading my court and trying to kill me or my courtiers My wife has left me and taken the children with her for safety. The towns and countryside are being devastated. if the army of the Dark Lord doesn't march through and sack my city, then the Forces of Good do it next time. I admit I'm being paid quite well for this, but the money I earn is so urgently needed to repair the capital for the next Pilgrim Party that there is almost none to spare for helping the farmers. They hardly grow anything these days. You must be aware, High Chancellor-"

Querida's hand went to the next pile, which was of paper, in various shapes and sizes. "I am aware, thank you, Your Majesty. These letters are a selection of those I get from farmers and ordinary citizens. They all state that what with magical weather conditions, armies marching over crops, soldiers rustling cattle, fires set by the Dark Lord's minions, and other hazards, they are likely to starve for the foreseeable future." She picked up another smallish pile of paper. "Almost the only people who seem to be prospering are the innkeepers, and they complain that the lack of barley is making it hard to brew sufficient ale."

'My heart bleeds," King Luther said sourly. "Where would we be if a Pilgrim Party arrived at an inn with no beer?"

"Mr. Chesney would not be pleased," murmured a high priest. "May the gods defend us, Anscher preserve us from that! "

"Chesney's only a man," muttered the delegate from the Thieves Guild.

"Don't let him hear you say that!" Barnabas said warningly.

"Of course he's only a man," snapped Querida. "He just happens to be the most powerful man in the world, and I've taken steps to ensure that he cannot hear us inside this council chamber. Now may I go on? Thank you. We are being pressured to find a solution by several bodies. Here"-she picked up a large and beautifully lettered parchment with paintings in the margins--is an ultimatum from Bardic College. They say that Mr. Chesney and his agents appear to regard all bards with the tours as expendable. Rather than lose any more promising musicians, they say here, they are refusing to take part in any tours this year, unless we can guarantee the safety of-"

Dark Lord of Derkholm. Copyright © by Diana Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones (1934‒2011) wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards—and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter—her books are filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy.

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Dark Lord of Derkholm (Derkholm Series #1) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Jolliday More than 1 year ago
What if there was actually a world where fantasy adventures happened? What if they were only put on for the benefit of people from our world? What if the people from that world were made to do the pretend adventures by someone from our world? What if the people from the magical world got sick of it all? This book answers all of these questions and more in a wonderful story based around something you don't see in a lot of fantasy novels: a family. I bought this book after I'd read it from the library for years. I look forward to visiting it over and over again--it's one of my firm favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Dark Lord of Derkholm is set in a fantasy world whose inhabitants have been pressured into signing a contract that forces them to conduct D&D style tours for folks from OUR world. You can just imagine the opportunities for chaos and humor that ensue.....! This book is full of memorable characters drawn with a few effortless brush strokes, tongue-in-cheek yet affectionate jabs at Tolkien and D&D fans, and a clever plot told in vivid prose. The style and wit of this story put me in mind of the Doctor Who stories written by Douglas Adams, and for a weekend read, it doesn't get any better than that!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Confession: I have been waiting for the Harry Potter book to come out forever. But I must say that since I was forced to find substitutes I have come across some of the best books ever written. Fantasy has never gotten the credit it deserves and this is an author who has several exceptional works. This is not my favorite, that title goes to The Lives of Christopher Chant but this is probably my second favorite. I'm rereading this book for the first time in over a year and I forgot how much I truely enjoyed it. This author has tons of books that are equal to almost any fantasy book I've ever read. I'd recommend this book one hundred times over.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Moonshadow~I tjink you are A BATMAN COPY CAT!!!! 3 AND A HALF STARS!!!<P> Critickid~A good start. Work on grammar and punctuation. Where is your other story, by the way? Four stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Scary. It's good, but scay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read the other story, but this is cool! :3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never read the other story (finally finding time to do something other than hw) but this seems very interesting so far!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have so many fond memories of this book. It is funny, dramatic, and incredibly well written. It is, however very much aimed at teenagers, not adults.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dark lord of derkholmis awesome
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White_Bear More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book so I wanted to write a review before I forgot any of it, not that I ever will! I fell in love with this strange family and their magical world. This book had me laughing out loud one minute and practically in tears the next. But don't worry, you'll be laughing again by the end!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Derk is the main character and he is the Dark Lord of Derkholm. People pay to take tours of Derk's world. Some people in Derk's world want the tours to stop, but others want them to continue. Read to find out what happens. My opinion is that this is a book that most people will like if you like reading about magic, different worlds and the old times. If you read fantasy books, you would like this book. So, I recomended it to all the fantasy book readers out there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a little confusing at first, but once you got into it, it was very funny and entertaining. The laugh out loud part for me was when no one wanted to push the wizard into the moat so he jumped in by himself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read A LOT! And something I've realized is... I read because of books that I can't put down. something different, and excellent about this book is it isn't leading up to one bif adventure. Throughout, different things are thrown at you. As one mishap is dealt with another appears. It goes on, and suddenly they are all linked together. This book is excellent!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is an outstanding book I'am a high school student so most of my free time is used for music, video games, and hanging around my firends so its rare that I pick up a book that I'am not forced to read but this book was so great I was even spending my lunch hour reading it free time in class I spent reading it I was reading about 100 pages a day so it did not last too long but the book was so great I was sad to finish it knowing there was nothing more to be said I took the book back to thew libary but to my surpirse I want to read it again so I will be checking it out soon but it was weird when I first found the book on one of the back shelfs in the libary I was looking for a drawing book but they were all gone as always so I looked for some fantasy I found the book and I checked it on the school computer to learn we only had one copy at first I was a little confused with the story but as it went on I started to love it after every event from meeting the old dragon to learning he was the dragon king also learning the about the demon only derk could summon to finding out he was the demon king I loved the story I was hooked like a fish to bait it was outstanding the first time I was reading it this time it should be better to tell the truth I wish there was a second half to the story
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this book after looking at all the good things people said about it on this website. I think everyone who reviewed it was absolutely right! I like books about animals and fantasy, and this book managed to tell a story about both. I REALLY LIKED THE GRIFFINS!! (Kit, Callette, Don, Lydda, and Elda) Griffins have always been one of my favorite fantasy creatures. Dragons too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book (Library book), and I finished it a few days after I ot it! It was so good and enthralling that I could stand outside in the freezing cold and not notice anything! (Which I did). I really enjoyed this book, and I hope to read The Year of the Griffin soon! (Callette was the coolest of the Griffins!!!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've every read from this author. Its really captivating and the characters are 'different' but in a good way. I hope to read her next book the Year of the Griffin.