The Merlin Conspiracy

The Merlin Conspiracy

4.5 12
by Diana Wynne Jones

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When the Merlin of Blest dies, everyone thinks it's a natural death. But Roddy and Grundo, two children traveling with the Royal Court, soon discover the truth. The Merlin's replacement and other courtiers are scheming to steal the magic of Blest for their own purposes.

Roddy enlists the help of Nick, a boy from another world, and the three turn to their own


When the Merlin of Blest dies, everyone thinks it's a natural death. But Roddy and Grundo, two children traveling with the Royal Court, soon discover the truth. The Merlin's replacement and other courtiers are scheming to steal the magic of Blest for their own purposes.

Roddy enlists the help of Nick, a boy from another world, and the three turn to their own impressive powers. The dangers are great, and if Roddy, Grundo, and Nick cannot stop the conspirators, the results will be more dreadful than they could possibly imagine.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Diana Wynne Jones has delivered a thumping-good adventure yarn with dozens of twists and turns. (I've left out far more than I've described.) It's a mystery as well as a fantasy, with plenty of comedy for fun and a touch of horror for scares. A novel as dense and complex as this one gives especially good value, as nearly all readers will want to go back to see what they missed the first time around. — Alice K. Turner
Publishers Weekly
Whimsy, invention and the chilling sense of a world (multiple worlds, actually) gone topsy-turvy characterize this grandly outsize fantasy from Jones (Year of the Griffin). In an alternate England, where the king maintains the magic of the realm by constantly traveling the land, teenage Roddy and her best friend-cum-prot g , the younger boy Grundo, have spent their lives as part of the peripatetic Court. When Roddy and Grundo stumble on a fiendish plot to take control of all their world's magic, they realize that they must put a stop to it-even though one of the would-be usurpers is Grundo's own mother. Meanwhile, here on our own version of Earth, Nick (aka Nichothodes Koryfoides, whom Jones's fans may already know from her adult fantasy A Sudden Wild Magic) is tipped into yet another alternate world and begins a journey that eventually lands him right in the middle of Roddy and Grundo's struggle. Cities personified (imagine Old Sarum as a walking, talking and somewhat grumpy old man), hordes of smuggled salamanders and a pair of astonishingly bratty twin sisters (in response to their rude behavior, their mother gushes, "Aren't they a caution?") are just a few of the delights to be found here. Ensorcelled by this exuberant tale and Jones's unmistakable wit, readers may find themselves echoing Nick's off-the-cuff literary critique: "By the time I'd read two pages, I was so longing to get to this other world that it was like sheets of flame flaring through me." Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Roddy, daughter of the Court's weather wizard, and her friend, Grundo, find things amiss in an alternative England where the king and his retinue travel continually to preserve the magic of the Kingdom of Blest. As a crowd gathers in a wet wind at the Scottish border for a meeting between rulers, the English king's Merlin mysteriously drops dead, initiating a series of events that shift the magical control of the kingdom into malicious hands. Witness to a clandestine ceremony, only the children know the identities of the conspirators involved, but because they have no proof, no one believes them. Then Nick stumbles into Roddy's world, bringing a powerful friend named the Romanov, whose magic transcends Blest. As the instability in Blest's magic begins to affect other worlds, Nick, Grundo, and Roddy perfect their own magical powers to restore and heal their kingdom. Fun, fresh, and innovative, this book is a delightfully fast-paced read. Hand it to your teens waiting for the next Harry Potter book or to fans of the Dark Is Rising series. Roddy's witchy aunts, Mini the talking elephant, and the mysterious incendiary salamanders are reminiscent of J. K. Rowling's imaginative details, and the ancient dragon embedded in the mountains of Wales and Roddy's allegorical grandfather suggest Susan Cooper's mythological allusions. Several of the author's older books have recently been reprinted, including Hexwood (Greenwillow, 1994/VOYA October 1994) and Witch's Business (Dutton, 1974). Her latest is an admirable addition to any fantasy collection. PLB Wallace <%ISBN%>0060523182
Children's Literature
Wynne Jones's first new work of fiction in five years harks back to her last—her 1997 adult offering, Deep Secret, which has recently been reissued for the YA market. From this story, she pulls British teenager Nick Mallory—the abdicated heir to the Korfyros Empire—and sets his adventures in counterpoint with those of Roddy Hyde. Roddy is a feisty young lady who's grown weary of forever traveling with her wizard parents in the King's Progress on her planet of Blest, which happens to be an alternate world to the United Kingdom. Got that all sorted out? Good. Then plunge in and see what happens when Wynne Jones sets free her fertile fantasies. A foul plot on Blest threatens to upset all the magics in the universe, and Roddy and Nick—with the assistance of Roddy's sidekick Grundo, twins from hell, a charmingly timid elephant, the Little People, the Lord of the Dead, a raised dragon, and most of all the inter-galactic gunslinger Romanov—grudgingly band together to save the day. Wynne Jones's humor does surface occasionally, but one wishes she had also resurrected the marvelous Rupert Venables along with Nick. The end result is still a rousing good page-turner. 2003, Greenwillow,
— Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This title from one of the masters of fantasy shows the author's signature style and imagination. The story begins in an alternate England called Blest, where Arianrhod Hyde travels with the King's Progress, as both of her parents are modern-day court mages. Roddy and her friend Grundo become aware of a conspiracy to upset the balance of magic in Blest and the rest of the "multiverse," a plot that involves both the new Merlin, the court official in charge of magic, and Grundo's mother. At the same time, Nick Mallory, who lives in what appears to be our Earth, is sent on a dangerous journey between worlds, which ultimately brings him to Blest. Roddy, Grundo, and Nick are called on to use knowledge and clues found in a variety of worlds to expand their budding magical powers and save Roddy's parents, the king of Blest, and the magic of the multiverse. In alternating chapters, Roddy and Nick narrate the action, which successfully allows the author to present background, draw in readers, and integrate her many subplots and dramatic elements. As always, Jones's characters are complex and her villains despicably bad, adding depth to this expansive and entertaining tale. A fine, challenging read for seasoned fantasy readers.-Beth L. Meister, Yeshiva of Central Queens, Flushing, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a stand-alone companion to Deep Secret (1999), Jones takes the kitchen-sink approach to plotting a gloriously twisty adventure. Arianrhod (Roddy) has spent all of her 14 years traipsing about an alternative Britain as part of the King's Progress, until she stumbles upon a conspiracy by the court wizards to pervert the magic of several worlds. Meanwhile, on our Earth, Nichothodes (Nick) yearns for the ability to walk between worlds, a feat he is unable to accomplish until pushed into yet another England, where he gets tangled up in a number of assassination plots, including one aimed at himself. Roddy's and Nick's parallel accounts continue in alternating chapters, spanning many fascinating worlds and involving a cast including (but not limited to) a dyslexic magician, a famous mystery writer, a multiversal über-assassin, a hypocritical Prayermaster, a charming lady elephant, a pair of obnoxious twin witches, the Welsh Lord of the Dead, the living personifications of three cities, a voracious goat, a sleeping dragon, and a sentient silver service. Many readers will long for a flowchart detailing how all these characters relate to each other (or, sometimes, turn out to be each other), but those accustomed to Jones's labyrinthine narrative pyrotechnics will settle back to enjoy everything crashing together in a universe-tilting climax. Nick-as charmingly lazy and self-centered as a cat-and Roddy-snobbish, bossy, and ferociously protective-are delightful companions for the ride, and it's hard not to hope that their stories aren't finished. Overstuffed and over the top, but a delicious romp. (Fantasy. YA)
Neil Gaiman
“Diana Wynne Jones is, quite simply, the best writer of magic there is, for readers of any age.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Magids , #2
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Merlin Conspiracy

By Diana Wynne Jones


ISBN: 0060523182

Chapter One


I have been with the Court all my life, traveling with the King's Progress.

I didn't know how to go on. I sat and stared at this sentence, until Grundo said, "If you can't do it, I will."

If you didn't know Grundo, you'd think this was a generous offer, but it was a threat, really. Grundo is dyslexic. Unless he thinks hard, he writes inside out and backward. He was threatening me with half a page of crooked writing with words like inside turning up as sindie and story as otsyr.

Anything but that! I thought. So I decided to start with Grundo - and me. I am Arianrhod Hyde, only I prefer people to call me Roddy, and I've looked after Grundo for years now, ever since Grundo was a small, pale, freckled boy in rompers, sitting completely silently in the back of the children's bus. He was so miserable that he had wet himself. I was only about five myself at the time, but I somehow realized that he was too miserable even to cry. I got up and staggered through the bumping, rushing bus to the clothes lockers. I found some clean rompers and persuaded Grundo to get into them.

This wasn't easy, because Grundo has always been very proud. While I was working at it, Grundo's sister, Alicia, turned round from where she was sitting with the big ones. "What are you bothering with Cesspit for?" she said, tipping up her long, freckled nose. "There's no point. He's useless." She was eight at the time, but she still looks just the same: straight fair hair, thick body, and an air of being the person, the one everyone else has to look up to. "And he's ugly," she said. "He's got a long nose."

"So have you got a long nose," I said, "Lady Sneeze." I always called her Lady Sneeze when I wanted to annoy her. If you say "Alicia" quickly, it sounds just like a well-behaved sneeze - just like Alicia, in fact. I wanted to annoy her for calling Grundo Cesspit. She only said it because Sybil, her mother, called Grundo that. It was typical of the way they both treated him. Grundo's father left Sybil before Grundo was born. Ever since I could remember, Sybil and Alicia had been thick as thieves together. Poor Grundo was nowhere.

It got worse when Grundo started lessons with us and turned out to be dyslexic. Sybil went around sighing, "He's so stupid!" And Alicia chanted at him, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" Alicia, of course, did everything well, whether it was maths, magic, or horse riding. She got chosen as a Court page when she was ten.

Our teachers knew Grundo was not stupid, but his inside-out way of going on baffled them. They sighed, too, and called Grundo "our young eccentric," and I was the one who taught Grundo to read and write. I think that was when I started calling him Grundo. I can't quite remember why, except that it suited him better than his real name, which is Ambrose, of all things! Before long the entire Court called him Grundo. And while I was teaching him, I discovered that he had an unexpected amount of inside-out magical talent.

"This book is boring," he complained in his deep, solemn voice. "Why should I care if Jack and Jill go shopping? Or if Rover chases the ball?" While I was explaining to him that all reading books were like this, Grundo somehow turned the book into a comic book, all pictures and no words. It started at the back and finished at the front, and in the pictures the ball chased Rover and Jack and Jill were bought by the groceries. Only Grundo would think of two people being bought by a huge chunk of cheese.

He refused to turn the book back. He said it was more fun that way, and I couldn't turn it back into a reading book whatever I tried. It's probably still where I hid it, down inside the cover of the old teaching bus seat. Grundo is obstinate as well as proud.

You might say I adopted Grundo as my brother. We were both on our own. I am an only child, and all the other Court wizards' children were the same age as Alicia or older still. The other children our own age were sons and daughters of Court officials, who had no gift for magic. They were perfectly friendly-don't get me wrong-but they just had a more normal outlook. There were only about thirty of us young ones who traveled in the King's Progress all the time. The rest only joined us for Christmas or for the other big religious ceremonies. Grundo and I always used to envy them. They didn't have to wear neat clothes and remember Court manners all the time. They knew where they were going to be, instead of traveling through the nights and finding themselves suddenly in a flat field in Norfolk, or a remote Derbyshire valley, or a busy port somewhere next morning. They didn't have to ride in buses in a heat wave. Above all, they could go for walks and explore places. We were never really in one place long enough to do any exploring. The most we got to do was look round the various castles and great houses where the King decided to stay.

We envied the princesses and the younger princes particularly. They were allowed to stay in Windsor most of the year. Court gossip said that the Queen, being foreign, had threatened to go back to Denmark unless she was allowed to stay in one place. Everyone pitied the Queen rather for not understanding that the King had to travel about in order to keep the realm healthy. Some said that the whole magic of the Islands of Blest-or maybe the entire world of Blest-depended on the King's constantly moving about and visiting every acre of England.

I asked my grandfather Hyde about this. He is a Magid and knows about the magics of countries and worlds and so on. And he said that there might be something in this, but he thought people were overstating the case. The magic of Blest was very important for all sorts of reasons, he said, but it was the Merlin who was really entrusted with keeping it healthy.


Excerpted from The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

What People are saying about this

Neil Gaiman
“Diana Wynne Jones is, quite simply, the best writer of magic there is, for readers of any age.”

Meet the Author

DIANA WYNNE JONES was born in August 1934 in London, where she had a chaotic and unsettled childhood against the background of World War II. The family moved around a lot, finally settling in rural Essex. As children, Diana and her two sisters were deprived of a good, steady supply of books by a father, ‘who could beat Scrooge in a meanness contest’. So, armed with a vivid imagination and an insatiable quest for good books to read, she decided that she would have to write them herself.

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Merlin Conspiracy 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Neil Gaiman has it right: Diana is simply the best writer of magic there is, for any age. Without all the artificial and baggage-laden worldbuilding many other fantasy authors burden their books with, Diana's stories move quickly through fantastic realms and perfectly describes all the important facets in only a few sentences, things people would normally notice on arrival but normally overlook in their own descriptions. Her good guys are human (without excessive emotional baggage or mental problems), her bad guys are truly grotesque (not through exotic tortures, merely with their manners, which is more than enough), and she portrays animals and neutral characters in such a wide spectrum that it's impossible to list them all--you can only say that she KNOWS people and animals.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to read it again sometime.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I started this book before supper. I finished it about 3am. I was hungry, freezing, tired, etc. I finally finished every word, and went to bed hungry, dirty and cold. This book picks you up by the nape of the neck and doesn't pause for breath til it's done. Wonderful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has a amazing plot and really believeable characters! I do think that it really neds a sequel though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was okay, but it had a few boring parts. The ending wasn't as good as I expected it to be. This book seriously needs a sequel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Diana Wynne Jones is the best fantasy writer. I finished this book in less than a week and I could not put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome. I've read many of Diana Wynne Jones's books and they are all great. THE MERLIN CONSPIRACY is a fantastic book for anyone who loves fantasy stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ah man this book is awsome!It keeps suprising you down to the finall page!if you like mythology and harry potter youll love this!
Guest More than 1 year ago
it's okay theres a few bad turn but mostsly i like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an absolutely amazing book!!! Diana Wynne Jones has done it again and created an absolutely thrilling book in her fascinating writing style and totally believable characters...Anyone who loves fantasy, or even if you don't, you should read this book.