Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fortnightly Books, September 13

I'm still not feeling up for the long haul required for finishing the third volume of the Arabian Nights, so I've decided something a bit lighter for this time around: Diana Wynne Jones's parody fantasy novels Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin. Both are re-reads.

Dark Lord of Derkholm is probably my second favorite novel by Diana Wynne Jones, after Fire and Hemlock. It won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature in 1999, but, like much of her work, it is an error to think of it as simply for children; it requires a rather extensive knowledge of worn fantasy tropes, and like almost all of her works has an acidic edge. The basic idea of the story is that a fantasy world is the victim of a ruthless tourism industry; Mr. Chesney's Pilgrim Parties go on annual tours during which everyone has to play fantasy roles so people can see what they expect to see in a fantasy world. The tours are destructive and devastating: people die, resources are depleted, farmlands and food sources laid waste, and everybody's lives thrown out of kilter every year without exception. But nobody can do anything about it. However, the Black Oracle and the White Oracle have both been asked what they can do to rid the world of the Pilgrim Parties, and they have given the answer: appoint Derk the Dark Lord of the tour and make his son Blade a Wizard Guide. Be careful what you ask for, the White Oracle said; the Black Oracle just started laughing hilariously....

Year of the Griffin is the sequel, taking place eight years after Dark Lord of Derkholm, and is a tale of misfits stumbling into a bigger adventure than they imagine.

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