REVIEW: Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

darklordofderkholmDark Lord of Derkholm
by Diana Wynne Jones

HarperTeen, 2001
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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?


Dark Lord of Derkholm was recommended by my Fantasy Literature professor last semester. In that class, we read Howl’s Moving Castle, which I ADORED, so I was hoping for another book like that, in terms of how much I enjoyed it. And I did like this one, but not nearly as much as Howl’s.

There were some definite moments of hilarity, sadness and frustration while I was reading. I was horrified over what Mr. Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties were doing to Derk’s world, and the type of things that these Pilgrims were paying to experience, because it was all completely ridiculous. Basically, think of a fantasy novel, and that’s what these people came expecting to see. Many of them had to pay heaps of money to come, and then a lot of them didn’t even survive, because they were those “expendable” Pilgrims who weren’t meant to return home. It was amusing to watch Derk struggle with all the components of being Dark Lord, especially when so much was clearly not going to plan. I enjoyed reading about Derk’s family – he has two human children and five griffin children – and the roles they played in trying to help their father. Mara made me angry [SPOILER] although obviously she had a reason for being absent, and it wasn’t her fault at all [/SPOILER], as did all the people who swore they’d help Derk who either did a half-assed job of it, or just didn’t do anything to help at all.

The book is told via different viewpoints, but stuck mostly with Derk or Blade, Derk’s human son, who is put in charge of the final Pilgrim Party even though he’s far from a qualified wizard. I enjoyed reading about Blade’s adventures, and the trouble he got into, and the ways he tried to fix everything but just made things worse. I was particularly interested in his total lack of a sense of direction, which suited him okay for translocation (think Apparation, if you’re a Harry Potter fan) but definitely didn’t work at all for getting a Pilgrim Party across the country to their various checkpoints. In fact, I would have liked to learn more about that, because it seemed like it was distinct to Blade alone, and I would have loved to learn why he could move himself (or anyone else he’s translocating) without getting lost but couldn’t manage to walk people in the right direction.

There were a lot of twists and turns in the plot, and I will admit that I didn’t see a lot of them coming at all. For some people, this book might be confusing, because there is a LOT going on, and it’s hard to keep track of the characters and which “side” they’re on (the Dark Lord “controls” a king, priest and emir, and that’s just for starters). The book is also extremely long – over 500 pages – and I felt the length while I was reading, if that makes sense. It wasn’t that there was extra stuff that could have been cut out, though, because if anything was trimmed the story wouldn’t make sense, but it was just a very long book that I was sort of eagerly anticipating the end of, even though I liked the story. I don’t know. It was a very confusing feeling.

So, to sum up, I liked the plot and enjoyed a number of the characters. But I wasn’t completely enamored with the book, even though I did enjoy reading about the adventures and the things everyone was trying to do to get rid of Mr. Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties. And I really felt for poor Derk, who just got dumped on to the extreme. But it wasn’t a favorite, and I won’t be re-reading.


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1 Response to REVIEW: Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Books I Thought I’d Like More or Less Than I Did –

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