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King Luther is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties who have been visiting his city for the last 40 years, and things have gone from bad to worse. What Mr Chesney wants, he gets. But he hasn't anticipated the special talents of this year's Dark Lord.
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Diana Wynne Jones is Britain's foremost writer of children's fantasy, including the World Fantasy Award nominated Archer's Goon, which was made into a six part BBC TV series, and the Guardian Award winning Charmed Life


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.)

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

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