Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dark Lord of Derkholm: Readalong!

The cover of my paperback copy
Our MarchMagics DWJ readalong selection was Dark Lord of Derkholm, a send-up of all the tropes that got so worn out in sword-and-sorcery fantasy novels.  DWJ pokes merciless fun at the whole genre, but it's not all comedy; there's more than enough moral complexity and emotional weight to ground the novel and make it much more than a simple spoof.

Over forty years ago, the inhabitants of the world entered a contract to host tourist parties from another universe.  The tourists go on a quest to defeat the Dark Lord, led by a wizard tour guide, accompanied by a bard, and attacked by leathery-winged avians in the time-honored manner.  In the final battle, the heavily-outnumbered Forces of Good defeat the massed Forces of Evil, after which the tourists confront the Dark Lord in his lair and defeat him before heading home.

Well, the tours are wrecking the world and the situation is desperate.  In an attempt to escape from the demon-enforced contract, the head tourist committee assigns Wizard Derk to the job of being Dark Lord.  Derk has always stayed away from the tours and spends his time creating interesting new creatures.  His six children are five griffins and two humans, who all pitch in to help (with varying degrees of enthusiasm).  As the chaos piles up, Derk's family starts to figure out that there is even more at stake than they thought.

What do you think of the way DWJ skewers tropes? Is there one of these that is your favorite?

I am particularly fond of the animals.  There are winged horses!--who are a huge pain.  Pigs actually do fly--and get in everyone's way.

I also love how the bards are always striking poses and the wizard have to have long beards no matter how old (or young) they are.

Which of Derk's experimental animals would you like most to have one of?

Hm, I want either a winged talking horse or a griffin friend.  I don't need any extra-intelligent but mean geese, but I do love the carnivorous sheep.  They are my favorite.

One of the common complaints about DWJ stories is that the endings are a bit too fast and furious. Did you feel that way with this story? Did all of your questions get answered?

It takes forever for Kit to come back!  I get really impatient for that by the end.  I love the wrap-up, where the gods all appear.  My questions do not all get answered, but I happen to like that about DWJ's books.  And the sequel, The Year of the Griffin, helps a lot with that.


Anonymous said...

I also did not feel that Mara was nearly upset enough about Kit, when she thought he was dead. The spell Querida put on her was only making her not care about Derk (as far as I could tell), so WHAT IS UP, Diana Wynne Jones.

I am tempted by the brilliant, mean geese. I feel we would get along.

Kristen M. said...

I agree about Jenny's Mara point. I did love how Derk reacted to Kit though. I felt that a lot of the emotions seemed quite real in this story. And I am sure I'll reread Year of the Griffin shortly because it's the only way that I feel satisfied after finishing this one!

Jean said...

I agree with you both about Mara; I'd kind of assumed that it was the spell, but you're right, it shouldn't work like that.

And yep, I had to read Year of the Griffin right afterwards!