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Dark Lord of Derkholm

(Derkholm #1)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  14,889 ratings  ·  774 reviews
Derk, an unconventional wizard, and his magical family become involved in a plan to put a stop to the devastating "Pilgrim Parties" tours of their world arranged by the tyrannical Mr. Chesney.
Hardcover, 345 pages
Published November 5th 1998 by Greenwillow Books (first published 1998)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  14,889 ratings  ·  774 reviews

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Start your review of Dark Lord of Derkholm (Derkholm, #1)
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, funny
Full review now posted!
Original review can be found at Booknest.

You’ve probably heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I think that’s true to an extent, but there is an art form that goes beyond imitation that, when done well, can often be the best representation of that which it set out to mock. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is a perfect example of this. She set out to mock gothic literature, which she did beautifully, but what impresses me so much about that story is
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantastical
Just over six years ago I met the person I want to spend my entire life with, in that time I was very quickly made aware of her affection towards the fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones and regularly told to give her a try. Being such a considerate husband I finally relented on the proviso that she choose me one that wasn't for kids, wasn't too massive and was one of her better novels. Apparently the first two choices are already lent to a friend of ours and so I was provided with a well loved copy ...more
MrsJoseph *grouchy*

DNF at 45%

I've been sitting on Dark Lord of Derkholm for a while now. Initially I really liked it and found it humorous. It reminded me of Pratchett's DiscWorld a bit (in its humor only).

So color me shocked when I ran into a vaguely worded but pretty obvious gang sexual assault. There was no need for it but it still happened. I was shocked to find something so...dark in a humorous book.

The gang (rape?)/sexual assault just...threw me out of the book and I p
Julie Davis
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rereading via the Audible audiobook which is very good. I'd forgotten so many details and, indeed, the whole second half of the book since I first read this back in 2011. It is such a fun and enjoyable book. Original review below.


Imagine that your world has real elves, dragons, wizards, and all those items necessary for a good fantasy tale. Then imagine that an enterprising person from an "otherworld" much like ours stumbled through a portal and discovered this real "fantasy" world.

Jonathan Terrington

The Dark Lord of Derkholm is one of those novels that provides an entertaining story as well as subverting the typical ideas and expectations of the fantasy genre. Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who writes wittily and absurdly at the same time, weaving bizarre ideas together into a mix that perhaps should not work as well as it does.

The overall concept of this novel is one which hinges around the idea that people from our world (or at least a world very similar) travel across worlds i
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fof-reads
3.5 stars. Almost 4.0 (As I write this review, I'm actually rounding up to 4)

This was a fun read. I liked it better than Howl's Moving Castle, which I'd read earlier in 2014. There was a nice mixture of wit and magic, and some characters I could really get behind.

The concept was absurdly brilliant - a fantasy world used as a theme park by Pilgrim Parties that come to live the adventure. Derk is chosen to be this year's Darklord and must go out of his way to give the tourists the best possible ep
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
From what I'd heard, this is meant to be a parody of the tropes of traditional fantasy - and all the tropes do seem to be represented - but , as a parody, I expected it to be much funnier than it was. Maybe it's just because when I think of parody I think of "lovingly tongue-in-cheek" but this book took itself far too seriously, in my opinion, to really be a funny send-up.

Coupled with that is the fact that there are just so many characters and things going on and it's hard to follow or to really
Juho Pohjalainen
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book came out a year after Ultima Online, a year before Everquest, and another few years before World of Warcraft. I wonder if Diana used to play enough video games to know what was going on, or if it was sheer serendipity. Either way, this book fits pretty well as an MMO parody from the angle of the final boss, who has to face like five raids a day and always respawns right after.

It's not the ha-ha-funny type of parody, though. It has very few laughs and most of the time is actually far mo
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kim by: Theobroma
I've only read a couple Diana Wynne Jones books before so I wasn't too sure what to expect. Lately I've not been reading reviews or even blurbs before starting a book because I want to go into it with a completely open mind. Unfortunately my previous experiences with her books led me to believe this would be aimed at a younger audience so as things started getting a bit darker I was a tad perplexed.

Eventually I managed to get my mindset in the right place and realise that this book was intended
Apr 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
It took me some time to get into this book, which is likely my fault. I find it hard to read anything with more depth than your average bubblegrum wrapper when I have a head cold, so it probably isn't a coincidence that this book finally clicked with me the same day that I started to feel better. Because really, this book is often funny, wonderfully inventive, and features characters I came to care about a great deal. A literal family of characters! I love constructed families in my fiction, but ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an excellent book! This is the fastest-paced DWJ book I've ever read, and several of the revelations at the end truly surprised me without seeming unreasoned. There were many powerful moments, both action- and emotion-based, and some great characters. There's a cast of zillions, but you get the hang of everyone pretty well. And of course, the book is full of Diana Wynne Jones' perfect word choices ("a tuft of flame"), neat critters and spells (Friendly Cows!), and great descriptions of feel ...more
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine being able to take tours of another world, another world that appears to be evil and sinister. Seeing demons and dragons, battles. Except this world isn't really like that and the people who reside are getting tired of the act they have to put on each tour.

I found this book to be delightful, entertaining and funny. I felt so bad for our main character, Wizard Derk, now this years Dark Lord. Derk is a kind wizard, who just wants to breed different animals and zero interest in pretending t
R.F. Gammon
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dianna Wynn Jones fans
Recommended to R.F. Gammon by: Deborah O'Carroll
This was definitely a fun story. I didn't like it as much as Howl's Moving Castle, but there's not much to top Howl, so that's not bad.
Basically, the idea is given in the synopsis. Derk is a nice, mild-mannered man who just wants to be left in peace and make weird animals, such as pigs and horses with wings, griffins that behave like members of the family, geese that are out for blood, carnivorous sheep, and friendly cows. His wife, Mara, is a master at making mini universes, while his (human)
Miss Naseweis
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wizards, fantasy
This was such a cozy, feel-good read. Perfect for rainy days, when you cuddle under the blanket and drink your favorite tea. The idea of Pilgrim Parties for profit to a magical world was unique (guilty as charged, I would participate as well) and the magical world itself was great. Dragons, dwarves, magicians, witches, elves – it had everything. Derk’s family was so precious and I found myself wanting a gryphon sibling as well. While the story wasn’t exactly gripping, I was constantly smiling or ...more
Melissa McShane
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, fantasy, young-adult
I don't think I've read this more than twice before. It's not one of Diana Wynne Jones' strongest books, though it's still excellent YA fantasy, but listening to the audiobook (the narrator is fantastic) slowed me down enough to appreciate it better. The concept is so good: a man from an industrialized world (it's never said that it's our world, but I like to think so) manages to enslave a world in which magic is powerful. He doesn't turn himself into its ruling lord. He doesn't take advantage o ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like fantasy
What I love about Diana Wynne Jones is how she can present a fantasy novel with a different angle than other fantasy novels with a standard plot - a boy or a girl, fated for something big, learning through ordeals, obtaining greatness.

In The Dark Lord of Derkholm , the world of magic had been forced to kneel down in front of a powerful force - namely, a Mr Chesney - and provide 'entertainment' every year for his Pilgrim Parties. These tourists from another world wanted to be involved in a fan
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, favorites
This was a book that I loved so much growing up that I was actually quite nervous to re-read it as an adult. Could it really live up to expectations? Not only did it live up to them, this book knocked it out of the park. “The Dark Lord of Derkholm” has the kind of societal commentary that both young and old can understand and appreciate all while being set in an awe-inspiring fantasy world.

I love Derk’s family as well. It’s the kind of chaotic, somewhat-unorganized, close-knit family that I thi
lucky little cat
This YA fantasy from the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones reads as eerily prescient, but also homespun and of course, funny.
Derk was no ordinary wizard
Citizens of a fantasy alt world rebel against the Trump-esque fat-cat tycoon who has exploited them for decades with Westworld-style tourist quests. Warmly comforting for underdogs everywhere.*

*Perhaps Trump, like the Derkholm villain, carries an all-powerful demon in his pocket? That would explain a lot.
Deborah O'Carroll
Re-read August 5, 2016:

THIS BOOK THOUGH. <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3 IT'S EVEN MORE WONDERFUL ON REREAD. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. ^_^ *huggles all of it*

First read December 13, 2012
Reread of a childhood fave! I remember really liking both Derkholm books when I was a kid: it's a tongue-in-cheek version of medieval fantasy that pairs well with e.g. the works of Terry Pratchett or Robert Asprin. The premise and setup is wonderful: a magical world that's beset by tours from our own mundane reality, where witches and wizards and elves and dwarves and dragons all have to sigh and grudgingly put on a dramatic show every single year for the benefit of the tourists, leading them th ...more
Chafic (Rello)
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series, fantasy
Dianna Wynne Jones is underrated.
A lot of people don't realize they already know her (she also penned Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series) - and this was the first book I had ever read by her.

As a kid, this was one of my first introductions into the realm of fantasy - and it was absolutely absurd. Who decides to turn a whole medieval kingdom into a theme park with a fictional 'Dark Lord' to appease the pilgrims in the most enjoyable experience imaginable.
Well, look no further.

Aug 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
YA Fantasy. The inhabitants of a magical world fight the evil forces of tourism. This book couldn't seem to get the bat off its shoulder -- baseball bat, not Chiroptera bat -- there was a lot of stuff going on, with a lot of different narrators, and I still didn't have the entire story. What's worse is that I wasn't satisfied once I did have it, thanks to the (anti-)climactic drawing room scene where the characters finally expose all the secrets they'd kept from me over the course of the book. T ...more
Miss Clark
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book had a different focus that I expected and not only because of that leaves me undecited on what to think about it.

Starting with the positive aspects:
I should warn you first, this is less about an amazing tour through a magical world or a rebellion than it is about family dynamics and planning. It pulls these aspects off well, so I can't say this is a bad thing.
The theme of the book was phenominal. Picturing this world as an allegory for a war-plagued country or a dictatorship in general
Sadie Slater
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dark Lord of Derkholm isn't exactly a sequel to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which was published two years earlier, but its deals with the consequences for a fantasy world of the kind of tours that the Tough Guide purports to be a guidebook for. After forty years, the inhabitants are desperate to break the contract for the tours, which are a huge drain on resources; between planning, guiding the parties of tourists and putting on battles, ambushes and other events typical of a clichéd fan ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, 2020
This was the third book I've read by Diana Wynne Jones and it has easily become my favorite. I wish I'd read (or rather listened to it) sooner. It has a fair number of characters, but isn't overwhelming (though there are more griffins/cat-birds to keep track of than usual) and I liked most of them. Especially Derk, the griffins, and Scales. It was also very funny, I found myself laughing/chuckling out loud (or grinning widely if I was listening while in bed and trying not to wake up husband) qui ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*4.5 stars*
I hadn't read anything by Diana Wynne Jones before and I'm glad I finally did. This book is goof and I like the world building. I love how this book started off in the action and I will definitely continue on with this series and I will read more of Diana Wynne Jones' books.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fun, fantasy story! I can't wait to discuss it in my book club tonight!
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a great and funny portal fantasy with cute family dynamics!
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Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an ed ...more

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