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Dark Lord of Derkholm (Derkholm #1)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  13,094 Ratings  ·  614 Reviews
Everyone - wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike - is fed up with Mr Chesney's Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published August 2003 by Gollancz (first published 1998)
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Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesCharmed Life by Diana Wynne JonesThe Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne JonesCastle in the Air by Diana Wynne JonesHouse of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
Favourite Diana Wynne Jones
39 books — 374 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
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Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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

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
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.

Forty years later you might have a problem much like that in this book where Mr. Chesney's Pilgrim Parties come on tour wanting to enjoy a classic fantasy adventure. The only problem is that Mr. Chesney's contract is so airtight that it devas
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
DWJ Book Toast, #12

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite fantasy authors, growing up and now, and I was saddened by the news of her death. I can't say I'm overcome with emotion - as personal as some of her work is to me, its not like I knew her after all - but I wish I could put into words how I feel about her no longer being out there, writing new adventures and laughing at all of us serious fans thinking so hard about her words when we should simply get on with the business of enjoying them.
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
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
R.F. Gammon
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dianna Wynn Jones fans
Recommended to R.F. 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)
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
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 fanta
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
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
What a fun, fantasy story! I can't wait to discuss it in my book club tonight!
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It has all the slightly garish fantasy prose that you loved in 7th grade, but is constantly moving forward and never feels like a sentence is deadweight. The premise is great: a fantasy world is beleagured by a modern-world businessman who forces it to enact a sort of adventure tourism for other modern-worlders. The main character - a creative, slightly bumbling, "farmerly" familyman of a wizard - is chosen as this year's "Dark Lord" and has to orchestrate multiple ba ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Dark Lord of Derkholm is a comical parody of epic fantasy: Fantasyland is overrun by tourists expecting to go on quests and slay this year's Dark Lord: the wizard Derk, who breeds all sorts of magical animals, from sarcastic geese to carnivorous sheep, and has no interest in pretending to be evil. Hilarity ensues as he and his family (including seven children, two humans and five griffins) try to fulfill the Dark Lord's responsibility to keep the tours going.

This is a great book if you're looki
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I really liked a lot of the ideas in this (the main idea of a world being controlled from a villain in another and forced to run magical adventure tourist guides is rather fabulous), but somehow it dind't hang together entirely for me.

I really liked the Derkholm family, though the four griffins took a while to differentiate. However, they were differentiated well, in the end, and all given strengths of their own. The magic system and the politics are kinda fun, and Derk's magic is great. His lov
Jun 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fun book by talented fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones. Like Howl's Moving Castle, Jones manages to give fantasy a modern, quirky twist. In this case, the Dark Lord of Derkholm is actually an animal-loving, quirky veterinarian/botanist/family man, Derk, who has been selected to play the role of "Dark Lord" for the annual Pilgrim tours. Derk, his ecclectic family of human and hybrid creatures, and all the other wizards of this magical world must think of ways to fulfill their obligations w ...more
Aug 19, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Katherine Beard
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I had mixed feelings about this book while reading. It was stressful for a while because it was too close to real life. And I didn't grow particularly fond of any of the characters; my favorite character is my favorite due more to how other characters reacted to him than his own merit. But it had its charm. I loved the parts involving elves. I thought the concept of a fantasy world being exploited by someone in our world for tourism purposes was pretty clever and enjoyed the stereotypical quest ...more
Miss Clark
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just as good the second time around! Definitely a fast-paced book - you've barely started it before you're halfway through. I really admire her way of growing characters before they (or you) even really realise it's happening. Not to mention her incredible skill with worldbuilding (puntended). If you're a fan of fantasy, this is a fun read.
Brenda Clough
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent take on all those fellowship-quest novels. Do not fail to look at the companion volume, A TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND, which is a mainstay of fantasy novelists everywhere.
I absolutely love this book. It is amazing. This may actually be my favorite book of all time. I obviously love it just a bit too much.
Derk and his family are so great, I can't even pick a favorite character. Each one is so well developed and likable in their own way, that trying to choose a favorite is not possible. I really like the fact that there is no main character. Everyone gets their own time to be the focus, and I think that is really nice. It allows us to get a feel for every one of t
I first read this back in high school, and I had fond memories of it. Fond enough apparently that when I got Goodreads, I found this title and marked it as a 5 star.

Reading it in my late twenties, I honestly expected it to be a hilarious parody of the fantasy genre--a sort of fantasy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But... that's not what it is, at all. Parts of this book are straight up comedy (the introduction of this world's elves comes to mind), but other parts get quite dark. The worst
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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
More about Diana Wynne Jones

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“It was only when Shona, in sheer fury, turned the carnivorous sheep among them that they moved. They ran, some of them with charming little white sheep attached to their legs or backsides and the rest shouting about monsters.” 35 likes
“When might I expect you then?"
Whenever is least convenient for you, the demon replied.”
More quotes…