Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones – book review

Cover of "Dark Lord of Derkholm" by Diana Wynne Jones.
Cover of “Dark Lord of Derkholm” by Diana Wynne Jones.
If you are a fan of the high fantasy genre and possess a sense of humor, then Dark Lord of Derkholm (originally published as The Dark Lord of Derkholm in the UK) is truly a treat. This parody by Diana Wynn Jones begins with a typical high fantasy world with mythological beasts, noble lords and ladies, etc., but this world has one BIG problem, in the form of “Mr. Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties.”

These parties arrive once a year, full of tourists intent on experiencing everything they think a fantasy world should contain, including a final epic confrontation with a Dark Lord (chosen each year from among reluctant candidates). The destruction and expense of these tours, year after year, are ruining the world, but Mr. Chesney’s hold on the world leaves its inhabitants little choice.

It’s finally determined that this year will be the last—Mr. Chesney and his tours must be stopped. Chosen to be the last Dark Lord is the wizard Derk, who specializes in genetics and making new animals, who is widely regarded as good-natured and rather incompetent. His family (sorceress wife and children, both human and griffin) get into the act. Chaos, misrepresentations, humor, accident, and tragedy all build in glorious Diana Wynn Jones fashion to a climactic conflict to save the world in an utterly unexpected way.

I adore Dark Lord of Derkholm. There are many spots that made me laugh out loud. There are a few spots that made me cry. All the characters you meet are well-developed, with strengths and flaws, with credible reasons (and credible consequences!) for what they do, with reasons for readers to care about what happens to them.

The story gets off to a brisk start and takes numerous unexpected twists and turns without losing its pace at all. The humor gleefully mocks an entire genre while making it perfectly clear that the author loves the genre all the same. And the climax ties up enough loose ends to be completely satisfying, while still leaving room for a sequel (Year of the Griffin, which is great fun in its own right).

I highly recommend Dark Lord of Derkholm. It’s a fun read for everyone, and the more fantasy you’ve read, the more you’ll enjoy it.

Release Date: October 29, 1998 (USA)
ISBNs: 0064473368 (9780064473361)
Publisher: Greenwillow

MySF Rating: Five point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 95%


Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some drinking, some smoking)
Language: 1 (minor expletives)
Sexuality: 1 (minor innuendo)
Violence: 2 (fantasy battles, some fisticuffs)

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