|Dark Lord of Derkholm|
|Author||Diana Wynne Jones|
|Cover Artist||Jos A. Smith|
|Publisher||US: Greenwillow Brooks|
|UK Release Date||1998|
|US Release Date|
|Followed by||Year of the Griffin|
This is a retelling of a story everyone has heard before. A group of travellers get pulled from our world into a fantastical world full of magic. They go on a adventure where they meet enemies who want to get in their way and a prophecy that determines their destiny. They overcome more and more dangerous obstacles, more or less in one piece, before reaching the Dark Lord and defeating him and destroying his evil empire. This time, however, it is told from the point of view of the Dark Lord, a pacifist who loves creating new living things and giving life, and his family. The novel was based on Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasy Land -- an encyclopedia-style collection of all the cliches of fantasy writing.
Mr. Chesney is a man who wants money and power from what can be assumed to be our world. Somehow he finds the world of these books and makes a deal with a demon. He uses this demon to enslave the entire world and remake it in a way to earn him money. He does this by forcing everyone to play along in a world-wide game to take people from his world to a new world and experience a fantasy adventure. The people from his world are called pilgrims and they get to go on an adventure. Every group is to believe that their tour is unique, while actually they are the exact same thing. The people enter the world. They experience many adventures starting with an easy attack by leathery-winged avians. After that they witness the Wild Hunt. A large-scale battle is staged and fought between the forces of good and the forces of evil. And then re-fought. And re-fought. While all this is going on, the group of pilgrims is finding clues to the Dark Lord's weakness. At the end of their tour, the pilgrims make their way to the Dark Lord's Citadel where they face the demon protecting it, and "kill" the Dark Lord. After this, their tour is over and they go home.
Mr. Chesney charges a lot of money for these tours. He charges more money for the insurance against getting injured while pilgrims are on tour. He charges even more money for people to arrange to have relatives killed while on tour. He also forces every dwarf tribe to give a large amount of tribute in gold by styling himself as "Dark Lord of the World." As if that was not enough, he also secretly exports magic-filled earth into his world and sells it as a miracle fuel.
Also, just because it is all staged does not mean that anyone is actually safe. Hundreds of people die every year in the battles and fights put on for the pilgrims benefits. Besides that, farms get trampled and homes have to be torn down to create the right atmosphere to make the entire set-up believable. Dragons aren't given enough gold (from which they get nutrients and sustanence) to survive. However, because of the demon Mr. Chesney enslaved, no one can argue.
Everyone in the world is suffering from the pilgrim tours (except the innkeepers, priests, and thieves). So, Querida decides to ask the oracles how to stop the tours. Thus Derk is selected to be the next Dark Lord and Blade is assigned as wizard-guide to the last wizarding tour. Due to a mishap on the part of Kit and the griffins, Mara is appointed as the Enchantress. Querida also organizes groups of people to undercut the tours and tries to make them all fail completely.
Things at first go rather smoothly. It's hectic, but between Derk and his family, they manage to do everything necessary. However, Derk is taken out of the picture for a while when he is basically burned alive by a dragon (though not fatally). Thus his children are left in charge of everything. They hold it together as well as they can, but Querida keeps getting in the way. Barnabas also does his best to undermine their efforts in moving the Legions of the Dark Lord (convicted criminals) by creating the containment structures far apart and shoddily designed. The final camp was in the wrong place.
In the midst of this cacophony of errors, things manage to limp along until the grand finale, where all the threads of the plot are brought together by Diana Wynne Jones magic, and tied together in an amazing & beautiful bow.