The Dark Lord of Derkholm


“My kingdom is being ravaged,” he said, “I have been selected as Evil King fifteen times in the last twenty years, with the result that I have a tour through there once a week, invading my court and trying to kill me or my courtiers. My wife has left me and taken the children with her for safety. The towns and countryside are being devastated. If the army of the Dark Lord doesn’t march through and sack my city, then the Forces of Good do it next time. I admit I’m being paid quite well for this, but the money I earn is so urgently needed to repair the capital for the next Pilgrim Party that there is almost none to spare for helping the farmers.”

Elves, demons, dwarves, dragons, wizards, griffins. (Oh my!)

All this and more in one book.

What? You need more?

How about Friendly Cows and garden monsters? Or flying pigs and talking horses? Magic spells and battles?

And Pilgrim Parties, organised by a man from another world – Mr Chesney who holds a demon captive in his pocket to make the magic world do his bidding. The people of Mr Chesney’s world pay good money to him to dress up, to be fought with, chased by avians, led by wizards as they journey through this other world of magic. It’s not just about illusions and magic though, people from both worlds actually get killed (some pilgrims are marked ‘expendable’ and aren’t meant to make it back home) and the lands racked and ruined.

This time, the Wizard Derk has been chosen to play the Dark Lord (and also chief tour coordinator), his son Blade is to be a Wizard Guide leading one of the many Pilgrim Parties, and their lovely home to be magicked into an evil citadel. It’s not an easy job but Derk is managing well enough, until a dragon puts him out of action, and Blade, his bossy bardic sister Shona and their five griffin brothers and sisters have to figure things out in his place.

“Just remember that when the Pilgrim Parties arrive there, they will expect to see hovels, abject poverty, and heaps of squalor and that I expect them to get it. I also expect you to do something about this house of yours. A Dark Lord’s Citadel must always be a black castle with a labyrinthine interior lit by baleful fires – you will find our specifications in the guide Mr Addis will give you – and it would be helpful if you could introduce emaciated prisoners and some grim servitors to solemnise the frivolous effects of these monsters of yours.”

The Dark Lord of Derkholm was just such great fun. A romp! A hoot! A whole cast characters who frustrate, endear and amuse. No wonder I sighed when it was over – all too soon!


I read The Dark Lord of Derkholm for Once Upon a Time VII (review site)

Now why have I waited so long to read more by Diana Wynne Jones? I enjoyed the animated film version of Howl’s Moving Castle some years ago (I’m a Miyazaki fan, although I have to admit that Howl’s is not among my favourites – which do include Totoro and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) and might have been overwhelmed by the long list of works she’s created. I did pick up Derkholm after discovering that many of her works are in the e-book library catalogue. Hooray!

I will definitely be reading Derkholm #2 but I would love to know your DWJ recommendations! And ‘all of it!’ doesn’t count.

Here’s her bibliography in chronological order:


Changeover (1970)
Wilkins’ Tooth (1973)
The Ogre Downstairs (1974)
Dogsbody (1975)
Eight Days of Luke (1975)
Cart and Cwidder (1975) – Dalemark
Charmed Life (1977) – Chrestomanci
Drowned Ammet (1977) – Dalemark
Power of Three (1977)
Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? (1978)
The Spellcoats (1979) – Dalemark


The Magicians of Caprona (1980) – Chrestomanci
The Time of the Ghost (1981)
The Homeward Bounders (1981)
Witch Week (1982) – Chrestomanci
Warlock at the Wheel and Other Stories (1984), collection
Archer’s Goon (1984)
The Skiver’s Guide (1984), nonfiction
Fire and Hemlock (1985)
Howl’s Moving Castle (1986) – Howl’s Castle
A Tale of Time City (1987)
The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988) – Chrestomanci
Wild Robert (1989)
Hidden Turnings, edited (1989)
“Mela Worms”, in Arrows of Eros (NEL, 1989)


Castle in the Air (1990) – Howl’s Castle
Black Maria (1991)
“A Slice of Life”, in Now We Are Sick (1991), poem
Yes, Dear (1992)
A Sudden Wild Magic (1992)
Hexwood (1993)
Crown of Dalemark (1993) – Dalemark
Stopping for a Spell (1993), collection
Fantasy Stories, edited (1994)
Everard’s Ride (1995), collection
Spellbound, edited (1995)
Minor Arcana (1996), collection
Deep Secret (1997) – Magids
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1997), nonfiction
Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) – Derkholm
Puss in Boots (1999)
Believing is Seeing (1999), collection


Year of the Griffin (2000) – Derkholm
Mixed Magics (2000), collection – Chrestomanci
Stealer of Souls (2002), originally in Mixed Magics (2000) – Chrestomanci
The Merlin Conspiracy (2003) – Magids
Unexpected Magic (2004), collection
Conrad’s Fate (2005) – Chrestomanci
The Pinhoe Egg (2006) – Chrestomanci
Enna Hittims (2006), originally in Believing is Seeing (1999)
“I’ll Give You My Word”, in Firebirds Rising (Penguin, 2006)
The Game (2007)
House of Many Ways (2008) – Howl’s Castle
“JoBoy”, in The Dragon Book (Ace, 2009)

“Samantha’s Diary”, in Stories: All-New Tales (HarperCollins, 2010)
Enchanted Glass (2010)
Earwig and the Witch (2011)
Reflections On the Magic of Writing (2012), nonfiction


  1. Glad to find another DWJ convert!

    I’m in the middle of revising and posting reviews of the Dalemark books if you’re interested ( and and, as they’re definitely titles I want to re-read I’d recommend them if you enjoyed the Derkholm book (I’ve reviewed that too!).

    Depends if you prefer lighter or more serious fantasy. The Chrestomanci series is humorous in places (though not without jeopardy rearing its head), while something like Fire and Hemlock has more angst and complications than you might expect. I’ve reviewed around sixteen of Jones’ books so far, but I’m not finished yet!


    1. I’m definitely going to read the Dalemark books. They do sound interesting. Great reviews by the way!
      It sounds like I have so many many DWJ books to look forward to!


      1. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start! My first introduction was The Merlin Conspiracy but I wouldn’t necessarily start there.
        Anyway, hope you have many happy hours exploring her oeuvre! And thanks for the compliment about the reviews.


  2. I should read this one again…I love the concept but somehow I remember it dragging a bit. But I LOVE Diana Wynne Jones, so it’s probably worth a second attempt to see if I feel any different.

    I recommend anything Crestomanci, and I especially recommend A Tale of Time City. It’s a nice stand-alone and one of my very favorites.


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