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The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
Description from book
Whether you're a first-time visitor or a committed Fantasyland traveller, The Tough Guide has everything you need to get the most from your Tour.
Lord of Derkholm
Review by Jane (email@example.com)
Description from book
What does it feel like to suddenly have to
be Dark Lord?
What does it feel like when most of your
brothers and sisters are griffins?
What does it feel like to be Wizard Guide
to a Pilgrim Party?
Dark Lord of Derkholm is the winner of the 1999 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature.
Also reviewed in fanzine.
DWJ goes to university in this fast and fun fantasy. Although set in the same world as Dark Lord of Derkholm, it's not a sequel as such. So, while it adds to your enjoyment if you have read the first book, it's not essential.
Eight years on from Dark Lord, Year of the Griffin follows Elda, the youngest griffin daughter of wizards Derk and Mara, as she goes to the Wizards' University, much against Derk's will. The book starts by saying that "Nothing was going right with the Wizards' University." For the rest of that year, nothing goes as expected. The other students in Elda's group also have reasons for trying to keep their studies secret, so when Corkoran, the cash-strapped, single-minded university chairman, writes begging letters to the students' families, the university faces its most eventful year ever.
Assassins, pirates, greedy dwarfs and an army are just some of the visitors who disrupt classes. Then there's the griffin gang who try to terrorise Elda and her friends. On top of that, the students have to cope with jinxes, their magical inexperience, and incompetent - if not outright barking mad - teachers.
Comedy flows like an undercurrent throughout this book. For example, Ruskin the dwarf's explanation of why he is at university: "Dwarf, artisan tribe, from Central Peaks fastness, come by the virtual manumission of apostolic strength to train on behalf of the lower orders." Confused? So was Corkoran. Rather than building up to comic highlights, the sense of humour is ever-present. It's as if DWJ is enjoying herself greatly, gently poking fun - less at people than at the situations they cause. Corkoran, unwisely obsessed with getting to the moon, is as crazy as he is funny. But his habits and behaviour lead to lots of entertaining scenes. Even the assassins give rise to several funny situations. And, all too rare in comic fantasies, this book does not rely on plain silliness for its humour.
Although I wouldn't call this a rites of passage book, the young students have a lot of growing to do as they face the great pleasures of university as well as some potentially very nasty problems. It becomes clearer and clearer that, just as in Dark Lord of Derkholm, a great many of the so-called adults need to grow up as well. Learning is not just for the young.
As with all DWJ books, the pace is fast and furious. You can't put the book down, because each turn of the page leads into a new stage of the story. You need to pay attention: strands weave in and out of each other at intervals. And, as always, there's a satisfactory resolution at the end. It's great entertainment, and sheer good fun. I loved Dark Lord, and I love Year of the Griffin. In this series, DWJ has hit on the potential for many more great stories. I hope to see more books set on this world. (Meredith)