Saturday, May 26, 2007

Expect the unexpected

As usual, you never know what's going to happen in a Diana Wynne Jones novel. This one is told from the point of view of several characters, notably Rupert Venables, a magid (a sort of mage charged with maintaining balance in the multiverse) and Maree, a young woman who is (unbeknownst to her) a candidate for becoming a new magid. Rupert is new to his work, having only been a magid for two years, but when his teacher dies, it is up to him to find a replacement. He is given a list of possibilities to investigate, but that investigation is difficult to pursue because he must also help out a government on the verge of collapse in another world. It doesn't help that Maree finds Rupert impossibly stuffy, and he thinks she is preposterous and annoying; they suddenly find that they are going to have to work together to find a way out of a very dangerous situation.

It sounds utterly far-fetched and complicated, but trust me - Jones will suck you into the story, and it will make complete sense. She takes seemingly unconnected plot threads and weaves them beautifully into a storyline that leads all the characters to PhantasmaCon, a science fiction convention that is an affectionate homage to all such conventions and their colorful attendees. When unbelievable and fantastic events occur there (such as the sudden appearance of a wounded centaur in their midst), no one bats an eye - they all assume things are part of the convention ("Wow, fantastic costume!").

The book is sweet and touching, with dark humor, romance, action and adventure. And just when you think you know where the story is going, you'll find a new twist to carry you along in an unexpected direction, wondering what could possibly happen next. As with just about everything Diana Wynne Jones writes, this one is highly recommended.

Books in the Merlin Cycle:
1. Deep Secret
2. The Merlin Conspiracy

Deep Secret (#1 in the Merlin Cycle) by Diana Wynne Jones (Tor, 1999)