Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Merlin Conspiracy

Don't you love it when you discover that there's a book by a favorite author that you think you've read, but then it turns out you never did? That happened with this book by Diana Wynne Jones, one of my top five favorite authors - and it turned out to be the sequel to Deep Secret, which I'd reread fairly recently, so that was serendipitous!

The book alternates between the viewpoints of two characters: Nick (whom we met in Deep Secret) - a young man who yearns to learn magic and to be a Magid one day - and Roddy, a young woman in an alternate world who has lived her entire life traveling across the land with the Royal Progress. Nick has reluctantly agreed to accompany his adopted father, a famous mystery writer, to a writers' conference in London. From there Nick is suddenly whisked away into an alternate universe.

Meanwhile, Roddy and her best friend, Grundo, discover a conspiracy surrounding the new Merlin (here Merlin is a position, the leading wizard of the nation who stands at the ruler's right hand) - a conspiracy that threatens not just the king, but the very essence of their land and its magic. Only no one believes them (which make sense, because part of the conspiracy involves a spell that confounds all the members of the Royal Progress). Roddy doesn't know where to turn - and in an attempt to find help, she meets up with Nick, who is blundering around trying to find his way back home.

This is a complex tale with all the twists, turns and delightful surprises that are to be expected in Diana Wynne Jones's books, and I very much enjoyed it. It does stand alone as a novel, but without the background from Deep Secret, I believe most readers would suspect they were missing part of the story - and personally, I hate feeling that way. I loved the development of the characters and their relationships with each other - and the fact that just when you think you have things sorted out, something shifts and you need to re-examine the book in a different light. The dialog is wonderful, revealing character and providing many laugh-out-loud moments, and there are plenty of memorable characters to love (my particular favorite is Mini the elephant) and intriguing places to visit. This is a complex, intelligent, delightful fantasy novel, and I highly recommend it.

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

The Merlin Conspiracy (#2 in the Merlin Cycle) by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Books, 2003)

Also reviewed at:
Someone's Read It Already: "The story’s a bit complex, and it’s got a strong dose of adults-ignoring-children’s-warnings going on, so if you enjoy that aspect of the Harry Potter books, I’d say this is the Diana Wynne Jones book for you."

15 comments:

  1. Holy cow you're a busy book blogger today! Or, this week. I just know you keep showing up in my feeds.;)

    I have always wanted to try Diana Wynn Jones books but then chicken out worried that I won't like them. But they always draw my eye at the store. Perhaps I will have to give them a shot - any suggestions what I should start with?

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  2. Oh no! I have this on my TBR pile and was all ready to read it next month, but I hadn't realized it was part of a series. I need to get Deep Secret first!

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  3. Cat - I am SO far behind in my book reviews, and I'm trying to get caught up! Plus I have lots of studying to do, and (can you tell what a hopeless geek I am?) I have been rewarding myself for focused studying with a little blogging time. As far as which one to start with - wow, there are a lot out there! You might try her recent one, House of Many Ways, which is a standalone. Or try Howl's Moving Castle,, which is fun, too! I'll be interested to hear what you think of her books.

    Nymeth - You really can read it on its own, but I think you might feel a bit out of the loop. But Deep Secret is a lot of fun - you're sure to enjoy it. I hope you'll be able to find a copy soon!

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  4. I still have not read Diana Wynne Jones, but this series sounds right up my alley! Thanks Darla.

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  5. Mariel - you are in for a treat! I can't wait to hear what you think if you try one of her books. I do not think you will be disappointed!

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  6. Yeah, I just hate reading stuff out of order. I'll find a copy of Deep Secret first, and I'm sure I'll really enjoy both :)

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  7. Nymeth - I'm the same way. I'll be looking foward to your thoughts on them in any case!

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  8. oh you know what I'd need? A Diana Wynne Jones challenge! I've only read Fire and Hemlock, but I have The first Chrestomanci still unread on the shelf. And this book sounds really cool too!

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  9. Maybe you should host one, Valentina - I'd join and do rereads, because DWJ is always fun to reread (and maybe I could read another one to my kids).

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  10. This is awesome! Reminds me of why I got into illusions in the first place, simply shows that nothings impossible. Awesome post!

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  11. Thanks, Maigizzy - and thanks for stopping by!

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  12. I have this but had no idea it was a follow up to Deep Secret doh. Sounds like it's a great read and I am looking forward to getting to it. Thanks for the review and glad you stumbled upon it :)

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  13. It doesn't say anywhere on my copy of the book that it is a sequel to Deep Secret, so I'm not sure how anyone's supposed to know. I found out from Jones's website, I think. Can't wait to hear what you think of it!

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  14. Ah that makes sense! There is one before!

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  15. Siminy - Yes, I wish they would make that more apparent on the book flap. My copy made no mention of it being a sequel!

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