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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Mr. Chesney operates Pilgrim Parties, a tour group that takes paying participants into an outer realm where the inhabitants play frightening and foreboding roles. The time has come to end the staged madness . . . but can it really be stopped? Master storyteller Diana Wynne Jones serves up twists and turns, introduces Querida, Derk, Blade, and Shona and a remarkable cast of wizards, soldiers, kings, dragons, and griffins, and mixes in a lively dash of humor. With all the ingredients of high fantasy, this unforgettable novel will delight fans old and new.…

Dark Lord of Derkholm

by Diana Wynne Jones

Overall Book Review:

Older teen readers of fantasy will delight in Jones’s whimsical vision of a magical world that is forced to turn itself into a theme park each year, complete with pirates, avian predators, armies of the Forces of Good and Evil, and, of course, a Dark Lord.

The story begins quickly and moves forward easily, with a few slower digressions. Readers who enjoy the book will get caught up in Wizard Derk’s family’s efforts to carry out their roles and to thwart the grasping Mr. Chesney.

Reading Level: 4.6, range 2.9-6.2. (Reading level seems inaccurately low.)

Of interest to boys and girls.

This review has been acquired and adapted from

Content Analysis:

 This review was acquired from on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist.  Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here.  The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.

10 d*mn/ed, 3 h*ll, 2 sod, 1*ss—as in “jackass,” 1 piss off

Dragon bats aside griffin; burns wizard with fire, quite graphic; hero dreams of criminals killing each other and attacking him, not graphic; carnivorous sheep attack criminals, not graphic; dragon eats cows, offers part to griffins, appears to eat a man, quite graphic; girl attacked by criminals, not graphic; descriptions of battles of forces of Good and Evil, not very graphic; man run through with a sword, not too graphic; hero sees corpses of people “brutally attacked” by criminals, not graphic; griffin shot with arrows, somewhat graphic; hero chained and caged, wizard orders him killed; hero and griffin brother supposed to fight each other to the death; griffin reports he had to fight and kill four humans and six lions; geese attack tourists.

Mother is to be the Evil Enchantress, wants a villager to pretend he’s her former lover that she’s “drained to skin and bones”—mentioned twice—mother wears skimpy dresses mentioned twice, not graphic; someone worries that women will be raped if they’re not out of the way; mention of criminals making remarks about what a girl is like “under her clothes and what ought to be done with her,” and mention of even more horrible, “lewder” suggestions; criminals attack girl—she’s rescued before she’s harmed; mention of slave girls’ gauzy clothes, not graphic—hero looks away; mention of villager wearing “fluttering threads” of old clothes, protests he’s not decent; young couple kisses twice, not graphic, once described as “passionate”; implication that wizards get their pick of girlfriends from the tour members.

Mature Subject Matter:


Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults drink beer, accepted; one wizard is an alcoholic and often drunk, disapproved; adult smokes cigar, accepted; criminals drugged to control them, accepted; hero drugged, disapproved.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

On May 15, 2014 Compass Book Ratings acquired Many reviews were acquired from and these reviews were not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist. Nevertheless, the reviews contain useful content information which is included.