"The cool thing about Diana Wynne Jones is that we've read many of her books, but her stories are all very different.
She doesn't repeat herself. This one goes from amazing to intense, maybe it's even a little too intense," says my 13 yr. old.
As you can tell, we here are huge fans of Diana Wynne Jones.
We admire the magical worlds she creates and her characters -- human, wizard, and fantastical -- captivate us.
We find the plots of her stories unpredictable but plausible, at least in the magical environments in which they
Dark Lord of Derkholm is about a planet that is used as a playground by a imperial power, in the person of one
"Mr. Chesney". The inhabitants are compelled to stage elaborate wargames, games in which they and the tourists who pay to
join them risk losing lives, families, and livelihoods. (Lest this be thought of as a metaphor for the American adventure in Iraq,
please note that this story was written back in 1998, before our Mr. Cheney lead us there.)
I have a friend whose brilliant son graduated from college and then promptly enlisted in the military. "Maybe I won't get sent
to Iraq," he told her. "Yeah, and why are they teaching you Arabic?" she asked him. There are young people who need to
truly understand how terrible war can be. And maybe we should try to communicate this to them before they are
old enough to sign on the dotted line of that enlistment contract.
But what about the kids who have already drunk the Kool-Aid? Those who know that war is not a game. Do they
need to know that mercenaries sometimes rape innocent children? That sometimes heroes die in battle?
That those who sponsor the wars often profit vastly from the carnage? Maybe not. But I think I'd have been happier if
my friend's son had thought about these things before he enlisted.
So, do we recommend Dark Lord of Denholm? Not for sensitive children. Because they will fall in love with the griffins
and the dragons and flying horses and annoying geese and Derk and his human children and then they will read about how
all these gorgeous characters suffer just because they live in a society that plays at war.
Do I think our children ought to read books like this one? Even though they can hardly bring themselves to read on?
Yes. In a country where our leaders feel comfortable cheerfully singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the melody of a Beach Boys song,
our children need to read about how a downtrodden society can pull itself together and say "No" to war.