Deep Secret, by Diana Wynne Jones

Please note: the plot of Diana Wynne Jones's novel Deep Secret is convoluted, the characters are slow to develop, and Jones's conception of magic is not the usual whiz-bang Harry Potter-style action. In order to do this story justice, you're going to need to pay attention. This is not the kind of book that you can skim.

The hero of Deep Secret is an arrogant young man named Rupert Venables. Rupert is a "magid"--a sort of magical middle-management flunky in charge of keeping the magic in a small section of reality under control. Unfortunately for Rupert, the slice of reality he's stuck babysitting includes the Koryforic Empire--a violent nation whose entire ruling party is blown up at the beginning of the story. As Rupert scrambles to find an heir for the Koryforic Empire, he's also searching for a replacement for his recently deceased mentor, Stan, an older magid whose ghost is haunting Rupert's car radio.

In an effort to speed matters up, Rupert pulls some mystical strings and brings all of the candidates for both the heir to the Koryforic Empire and Stan's replacement together in one place: a British sci-fi convention. After all, he reasons, nobody will look twice at people with weird outfits or the odd extra limb at a sci-fi convention, so he'll be able to do his evaluations back-to-back without upsetting the neighbors.

Like any other fantasy novel, Deep Secret is stuffed to the gills with magic, but flashy magical special effects are never the most interesting thing about the story. Sure, there are witches and centaurs and magical quests, but the book's tone is so rational and the characters' magical abilities are worked into the story so seamlessly that even the most fantastic plot twists seem credible. If magic did exist, this is exactly how I would picture it operating.

Of all of the Diana Wynne Jones books I have read (and they're all incredible), Deep Secret is my favorite. It's funny, intelligent, and complicated--perfect reading for any fantasy fan who's looking for something other than an Everquest-style sword and sorcery fest. But please take your time, and remember: after you've finished Deep Secret, there's a sequel, The Merlin Conspiracy, about the further adventures of one of Deep Secret's most amusing characters. Jones's Deep Secret is yet another awesome novel from a woman with more skill and imagination in her little finger than many bigger-name writers have in their entire bodies. (I name no names, but I'm looking at you, Cornelia Funke.)
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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