The Merlin Conspiracy
by Diana Wynne Jones
Greenwillow, 2003, ISBN 0-06-052318-2
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
This is a loose sequel to Deep Secret. Nick Mallory is now a (reasonably) normal teenager living on Earth with his adopted father, Ted Mallory, desperately seeking the ability to travel between worlds on his own, and nursing the ambition of becoming a Magid. Meanwhile, on an alternate Earth, Roddy and Grundo are discovering a terrible conspiracy within the King's Progress on the Isle of Blest--but no one will listen to them because, after all, they're just kids. Then Roddy's maternal grandfather snatches them away from the Progress for a visit in Wales, and turns out to be the Red Dragon of Cymru. When the conspirators, needing to bend a Great Power to their purposes, succeed in snagging the Dragon, Roddy and Grundo are really on their own. The Dragon's not willing, and the conspirators, who include Grundo's vile mother, are likely to overstep the limits of their control at some point, but in the meantime, they can't altogether trust him.
Nick Mallory, meanwhile, did finally blunder into another world, and has been having adventures of his own, of the painfully educational kind. After nearly getting killed as a spy, and nearly sentenced to slave labor, and helping a talking elephant, and a very alarming visit to an island where he has to tend the very ailing man whom he thought would be able to help him, he finds himself on Blest and, despite all his most selfish impulses, helping Roddy and Grundo because there isn't anyone else to do it. All the adults who might have been able to help, if they believed the children, have been snatched away--by the Dragon.
This really makes it all sound simpler and more straightforward than it is. I haven't even mentioned the salamanders, for instance. It's a nicely convoluted and confusing tale, and, while not quite as good as Deep Secret, very enjoyable.