NESFA Members' Reviews

coverThe Merlin Conspiracy

by Diana Wynne Jones

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Greenwillow 2003, $16.99, 469 pp

This is in some ways a sequel to Deep Magic in that Nick Mallory (former Heir Apparent to the Koroforyonic Empire (which lies at the center of the alternate universes) and now adopted son of British SF and horror writer Ted Mallory) is one of the main characters. It's set in the larger slightly-connected series of the Magids.

The story takes place on several Earths as it follows several teen-agers setting off to deal with their problems. One pair is Roddy and Grundo, a pair of wizards-in-training who live in an odd parallel modern England (called "Blest" from the Island of the Blessed) where the King moves around the country on a permanent Progress accompanied by a huge retinue of advisors and guards and wizards. (Jones spends a bit of time on this, detailing the logistics of it all, especially since the stops along the Progress are never notified in advance!)

Roddy and Grundo stumble on a conspiracy among some of the wizards to ensorcel the rest and to take control of the kingdom. Their early attempts to stop it draw in Nick Mallory, who wants to become a Magid and lacking anyone to teach him on our Earth is studying on his own.

The three don't actually get together until fairly late in the book, but are in fragmentary contact with each other as they stumble along their various paths.

An amusing part of the story involved another main character is the Magid of Blest who makes his living writing mysteries. They don't sell well in his world, but are hot on other Earths – including our own – because they're mysteries set in such a fascinating and detailed imaginary world of magic. Part of the book deals with his problems with illegal import of salamanders (the magical kind) into Blest for use by minor and would-be sorcerers to enhance their power. Not only does he want to stop them from treating these animals inhumanely as a source of power, but he'd rather London not be burned down if they get out of control as they inevitably would.

I wonder why all the kids in Diana Wynne Jones stories have at least a few weird and not very nice relatives?

I didn't find this to be quite as engrossing as Deep Secret, but like most of Diana Wynne Jones' stories it's worth reading.

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