Rupert Venables is a Magid.
It’s a Magid’s job to oversee what goes on in the vast Multiverse. Actually, Rupert is really only a junior Magid. But he’s got a king-sized problem. Rupert’s territory includes Earth and the Empire of Korfyros. When his mentor dies Rupert must find a replacement. But there are hundreds of candidates. How is he supposed to choose? And interviewing each one could take forever.
What if he could round them all up in one place?
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I am well familiar with Diana Wynne Jones’ books, and she’s firmly lodged at the top of my favorite authors list. So you can imagine how excited I was to find this at the bookstore when I hadn’t been able to find anything besides the Chrestomanci series and various Howl’s Moving Castle books.
When I saw that Deep Secret was written in first person, I had some doubts on how much I would end up liking it. The other DWJ first-person narrative I read was Conrad’s Fate, which I disliked (though not necessarily hated– it has Christopher Chant in it, after all, and he’s my favorite DWJ character). The plot was slow-going, and while I don’t think every book has to get a running start I do prefer books that start to pick up after the first 100 pages. Anything more than that and I tend to feel frustrated and impatient. This one didn’t really until around 200-something, but I stuck with it anyway because it’s DWJ. (I’m happy I did!)
Rupert wasn’t exactly helping to entice me to stay; I thought he was really annoying, and if I had to read an entire book with just his POV, I would have taken a lot loner to finish than I did. However, Rupert is thankfully <i>not</i> the only POV we get– there’s Maree’s as well (and her cousin Nick’s later on). I really liked Maree! She’s not a typical heroine, and atypical heroines are my favorite kind. There’s also a lot of interesting little details and background characters that helped easy my irritation. Around half of the story takes place at a fantasy convention, and DWJ stuck in a lot of fannish things, like cosplay, and small references to other fantasy writers, like Neil Gaiman (they happen to be friends, as well). And crossdressers! Actually, there’s quite a bit of more teen/adult-type things in this book than in her other books (the Chrestomanci ones, for instance). I found that a pleasant change from her usual stuff.
The story gets really exciting in the last 100 pages. I could barely stop myself from running around the room, I couldn’t stand the suspense. Also! The ending was perfect. Nick very kindly filled us in on certain parts of the story that Rupert wasn’t privy to earlier on, parts that were driving me insane because I wanted to know what happened to Nick and Maree (and Rob, the centaur that shows up). If that ending wasn’t there I think I would have thrown the book across the room, seriously.
There’s a lot packed into such a short book, but that makes it all the richer. I liked it, even if it has some irritants, and by the end I loved all the characters, even the ones who annoyed me at first (Rupert). I look forward to finally being able to read The Merlin Conspiracy, which is a kind of sequel to this one.
Read: November 2008