I didn't really want to read anything by Diana Wynne Jones after Howl's Moving Castle. Howl wasn't in anymore of the stories, what good would they be? But I finally talked myself into House of Many Ways and was surprised by how much I loved it. Then, while visiting the DeLallos I was told I should read the rest of Jones' books, just accepting that there would be no Howl. I agreed, when one sister loaned me her copy of The Dark Lord of Derkholm. My Jones' list grew by the end of it.
Blade, like everyone else in his world, is tired of the Pilgrim Parties. These are groups of tourists who come over from another world to fight Dark Wizards and other elements in Blade's world. Villages are destroyed, people are killed, and Blade's people don't get much out of it but a few oranges if they're lucky. Everyone has had enough.
There is a problem though. No one has the means to stop the parties, so once again, they agree to go through with them and this year Blade's father - Derk, not the best Wizard out there - gets to be the Dark Lord. It is the Dark Lord's job to provide a Dragon and allow the Pilgrims to "kill" him at the end of the party. Shouldn't be too hard. Wizards have been doing it for years. There is only one problem though, none of the other Wizards had Blade for a son - and Griffin children.
Things turn into a disaster when Derk is injured and the party is left in the hands of Blade, his sister, and their Griffin brothers and sisters. But they know what they are doing, don't they? After all, they have a rule book, so how hard can it possibly be?
I think the only one in the world who could make Humans and Griffins siblings and not have it weird is Diana Wynne Jones. When I read the summary I thought it was strange, but when I read the book it sounded completely natural. She was an extremely talented writer.
I ended up loving all of the brothers and sisters, but by the end of the book my favourites were Blade and the oldest Griffin, Kit. Jones has a gift for characters. She writes the best heroes.
The plot, as always,w as fun. It was a bit grimmer than Howl's plot - as I mentioned, some of the Wizards talk about how villagers die. There are battles in the book, but nothing gruesome. (Blade fights in one and uses geese, so, you can use your imagination.)
At one point, Blade's sister is attacked by criminals, and while it is hinted what their intentions are, it is never said. She is saved before anything happens to her.
Something happens to Kit which is shocking, but over all, the book has the same fun feel as Howl's. It is full of mishaps as Blade and his siblings do their best to help their father out, and make things even more difficult for awhile.
There are Elves and Dragons in the story. The Elves are not so much like Tolkiens but like the original Elves - a bit darker and you're not sure you can completely trust them. (The Dragons are cool, especially the main Dragon. I liked him. A lot.
Like with Howl, there are demons in this book. And gods. (It is easy to ignore them because they don't act like either, more like fantastical beings same as Dragons.) But they are there, as a heads up to anyone who might read the book.
Over all it was a fun story and solidified my belief that I need to read the rest of Jones' books.