Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Guest review: The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones

Today for Under 14s Only Month we are joined by Sarah Bryars who has very kindly written a review for a book by one of her favourite fantasy writers, the late, great Diana Wynne Jones. For those of you who don't know Sarah (aka @Esssjay on Twitter), she was one of the co-writers of the brilliant My Favourite Books blog before it shut shop at the end of 2012, and Sarah has since been concentrating on her own writing. 


Now over to Sarah:

My love for Diana Wynne Jones started with The Merlin Conspiracy. I’ve read a lot of books about magic and adventure but nobody does it quite like her. Romanov, one of her characters, says, “Magic is wide, various and big,” which sort of sums her work up – it’s hard to put into words what makes her so special.

The Merlin Conspiracy follows two stories that eventually join up. The first is Roddy’s. She lives in the land of Blest, which is a mirror version of our own with identical place names. However, she’s a part of the travelling court called the Progress which contains the King and the incredibly important Merlin who go from place to place to ensure the stability of the land. But Merlin dies mysteriously and there’s something weird about his replacement. Suspicious, Roddy and her friend Grundo discovers that something terrible is happening and an awful plot is underway.

Meanwhile, Nick is very much based in our world although he’s desperate to step out of it. When at a writing convention in London he’s nudged sideways and finds himself in what he thinks is a dream world. After some false turns, a brush or two with death and a meeting with an elephant Nick learns of Roddy’s problems in Blest and promises to help. Meanwhile, in Blest, Roddy gets left behind by the Progress. With no adults to help her or her friend Grundo they have to be resourceful. Nick and Roddy have to find a way to sort out the Merlin Conspiracy and restore order to the land.

Diana Wynne Jones is one of those writers who can manage a vast plot and all its many unravellings without making you feel nervous. Even though at times I felt that I was never going to get out of depths of this parallel universe she always finds a way to both steer you through but remind you of the heart of the story. Her characters don’t need wands or set rules but instead have an acceptance of the wild nature of myth and magic. I don’t know how she does it but her books are very special things. In fact, my copy of The Merlin Conspiracy came from my library where I work. When it was taken off the shelves for being too battered I adopted it and took it home. The fact that its pages are yellow and falling out make it even more special. Okay, I’m aware I sound a bit mad now with the book adopting but it’s what I do.

The Merlin Conspiracy is a companion novel to Deep Secret but you don’t have to have read it to enjoy this one.


Here's the blurb for The Merlin Conspiracy:

When the Merlin of Blest dies, everyone thinks it's a natural death. But Roddy and Grundo, two children traveling with the Royal Court, soon discover the truth. The Merlin's replacement and other courtiers are scheming to steal the magic of Blest for their own purposes.

Roddy enlists the help of Nick, a boy from another world, and the three turn to their own impressive powers. The dangers are great, and if Roddy, Grundo, and Nick cannot stop the conspirators, the results will be more dreadful than they could possibly imagine.

Huge thanks to Sarah for taking part in Under 14s Only Month. I have to admit, although I have read and loved a number of Diana's books this is one that has eluded me but based on Sarah's review I think I'm going to have to hunt out the copy that I am sure I have got hidden away somewhere. Watch this space for at least one more (and hopefully more) guest reviews this month. 


  1. This is so worth a read... It's even better if you read the (sort of) prequel where we first meet Nick - Deep Secret: one of DWJ's least-known books and one of my absolute favourites.

  2. It was a Very good read. It was hard to put down. I love all of Diana wynne jones books.