Saturday, August 7, 2010

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones, a book review

Deep Secret was not a case of love at first sight. In fact, I remember hating it when I first read it, though I cannot now remember why. I reread it for the Diana Wynne Jones Week (Yes, I'm going a day over, but I started a day late, so it works out) since Jenny had recommended it, and enjoyed it.

The premise is that there are multiple parallel universes (a common occurrence in Diana Wynne Jones books) and a ruling body of Magids looks after keeping magic and law in order throughout the multiverses. Rupert Venables is one such magid and when his mentor dies, it is his job to find a replacement. Stan, his mentor, is allowed to return temporarily in disembodied form to help, but only in a limited fashion.  As Rupert investigates various possible candidates, Maree Mallory keeps turning up. She is one of the possibles, but Rupert dislikes her and almost immediately decides she cannot possibly be the replacement. In fact, when he sets up a magic working to draw the candidates together at a science fiction convention (Perfect, since magic users cannot act openly on our world and a SF convention is a great place to hid in plain sight), he works to exclude her.

She, in the meantime, is not worried about magic. Instead, she's trying to figure out where she will live and with what money after her (now ex) boyfriend has moved into their apartment with his new girlfriend. She's also having to deal with strange dreams about a disapproving woman who sits in a thorn bush and scolds her for her unladylike behavior. She is also planning on going to the science fiction convention, partly as moral support for her uncle, who is a guest of honor, and partly because her aunt and uncle, with whom she is staying, have decided she and her cousin, Nick, are not to be trusted alone in the house--wild parties will result.

Rupert is not pleased to see her, but he is preoccupied with the question of succession in a nearby empire and busy trying to choose the next Magid.

Likable elements: The characters. Rupert starts out seeming impossible, but turns out to be someone trying desperately to do the right thing--even if he thinks his bosses don't really want him saving the day this time. Maree is stubborn, independent, and determined. Nick constantly describes himself as selfish, but goes to a lot of trouble for his friends. Aunt Janine, the villain of the day, is truly terrible, and wonderful at once.

The multiple universe concept is always fun because it allows one to glimpse any number of places, though I think my favorite part is still the hotel itself--as someone who gets lost often and easily, I like the idea that sometimes places really are shifting around.

And I loved the way secrets are hidden in nursery rhymes; the Road to Babylon was perfect.

Didn't like: The science fiction convention. With everything else going on, the convention itself was a bit of a letdown. Who cares about fictional fantasy authors' descriptions of writing or the orgiastic activities of attendees when an empire is falling apart?

Stained glass alert: Uncle Ted has old stained glass windows that look into other dimensions (whether literally or not is never quite clear, and in any case irrelevant to the book).

For other reviews see Jenny's complaint about American bowdlerization, Jeanne's review over at Necromancy Never Pays, Christy's at A Good Stopping Point,  and Jane's at Teabag Central.


  1. Aw, I'm sad you didn't care for the convention--that's probably my favorite thing about the book. It sounds so pleasant and fun, and I loved it when Rupert and Maree had a moment to enjoy it (when she made him buy all those books!). Plus I did like the panels. It made me want to go to a sci-fi convention my own self.

  2. From the various reviews, I'd say I was in the minority on the convention. I did like the book-buying--it's one indication that Rupert might, actually, be a likable sort of person. The rest, I could do without.