Diana Wynne Jones
Rupert Venables develops computer games and seems to lead a perfectly
normal life. But it is actually only a cover for his true identity: like
his two brothers Will and Simon, Rupert is a Magid, a powerful wizard
responsible for maintaining the balance between good and evil on Earth,
which is part of a multiverse of parallel worlds, half of them being
magical, while on the other half – including Earth – it is difficult
to do magic. At the beginning of the story Rupert is summoned to the court
of the Emperor of the Korifonic Empire to witness a "trial"
leaving him rather shocked.
Then his mentor dies and Rupert, becoming a mentor himself, has to set
out to look for a trainee. Since the potential candidates are spread out
over the entire world, he has the idea to make them all attend a science
fiction convention in England. For some reason it seems to be important to
stay in the Hotel Babylon where it takes place. But Rupert is very
unlucky; nothing goes as he had planned it, and the unexpected magic he
has to deal with at the hotel gives him quite a headache.
As if he didn't have enough on his plate, the sudden death of the
Emperor of the Korifonic Empire requires him to look for the heirs,
because the Emperor was so paranoid that he didn't allow his children to
grow up in the Palace out of fear they would overthrow him one day. To put
it bluntly, they don't even know that the Emperor was their father,
complicating the search a great deal.
Diana Wynne Jones, who is well known for her children's books, has also
written a few novels for grown-ups. Deep Secret is one of them, and
a lot of people seem to consider it to be her best to date. I can't (yet)
tell you if I agree, but it will be difficult to top it. I don't know
whether it was the compelling story or the characters, but it fascinated
me from the first to the last page. The point of view constantly changes
between Rupert and Maree Mallory (one of the potential trainees), and I
found it interesting to read the story from two completely different
perspectives. The seriousness of the situation Rupert, Maree and her
cousin Nick find themselves in is lightened from time to time by Rupert's
mentor Stan, being at his side as a ghost. On various occasions Rupert has
to explain why there is classical music playing in his car when no radio
station in the vicinity is broadcasting it.
Deep Secret is a very fine fantasy novel, not a long-winded epic,
but a story you can lose yourself in, featuring three-dimensional
characters you are sure to have met personally in the end and whose fate
won't leave you cold.
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