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THE MERLIN CONSPIRACY Paperback – 1 Mar 2004
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Master fantasist Diana Wynne Jones, author of the Chrestomanci books, scores another winner in The Merlin Conspiracy. This absorbing tale of magic and courtly intrigue is told in two voices. In the world called Islands of the Blest, Roddy is a young page who has grown up travelling with her family in the King's Progress, a constant journey around the kingdom. Just after she and her younger friend Grundo spot a growing conspiracy to overthrow the King and change the balance of magic, they are whisked away to visit Roddy's grim and silent grandfather; when they return the Progress has moved on without them. Meanwhile in another world, Nick Mallory, 14, blunders into a dreamlike adventure that leads him to the powerful wizard Romanov and involves him in Roddy's mission to save the worlds from the upset planned by the conspiracy.
The story moves through several precariously linked worlds in vividly imagined episodes told alternately by Roddy and Nick, as their journeys begin to mesh. Part of the fun for the reader is sorting out Roddy's many wizardly relatives from the double perspective and clicking them into place in the plot. Wynne Jones's many fans will pounce on this complex but fast-moving fantasy that features not only 34 characters, but a panther, a goat, a dragon, and an extremely charming elephant. (Ages 10-14) --Patty Campbell, Amazon.com
“The characterisation is first rate, the ideas are fabulous … This is fantasy at its most inventive – canny, funny and far-reaching.” The Telegraph
“A curiosity shop of a book … a pleasure to lose yourself in.” The Sunday Times
“The Merlin Conspiracy is Wynne Jones on top form … [her] powerful narrative and her ability to create extraordinary charachers with real emotions make her more than a worthy rival to J K Rowling.” Financial Times
“A must for all Wynne Jones fans, past, present and future.” Limited EditionSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
Story is interesting and the characters are likeable.
The enjoyable parts are that the multi-world universe, the magical and mythological descriptions are beautifully-written. The plot itself; the balance of entire worlds being threatened by a conspiracy in the Isle of Blest is an interesting idea. The world building is so believable that you feel you could almost get there by turning the next page. I loved the descriptions of the magical folk, the great powers and the personification of entire cities in Blest. The details of weather, houses, animals and landscape are also wonderfully atmospheric.
With the vast imagination on display it really is a bit of a shame that I couldn't like all of it.
The biggest problem is really to do with the characters. *The next part of the review does include a spoiler*.
Nick Mallory is certainly the best of the bunch, he is written as a conscientious boy with a thoughtful and practical mind. Even he gets a little tedious with his unrequited crush on Roddy though. As a lead character Roddy (Arianrhod) Hyde is a disappointment. She comes across as snobbish and patronising much of the time and then given to bursting into tears when she is under pressure. One particular scene that almost made me give up reading is the discovery that Roddy has been manipulated by a friend. There are several problems with this; her reaction is to run off, have a good cry on Nick's shoulder and feel bad about herself. Given Roddy's temperamental nature it would have been a redeeming moment to give the friend a hard thwack with some of her vast array of spells but, alas no, it doesn't happen. It's also rather irritating that the scene comes rather late in the book. Roddy has already been in a dozen situations where this could've been spotted.
I just couldn't take to the female characters in this book. Most of them appear either meek and anxious mousey types or arrogant, self-centred, hysterical harridans who are not very intelligent. The female villain is scarcely credible (for a lead conspirator) as her intelligence seems to be equal with a piece of boiled string. You won't find as scintillating a figure as The Witch of the Waste (from Howl's Moving Castle) here.
I still very much like other DWJ books and this is worth a read for the incredible world-building. However, be prepared in case you find the lead characters to be mostly unlikeable.
Meanwhile Nick, the other narrator, already a refugee from one world, gets drawn through a few other worlds looking for Romanov, a man who might just have the power to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill whom and why. He promises to help Roddy as part of a journey quest, befriending an elephant on the way, and encountering a malevolent goat named Helga.
The plot's intricate but all comes together in a satisfying ending as Roddy works out just what "raising the land" involves - dragons, Stonehenge, and all her extended and rather mad family...
The only problem is it seems to take forever just to build up the story. Don't get me wrong, I've no problem with big build ups, they usually lead to big climaxes.
However, the climax to this story while exciting seems rushed. It seems to me The Merlin Conspiracy could do with being a series of books, and the end is left fully open to a sequel, it just seems that the real story doesn't start quick enough to enthrall a less than dedicated reader.
In a time where big action is the big thing this wonderful fantasy might be lost to most readers who prefer the short more action filled journeys. It should not be overlooked however as the characters excel at being intresting, from the complexities of the main characters Roddy and Nick, to the sublimely awful Izzies.
A compelling read that, while it could be longer, is still a fantastic and classic story.
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