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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 2 July 2013
Author has written books for different ages. This is probably for the older young person although I thought it good even at my advanced age.
Story is interesting and the characters are likeable.
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on 16 September 2011
There are so many things that I usually love about Diana Wynne Jones' books and while there is plenty to be marvelled at in "The Merlin Conspiracy", I have to say it isn't a book that I would read again.

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.
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on 14 April 2003
This is a great romp through familiar DW-J territory - alternative worlds, and magical families. Arianrhod (Roddy, one of the two narrators) and Grundo are part of the King's Progress, the travelling Court, but have to travel alone through the Isles of Blest (a "squished and stretched" British Isles) to stop a plot to take all the magic in the land and use it for evil. The Little People advise Roddy to raise the land to stop the plot, but she has little to go on until she figures out her inherited magic "database".
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...
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on 3 March 2004
The Merlin Conspiracy is a good basic story, the characters are beautifully developed and the various links and connections between them both compelling and enthralling.
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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on 21 May 2003
I would like to say that this book is great. The storyline is amazing, especially how their lives come together and you find out who everybody is. But, sadly, I can't give it the 5 stars it deserves because I feel that if you are one of those people who needs the end of a book to be good expect a disappointment as this one isn't. I couldn't put the book down and I was reaching the end and you get to the climax, it calms down once more and then it stops. As if she just stopped writing, not even as if she got fed up and brought it to a quick close. It just finishes, and I'd like to say I'm disappointed. Yet, even so, I would still recommend you to read this book. As it is one of the best.
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on 1 September 2012
This book is an indirect sequel to Deep Secrets, though this fact isn't very well publicised. I ended up reading this first, but since this is technically a stand-alone book, I had no trouble diving right in. It takes place in a number of different universes, and the plot is pretty complex, involving time travel and things nobody in-story can quite understand (it's not a bad thing, I swear!). Despite that, it's an easy read, breathtakingly written, though as others have noted it does take a while to get to the climax. I only wish that there had been a little more epilogue- by this time I was very attached to the characters and didn't want to let them go. Actually, I'd have loved a sequel or two.

This is probably my favourite DWJ book, and like most of her novels, they are perfect for all ages. Adults will get a kick out of it, and older children will be entranced. Diana Wynne Jones' books made up a lot of my childhood, and all I can do is advise you to give this a try. You won't be disappointed. There are no loose plot ends, everything is explained brilliantly but not boringly, and I still love this book after my sixth or seventh read.
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on 5 January 2012
This one follows on from "Deep Secret" and continues the adventures of Nick Mallory, who wants to be a Magid and travel between worlds, bringing a whole host of new characters in. Aspects of this book make a LOT more sense if you read "Deep Secret" although this is marketed as a stand-alone. I was initially disappointed that only one other character made it into this book from "Deep Secret" (Ted Mallory) but overall I think it works really well because Nick really gets a chance to shine where he was overshadowed by too many other awesome characters in the first book. The character development is absolutely fantastic and the book had so much going on at all times that it was like looking at a spiders web, only to see where the strands meet in the middle of the web at the end of the book. A finely crafted book but definitely for older readers and those with an interest in symbolism rather than the more overtly children's books DWJ has written. I would recommend this book if you liked "A Sudden Wild Magic," "Year of the Gryphon" or "Fire and Hemlock." If you found Fire and Hemlock tough going, this one probably won't be to your tastes.
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on 5 April 2012
I'm a big fan of Diana Wynne Jones, so I'm maybe being a little tough on this review because I have high expectations.

I grew up reading the Chrestomanci books, and now I have boys of my own, I was really keen for them to read her books, and I got this one for them after the aforementioned series.

The plot of the book is fine, a good fantasy romp (although I agree with the reviewer who said it seemed to stop rather suddenly), but the characterisations are awful! The plot centres around three children, and is voiced by a boy called Nick and a girl called Ariadne (although she prefers to be called a boy's name- "Roddy".

The surrounding cast are made up of divorced couples and single mums. In each of the divorced couples, the woman is absolutely horrific/evil/mad, and the men are noble and long suffering. "Roddy" voices multiple times that she doesn't understand how "insert any male character's name" could have possibly ended up with nasty "insert female characters name". The male characters are completely faultless, so much so that the one who abandoned his son, only did so because the mother was so unbearable.

Now don't get me wrong, I like a truly wicked, deliciously over the top villain, whoever they are, but when the same pattern was repeated over again and again as each new character was introduced, I started to get really uncomfortable.

There certainly seems to be a lot of vitriol in this book, and I actually think that this would be quite a toxic book for children of separated parents, as it re-iterates multiple times that divorce happens because one person is "bad". I know DWJ had 3 sons, I wonder if one was going through a particularly acrimonious divorce at the time of writing!

When I finished the book, it left a really nasty taste in my mouth, and I wouldn't recommend it because of the unpleasant messages it contains.
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on 4 July 2013
This is the second in the 'Magids' novels, focusing on Nick, who was an important character in the previous book but not the central character. If you've read the first book and are expecting to meet the two central characters from that story again, forget it - this time, we are firmly moving on, in that bracing way Diana Wynne Jones has.

Like the previous book, this story is told from two different viewpoints: in one, Nick (who is actually from the Koryfonic Empire but lives in our world) finds himself sucked into the political problems of another world, Blest. The other narrator, Arianrhod, is from Blest and is the granddaughter of a magid (not to mention her other granddad, who is rather more scary) who lives in Blest but is also a successful writer of fantasy novels on earth. This is essentially how their two narratives come together.

For a while, their two stories seem to be quite separate, and actually I found this a little irritating. I enjoyed the bits with Nick more than the bits with 'Roddy', though the Roddy and Gundo story became increasingly interesting as the story progressed. Nick's path crosses with the mysterious Romanov, an independent and highly powerful magic-user, which forms a central element in the complex plot. And, believe me, I found this plot VERY complex (but that might just be me!).

The previous Magid story was aimed at adults and I enjoyed it very much as a kind of children's story for grown-ups - this one felt more like a tale aimed at teenagers, but it was still very gripping, particularly as it got going. There were the usual moments of Diana Wynne Jones humour, and the characters learned about themselves and each other in a non-didactic and plausible way. There are some shocking moments too, and the story twists and turns with characteristic Jonesian slipperiness.

If you like her novels, you'll like this one. As always, though there are some familiar elements, the story is novel, original, full of surprises and a page-turner.
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on 18 January 2004
I think The Merlin Conspiracy is the best book I ever read because it is an exciting story.It is written from two people's points of view, Roddy and Nick. At the same time the story takes place in two parallel worlds. I loved the suspense and the story has lots of unexpected twists and turns. I am positive that anybody would enjoy this book. I love it! ( I am 8 years old)
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