They watched until the dragon was a seagull-shaped speck in the distance. "You know," Shona said, suddenly and unexpectedly, "I didn't like her very much. She was so artificial."
"That's rich, coming from you!" Kit said.
"But she was," Callette agreed, equally unexpectedly. "I didn't like her either."
Everyone except Blade turned to disagree loudly with Shona and Callette. "Please!" Derk shouted. "No arguments! Next one to argue gets made into a statue and I grow vines up them."
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Synopsis: Tour entrepreneur Mr. Chesney takes pilgrims on a full magical experience in which they believe themselves to be on a quest to free a world from an evil Dark Lord. In that magical realm, Wizard Derk enjoys his chaotic but relatively peaceful life with his wife, Mara, their two human children—Blade and Shona—and their five griffin children: Kit, Callette, Don, Lydda, and Elda. Unfortunately for Derk, he is chosen to pose as the Dark Lord for the tour season. Derk's whole family gets involved in dealing with tours. What begins as a big hassle grows into serious frustration, pain, and finally nightmare as the world gets its one opportunity to rid itself of Mr. Chesney for good.
Notes: I chose to read a book by Diana Wynne Jones thanks to a positive mention of her on Shannon Hale's blog. This book was sheer amusement, start to finish; it made hash out of every possible form of symbolism, it was complicated and hardly streamlined plot-wise, but it was hilarious.
A male dwarf named Galadriel? Classic large-family dynamics (bickering, teaming up, noise, intense loyalty, etc.) where five of the seven siblings are an experimental hatched blend of bird, lion and human? A harassed Dark Lord who has to fake his own death several times a day for weeks on end? This book is an outright spoof on the entire fantasy novel genre, catching science fiction on the backhand stroke. It made me think of my favorite of all spoofs, the movie Surf Ninjas, except that nobody in this novel broke out in a rousing chorus of Barbara Ann.
Perhaps some people may be disturbed to find things that are traditionally considered good and evil working together to rid the world of an ordinary unmagical greedy businessman. And on a serious level, I couldn't really get behind the idea that the greatest evil could be merely human. But I just couldn't take the novel that seriously. It was too busy spoofing everything it could find to poke fun at.
Recommendation: This would be my idea of a summer beach read: pure fun, not too suspenseful to keep you from enjoying the beach, but funny and potent enough to hold attention.