Thursday, 16 December 1999

Diana Wynne Jones: Deep Secret (1997)

Edition: Gollancz, 1998
Review number: 409

There is a simplicity about Deep Secret which reminds the reader that Diana Wynne Jones made her name as a children's author. Despite this, it contains themes which are definitely aimed at an adult audience. Its biggest weakness is the background, which is perhaps not sufficiently differentiated from other fantasy novels. The Earth is one of a collection of worlds arranged in a figure eight - the universal signifier for infinity. One side is Aywards, and magic dominates these worlds; the other is Naywards, worlds where science is supreme. Each world has men and women appointed as Magids, to nudge the world's subconscious to keep it at the appropriate level of magic/science (Earth should be far more Aywards than it is). They do this by releasing parts of the Deep Secrets which underly the universe, in forms such as nursery rhymes which subtly affect the whole culture.

One of Earth's Magids dies, and Rupert Venables begins the task traditional to the most junior of a world's Magids, to find and train a successor. This search becomes caught up with another of his responsibilities, the succession in the Koryfonic Empire, the group of worlds straddling the cross point of the collection of worlds. Both of these sides to the plot come to a head at a science fiction convention in a hotel at a point of occult power, where Rupert has brought the Magid candidates so he can make a decision as to which should be appointed.

The story draws the reader in, and though the background is fairly childish, turns out to be an excellent variation on its theme.

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