Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones 1997. 383 pages. Hardcover. Tor.

From: the public library

For: Diana Wynne Jones Week hosted by Jenny’s Books


Rupert Venables is a junior Magid, with responsibilities for Earth and also for the Koryfonic Empire.  The Koryfonic Empire is falling apart after its despot dies without an identifiable heir.  All the other Magids and higher-ups tell Rupert to just let the Koryfonic Empire self-destruct.  Meanwhile, on Earth, Rupert’s Magid mentor, Stan dies and Rupert must find another replacement Magid.  Rupert manages to get all the candidates gathered at a sci-fi / fantasy convention in England.  Unfortunately, none of the candidates look promising to him.  But it is at the convention where the problems of the Koryfonic Empire spill over into Earth’s affairs.


Though I already had Deep Secret on my to-read list, it was this hilarious post by Jenny from Jenny’s Books that had me bump it up in priority.  And when Jenny announced Diana Wynne Jones week, I requested Deep Secret from another branch of the county library system.

Deep Secret is one of those fantasy books that throws you into its world without bothering too much with explanations.  Rupert does explain some aspects, but there’s plenty of instances where I just had to roll with it.  And that’s okay.  I prefer to be balancing on the edge of understanding rather than to have the book’s world diminished by over-explanation.

It’s a clever book, saturating its details with wit and humor.  Rupert’s mentor, Stan, continues to mentor Rupert after death as a disembodied voice that blasts classical music from Rupert’s car.  Rupert’s brother transports through worlds with quack chicks in his p0ckets.

Deep Secret does get serious however and there are some shocking deaths.  It also has some surprises and twists up its sleeve that I didn’t foresee.

The book does come off a little dated: it seemed to have a strong 1990’s essence.  Maybe it was the cover I had, or the constant faxing in situations where today we would email or text.  Rupert Venables is a computer programmer as his cover job, and so the datedness of the technology comes out through his discussions of his work.  It can’t really be helped and so it seems unjust to level this as a criticism, but it still took me out of the story a bit.

I wouldn’t say that  Deep Secret blew me away or converted me to fandom of the author, but I did enjoy the book, finishing the last few pages in a power outage by the light of the setting sun.


Filed under Fantasy, Supernatural & Surreal

8 responses to “Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones

  1. I love the quack chicks! I liked it when they came back all clever.

    Like so many of Jones’s books (but more so in this case, I’ve found), Deep Secret pays off on a reread. But since you’re new to DWJ as an author, I suppose it’s equally good advice to seek out something new. She’ll sneak up on you–you start out by thinking she is a reasonably good YA fantasy writer, and after a while you realize you cannot do without her books for longer than about a month. At least that is what happened to me. 🙂

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  3. Erin Leigh

    I read this about a two years ago. I liked it, definately a fun and interesting read. I’m with you–I wasn’t totally blown away by it, but it was a really solid, enjoyable read. I liked the weird witch flicking dance 🙂

  4. I wonder if as a 90’s child I’d actually enjoy the old-fashioned feel. Sometimes I appreciate that in older children’s books.

  5. It never occurred to me that it was dated. I think that might be because I’m familiar with her multiverse idea, and figured it was a parallel Earth to ours which hasn’t gotten past faxing yet. (I blame Chrestomanci for that idea.)

  6. Jenny – I will make sure to pick up another DWJ book in the future. Some of the best things in life are those that inspire a slow-burning affection.

    Erin Leigh – I liked how the dance turned out to be something useful. Indeed, I forgot to write in my review how much I liked the dual narration (triple at the end), which offered different perspectives on the same events.

    Nymeth – I was born in 1982, but for cultural exposure, I consider myself more or less a child of the 90’s. I’m not sure why the 90’s feel of it jumped out at me as much as it did, and I don’t know if it would be that way for everyone.

    Erin – That is definitely a good way of looking at it.

  7. trapunto

    You are right about the 90’s feel. I noticed that too, especially in the descriptions of clothes. I put part of that down to the English setting. Personal tech progresses a little differently over there. Sort of in resistant fits and starts, instead of the smooth “newest of the new” progression in the states. I don’t know if you watch British TV, but I always notice the big beige CRT monitors in shows made during a time when they would all be flat screens on US television shows.

    • I have seen episodes of MI-5 which have seemed mostly up-to-date, if I recall right, but for the other British television I’ve seen, there has been a vaguely techy out-of-date, even if I can’t recall specific examples.

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