1997. 383 pages. Hardcover. Tor.
From: the public library
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.