Book Review: Dark Lord : The Early Years – An April Fools’ Joke?

Dark LordDark Lord : The Early Years by Jamie Thomson Dirk Lloyd. 9780802728494. 2012. Gr 5-8.

My dad loved jokes and pranks, and I am my father’s daughter.  The difference between us is that my dad could keep up a joke quite a while;  my jokes have to be quick, or my face gives me away—and at my victim’s first sign of doubt, I cave. One year, when a disappointing winter yielded no school cancellations, I woke up my boys on April Fools’ Day with “Guess what?!!!!  It’s a snow day today!!”  After a couple cheers, Alex (a champion at making jokes himself and thus a bit leery of the attempts of others) complained, “Why did you wake us up then?”  End of joke.

Our protagonist in Dark Lord : The Early Years thinks that he is being fooled with.  He remembers falling, a long fall, and when he hits bottom, his world has changed drastically.  Instead of his dark, imperious voice, he hears a high-pitched, boyish squeak.  His Helm of the Hosts of Hades is gone, as are the horns and knobby edges of bones on his skull, to be replaced with a mop of hair.  Where are his tusks and his yellowed fangs, which are so good at striking fear into his enemies?

And what happened to his spell which has covered the sky with the Black Vapors of Gloom?  The warm sun in the blue sky almost gives him a feeling of…”hmmm, let’s see now, something he hadn’t felt in eons, a sense of…peace came over him!”  Ugh!  What would happen to his reputation if his enemies and underlings found out that he was all getting all mellow and everything?

When people come to his rescue, they see only a young boy.  He tries to tell them that he is the Dark Lord, the Incarnation of Evil, the World Burner, but they misunderstand, and so he is given the name “Dirk Lloyd.”  An ambulance takes him to the hospital, where a social worker sets him up in a foster home.   No one believes that he is anything but a twelve-year-old boy with an obsession for fantasy games and movies.

But Dirk knows that he is really “from the Iron Tower of Despair, beyond the Plains of Desolation, in the Darklands.” He must find some way to get back there, because he is the Dark Lord, and his forces are in the midst of a battle with the forces of the White Wizard, Hasdruban the Pure.

But first, he has to go to school and get his homework done.

Dark Lord : The Early Years is hilarious, a great “boy book” for readers reluctant or not.  As the mother of two boys who loved love fantasy worlds, I can relate to all the talk about spells and magical weapons, like rings that can send a Blast of Ravening Flame, a Cloak of Endless Night filled with Bloody Glyphs of Power, and the spell of Agonizing Obedience.

The best part, though, is the doubt in both Dirk’s and the reader’s mind:  Is Dirk just a confused twelve-year-old boy…or could he really be a powerful and monstrous ruler?  Are all his memories just a big joke?

TraceyBlogger : Tracey L.