Get The Party Started

Deep Secret — Diana Wynne Jones
Magid, book 1

Deep Secret

1997’s Deep Secret is the first of two novels in Diana Wynne Jones’ Magid series.

Through no fault of his own, magid Rupert Venables is drawn into two pressing succession problems. The first problem is to find a magid trainee. The former head magid has died (well, he’s dead but not exactly gone; such is the nature of magids). Rupert is now the senior magid and needs an apprentice and future successor. The second problem is finding the true heir to the Koryfonic Empire, hidden away by the previous, rather paranoid, emperor.

It’s no use asking the emperor himself: Timos IX is very sincerely, very thoroughly dead. So are Timos’ friends and confidants, who might have known where the heir had been stashed. The bomb that reduced Timos IX to vapour was very large.

Rupert decides backburner the question of the missing heir and focus on the quest to find an apprentice and head-magid-to-be. That should at least be straightforward.


Determined to select an apprentice as expeditiously as possible, Rupert orchestrates the lives of the candidates to guide them all to the same place at the same time. To Rupert’s surprise, the event to which his magic points the unwitting candidates is something called a “science fiction convention.”

Rupert’s first encounter with candidate Maree Mallory convinces him she is no proper apprentice magid. His second encounter with her does little to change his mind on this point. But, sad to say, the other candidates gathered in the Hotel Babylon are if anything even less suited to the role (some are frivolous, some are homicidal, some are both). Not people to whom great power should be entrusted. One might think being seen in the company of science fiction fans would make the candidates seem more reasonable, but this is not the case.

And speaking of people to whom great power should not be entrusted: the dynastic crisis in the universe-spanning Empire is still producing corpses at a prodigious rate. One faction in particular is determined to eliminate all rivals. Alas for Rupert, not only does his position as head magid tie him inextricably to the Empire, he is entangled in the dynastic struggle in ways even he does not fully comprehend. Absent a well timed eucatastrophe, it seems likely he will be one of its many victims.

 ~oOo~

I have a suspicion that the cast of this book are Tuckerized members of British fandom — but aside from noted Duran Duran biographer Neil Gaiman, I cannot match any real world people to the characters in this book.

I can make a pretty good guess as to which establishment inspired the Hotel Babylon. Hmmm, hmmm, British libel laws, hmmm, hmmm. So, changing the subject entirely, I will casually mention the deservedly famous Hotel Adelphi. It is well known for its user-friendly architecture and meticulous hygiene. It is the sort of establishment where it would be entirely reasonable to turn a corner and find one had stepped far across world lines. I’ve never been to the Adelphi, but its fame is global.

I did not enjoy this book as much as one might expect. I often had the feeling that I was missing cultural references and thus much of the humour. Also, I did not care for what seemed to be the essentially undemocratic underpinnings to this fictional universe. This is a world in which some people matter (kings, magids, etc.) and the rest don’t. Best for those others to keep their heads down and, if drawn into some magical fracas, make sure their wills are up to date.

Cultural disconnect aside, this moved along nicely, propelled by need and Rupert’s energetic determination to do something, even when it is the wrong something. Maree in particular is engaging, no matter what the prissy Mr. Venables thinks of her at first (what he thinks of her with time is foreshadowed by the fact that in fiction, opposites attract). Even though I can tell I missed a lot of what was going on, what I could pick up on was entertaining.

Deep Secret is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).


Comments

  • Mike D

    There's an Arnold Bennett, The Grand Babylon Hotel so the reference may be more complex than you think.

    Deep Secret eBook is £0.99 in UK and $9.99 in US and Canada.

  • Robert Carnegie

    I just checked, "mage" is a real word (technically). "Magid" makes the author sound like a stupician.

  • Marcus Rowland

    Nice guess re the Adelphi, but almost certainly wrong. There's a hotel near Heathrow Airport known in British fandom as the Radisson Non-Euclidean, for good reasons, which has been used for quite a few London cons. There are a lot of peculiarities about the way the floors are laid out etc. which causes endless fun.

  • =Tamar

    The Adelphi apparently did contribute a few elements. Hotel Babylon is a blend of many famously intriguing hotels. I think one other character (a woman) has been identified as being based partly on a British fan, but no others that I've heard of. Some others were carefully engineered to _not_ resemble known fans. NB: a magid is not a standard mage.

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