Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading: Deep Secret by DWJ

So, after RIVER OF STARS, I kind of meant to read THE TALE OF GENJI. But I forgot about that when I saw a reference . . . um, somewhere, sorry, I don’t remember where . . . to DEEP SECRET by Diana Wynne Jones. I immediately remembered that that one was on my TBR pile. And, after RIVER OF STARS, I must say, Diana Wynne Jones sounded just right.

Did you know that DEEP SECRET is kind of not a MG or YA title? I mean, it could be, in the sense that a young reader would probably like it and the writing is very DWJ and thus both good and accessible. But the protagonists are adults. Rupert owns a house and a car and has money — and Maree’s lack of money is a major concern for her. Maree feels responsible for her younger cousin Nick, and is riveted when a Nordic God type strolls into the room (every woman is riveted by this particular guy).

Plus, one of the very first things that happens is a nasty guy sets up a kid for execution and then executes him, and there’s no trick or anything, he’s actually dead. There are a surprising number of moments like that in this story, especially surprising since I don’t really expect that from DWJ.

So, yes, it’s an adult title. I do think the YA/adult division is fundamentally artificial and driven by marketing rather than reality. I think kids would like DEEP SECRET just fine. If you happened to read it when you were a kid, what did you think?

Anyway, I hadn’t realized DEEP SECRET was a prequel to THE MERLIN CONSPIRACY. Now I need to go read that one again.

Oh, btw, I should probably mention that DEEP SECRET is not my favorite DWJ ever, but it is good. I loved the nursery rhyme that structured the hero’s journey Nick and Rob undertook:

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You may get there by candle-light.

We got a lot more verses in DEEP SECRET. Clever and fun and spooky.

I liked Maree from the start, especially because she is not particularly beautiful (yay!), and I liked Rupert once he starts to realize he’s not necessarily God’s Gift to the Universe. So interesting that Rupert did NOT undertake the hero’s journey, and that Maree was, in an important sense, the object of that journey as much as a participant.

Maree’s fourteen-year-old cousin Nick is interesting, and grows into himself well. Nick’s mother Janice is pretty evil, and it’s quite entertaining to watch Nick be blandly agreeable while completely slithering out from under her demands. You can totally see them all as DWJ characters.

It’s fun to have a vet-student subplot, too, though for the ultimate veterinary plot, you can’t beat Nick O’Donohoe’s THE MAGIC AND THE HEALING. I can’t be the only DWJ fan who wanted to be a vet when I was a kid, right? I believe that’s rather common as ambitions go. I liked the glimpses we got of Will’s farm, and though I’m not quite sure the ducks (or whatever) were strictly necessary, I enjoyed the idea of accidentally carrying chicks around in your pockets.

Okay, and yes, the science-fiction-convention setting is highly entertaining. I have definitely gotten lost in convention hotels before, though I don’t believe I have ever turned five right angles to find my room, far less seven. And I’m quite sure I never mistook a centaur for a kid wearing a costume. I’ve always liked centaurs. The one, Rob, was, like Nick, a YA character embedded in an adult novel. I wonder if DWJ possibly started off thinking that Nick and Rob were going to be the pov protagonists and then changed her mind?

Okay, I believe I only have one DWJ title left that I haven’t read — EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE. I’m not in a rush to get to it. It’ll be sad when I’m out.

In the meantime, there’s still THE TALE OF GENJI waiting on my TBR pile.

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9 Comments Recent Reading: Deep Secret by DWJ

  1. SarahP

    The word is that the hotel for this year’s World Fantasy Con in Bristol was the model for the con hotel in DEEP SECRET.

    It’s my favorite DWJ, actually.

  2. Maureen E

    Deep Secret is actually one of my favorites, mostly for Maree and Rupert. Nick…eh. I find him amusing, but I don’t LIKE him very much. Partly, it’s one of those books that has a specific texture to it in my memory.

  3. Rachel

    Oh, that’s interesting! Not too super likely that I will get a chance to see that hotel, but if I do, I will expect it to be confusing.

    That’s also interesting that this is your favorite DWJ. I fell in love hard with the Chestomanci books when I was a kid, so those are at the top for me — and my actual favorite is undoubtedly DOGSBODY.

  4. Rachel

    Oh, that’s interesting! Not too super likely that I will get a chance to see that hotel, but if I do, I will expect it to be confusing.

    That’s also interesting that this is your favorite DWJ. I fell in love hard with the Chrestomanci books when I was a kid, so those are at the top for me — and my actual favorite is undoubtedly DOGSBODY.

  5. Rachel

    Hi, Maureen — I know exactly what you mean about Nick. And you could say the same thing about Rob — except he wasn’t so amusing. I’m really curious to re-read THE MERLIN CONSPIRACY again now because honestly I don’t remember it well. Except for the elephant. I’m almost sure it was the one with the elephant. Or was that a different book?

  6. Charlotte

    I imagine that The Merlin Conspiracy will be a lot more fun now that you know Nick better! I find that DWJ improves on re-reading in an event; books that I thought were just fine the first time around become so much more with subsequent readings, because of already having a grasp (give or take) of what’s happening….

  7. Maureen+E

    Yes, Rob was more…Rob. I do like the loving send up of SFF fans. :) And honestly, I THINK Merlin Conspiracy has an elephant, but now I can’t be sure. Time for a re-read!

  8. Rachel

    Elephant! I just re-read it. Mimi. She is a wonderful elephant! And I did like the book better on the re-read, and after having read DEEP SECRET — though I liked it fine the first time around.

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