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Diana Wynne Jones – The Merlin Conspiracy

May 13, 2009

55. The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones (2003)
Magid, Book 2 (technically this is a semi-sequel starring one of the characters from her book Deep Secret, but I don’t know if they’re really a series per se.)

Read By: Emilia Fox and David Tennant
Length: 5h 39m (480 pages)

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Started: 02 May 2009
Finished: 07 May 2009

Magical plots and
multiple dimensions. Yeah,
it’s complicated.

Summary: Roddy is a young member of the King’s court, and she has been a member of the King’s Progress (his continual trek around the Islands of Blest, an alternate England) for as long as she can remember. When she and Grundo, her young ward, overhear a magical plot to overthrow the king, they’re taken away to Roddy’s relatives – all of whom have some magical power of their own. In alternating sections, Nick Mallory, a young man, stumbles into an alternate dimension, where he meets some powerful wizards, and ultimately winds up in Roddy’s dimension, where he must take what he’s learned to help her save the kingdom.

Review: I need to stop listening to Diana Wynne Jones’s books. I don’t mean I need to stop reading them, because the ones I’ve read have all been imaginative, fun, and well-done. I just need to stop consuming them in audiobook form.

Jones is a huge fan of dropping readers right into the middle of a story without much (if any) explanation, and of making readers piece together what the heck’s going on as they go. That’s fine, and probably part of what makes her books enjoyable, but it’s not a format that’s well suited to audiobook. So much is happening at such a fast pace that if your attention wanders even for two minutes (as it invariably does), you wind up irreparably lost.

That was my problem here. I’m sure there was a really great book going on, but because I don’t always listen to audiobooks with 100% of my brain (that’s their point, after all), I never got my footing as to what was going on in the story, to the point where I spent the last hour or so thoroughly confused as to who several of the characters that kept getting mentioned even were. So, while the writing was good, and it was definitely funny, and imaginative, and I’m sure the story was great, I’m not really the best judge. From here on out, no more DWJ audiobooks for me (plus I might have to go back and re-read this one) – I hate feeling like there’s a good story I’m missing! 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I’m assuming, based on what I heard and understood, that it’s worth reading… with the emphasis on the read.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews From Folks More Qualified to Review This One Than I Am: Books and Other Thoughts, Fiddle-de-dee’s Not English
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I have been with the Court all my life, traveling with the King’s Progress.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. keidalgrim permalink
    May 13, 2009 10:51 am

    I have found the exact same to be true for me. With audiobooks you sort of need to be “all there” mentally; otherwise, plot threads can quickly unravel and get away from you. Having that written word at your fingertips can be very helpful.

  2. May 13, 2009 11:00 am

    Keith – I’m normally pretty good at listening to audiobooks with only part of my brain, while the other part cooks, drives, does the dishes, folds laundry, knits, does labwork, or even mucks around with spreadsheets at work. It’s just that most audiobooks, if something is important, will say it more than once… but DWJ’s books move so fast that you can’t make that assumption, and if you miss the one critical sentence, it’s gone.

  3. lbligh permalink
    May 13, 2009 11:39 am

    Regarding audiobooks, I do best with books I have read before. That way, if I miss something due to distractions, it doesn’t matter as much.

    My daughter and I were talking only yesterday about how you have to read DWJ’s books carefully. Normally when reading I tend to skip over descriptions of sunsets or clothing or dreams, for example, but in DWJ books this can be a big mistake.

  4. May 13, 2009 11:59 am

    I have this on my tbr pile, but when I found out it was a sort of sequel to Deep Secret I decided to read them in order. I can be slightly obsessive about those things :P

    And that’s the reason why I hesitate about audiobooks in general. I’m sure they can be a wonderful experience, but my mind tends to wander a lot, so I worry I’d miss a ton. Like lbligh said, maybe I should try books I’ve read before.

  5. May 13, 2009 12:19 pm

    lbligh – Yeah, I’m a skimmer of descriptions as well… on the one hand, audiobooks can be good for that, as Every Word is read, but on the other hand, it’s easier to get distracted while the reading keeps happening in the background.

    Nymeth – I didn’t realize it was a semi-sequel until after I was done with it. There are references to what happened in the first book, but I don’t think they’re crucial to know in order to understand this one. At least, the pieces I missed from not paying attention had a bigger impact than the pieces where I was paying attention but knew I was missing something from the first book. :)

    I started out on audiobooks I’d read before – Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings (which are wonderful, since Rob Inglis actually sings all of the songs), then moved to YA fantasy books where I didn’t have to pay too close attention all of the time, and that were short enough that I could keep details from the beginning in my head all the way to the end, then finally convinced myself that I was able to handle adult books… and so jumped right into the 300+ hours of the Wheel of Time series. :)

  6. May 13, 2009 2:35 pm

    I got this one out of the library a few weeks back and was all set to read it until someone *cough*Nymeth*cough* pointed out the sequel thing, so its now on the shelf while I read Deep Secret (which I’ve just started).

  7. May 13, 2009 4:19 pm

    I have been planning to read this but haven’t done so, yet. I have the other book, too. I was organized without even meaning to be!

  8. May 13, 2009 4:22 pm

    I’m not nearly as audio-book savvy as you, but I have the same problem when I try to listen to certain books. I tend to stick to rereads, for the most part, because it mucks me up a bit less if I miss something.

  9. May 13, 2009 6:39 pm

    I’ve only successfully listened to a few audiobooks because of just that – I get distracted, lose what turns out to be a crucial bit in the book and am lost. Annoyingly, one cannot flip back a page or a paragraph easily either.

  10. May 14, 2009 4:38 pm

    Bart – You’ll have to let me know how it is (and how much *more* I confused myself by reading them out of order!)

    Kailana – Hey, go subliminal organizational powers!

    Memory – It did take me a while to train myself to the right balance of attention to the audiobook vs. whatever else I was doing… but you’re right, it still just doesn’t work for some books.

    Carrie – The not-being-able-to-flip-back thing *is* a major annoyance, I’ll agree. I notice it mostly when a book I’m listening to has a prophecy… when I’m reading, I always want to go back and check out the exact wording of the prophecy to see how closely it was fulfilled, and it’s easier to rifle through the pages of a book than to find the exact spot in an audio file.

  11. Gwen permalink
    October 6, 2009 3:47 pm

    I loved your review, but I was wondering where you were able to acquire the audiobook form of The Merlin Conspiracy? Having already read many of her fantastic books in print (including this one), I’m interested in listening to them.

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