Evil’s Never Looked So Middlegrade
By Jamie Thomson
Walker & Company, $16.99, 290 pages
Dark Lord: The Early Years begins with the fall of the great and mighty Dark Lord. Not only is he banished from the Darklands and stripped of his power, he also wakes to find himself trapped in the body of a pathetic human boy! None of the stupid adults believe he is more than a boy. In fact, they can’t even get his name right, instead calling him Dirk Lloyd and forcing him to go to school. There, he must overcome ogre-like bullies, tyrannical principals, and, ugh, make friends, all the while searching for a way to return to his vast and mighty empire.
“‘Mwah, ha, ha!’ really loses its impact when you’ve got a girl Elf voice.”
The plot is nothing new; this is the same story of an oddball child learning the value of friendship. The real charm instead lies in the details, the ways that Dirk misinterprets the world and plots diabolically, embellished with the occasional gritty ink drawing. While mostly good, the puns can get out of hand and overdone at points. For an evil hero, Dirk is a great character. He’s wicked, but sympathetic and charismatic despite a severe lack of morals. Not the best book of its kind, but still a fun read for kids looking for a little less goody goodness in their hero.
Reviewed by Meg Gibbs