School's Out

Bk. 2. illus. by Freya Hartas. 384p. (Dark Lord Series). Walker. Feb. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780802735225; ebk. $11.99. ISBN 9780802735232.
Gr 4–8—This humorous fantasy is the second entry in a series about an evil Dark Lord who finds himself trapped in the body of a human boy, "Dirk Lloyd." Beginning with the embarrassing derivative of his real name, the Dark Lord suffers the humiliations of being treated like a mere boy and determinedly discovers a way back to his world. The experiment goes awry and his friend, Sooz, is transported to Darklands instead of Dirk. While Dirk plots her rescue and his return, Sooz manages to befriend snot-dripping orcs and warty goblins and establish herself as the new Dark Queen. The narrative alternates between Sooz's adventures in Darklands and Dirk's return to power, with occasional first-person commentary from Dirk, printed as if handwritten. These diarylike entries and the Dahlesque illustrations add to the fast-moving fun. Sooz's plight and march to power show her mettle, and when Dirk's not being impossibly fiendish, there's a little chemistry between the two. Like any good villain, Dirk has two sides and when Chris, his "brother" from home, gives up on him, Sooz continues to appeal to his humanity. Dirk Lloyd and his pals' story is reminiscent of the zany, action-packed adventures in "Artemis Fowl" (Hyperion), served up with sly commentary on the powerlessness of being a child. Packed with tween-appeal.—Martha Baden, Prescott Public Library, AZ
When Dirk's new friend Sooz is transported to the Darklands instead of him, Dirk (the Dark Lord himself) is initially worried for her safety. Then Sooz starts to take over his former kingdom. Comical black-and-white sketches and scattered diary-like entries keep the format engaging. The same sardonic goofiness from Dark Lord: The Early Years is over-the-top at times, and entertainingly so.

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