Review: Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson

Book cover for Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie ThomsonThe Dark Lord is confounded when he awakens in the middle of a small town on a planet he’s never seen before. What is this strange place, why do they keep calling him Dirk Lloyd, and why is he powerless against these earthlings who insist on finding his parents? Could it be that Dirk Lloyd is really a human incarnation of the Dark Lord who, after a cataclysmic final battle with his arch nemesis, was hurled into the Pit of Uttermost Despair, aka Earth? Or is he just a lost and confused boy? The Dark Lord must regain his rightful place in the universe before his powers of domination and destruction are lost forever, and help comes from a most unlikely source . . . a human friend. Readers will delight in this wickedly humorous tale as the Dark Lord–the Incarnation of Evil, The World Burner–finds that even he might have a good side.

Friends, when I first heard about Jamie Thomson’s Dark Lord: The Early Years I got pretty excited. The idea of reading a book about an evil tyrant getting trapped in the body of a 12-year-old boy was kind of hilarious to me. Thankfully, Jamie Thompson–excuse me, Dirk Lloyd–wrote the kind of middle grade book that will appeal to younger readers with its humor, older readers with its satire, and ANY reader with its plain old fun.

Basically, Dark Lord: The Early Years begins with our main character a few seconds after his mortal enemy has banished him to Earth and stuck him in a child’s body. He has no idea what’s going on and spends several minutes trying to smite kind passersby who look to help  a young kid and searching for his helmet–a huge, black, fanged thing that drives fear into the hearts of lesser beings (aka, EVERYONE). The hospital places the Dark Lord–now known as Dirk Lloyd because all the adults think he’s hit his head too hard and is mispronouncing his name–in a foster home and he gradually begins the search for, one, minions, and, two, a way to get himself back to his own realm to reclaim his throne of evil.

I was chuckling aloud the whole time I was reading Dark Lord: The Early Years. There are so many tropes of evil villains in Jamie Thomson’s book and he celebrates and skewers them with relish. As an avid reader of books with “dark lords” (Hello, Voldemort), I appreciated the humorous spin.

Dirk also slowly spends the greater part of this book trying to acquaint himself with crude human customs and social niceties, often with laughable results. As he makes friends at school and at his foster home, he begins to doubt his pure evilness–Dark Lords do not have friends, guys. He has some nice growth. It doesn’t overcome his inherent imperious nastiness, but it was there.

There were perhaps a few things that didn’t scan–for one, Dirk appears to have lost all of his magic now that he’s on Earth, but there are instances where he uses magic to accomplish things. And I thought things were a touch dragged out at the end–just a touch–but overall, Dark Lord: The Early Years is a funny, snarky, imaginative story that appears to be continuing. Which is a good thing. Dirk is one of those characters that makes an impression on you. Plus, I’m eager to see some story taking place in his realm (of which, I happily noted, there was a MAP in my ARC). Jamie Thomson–I mean Dirk, DIRK wrote this book. It is AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL–has written an incredibly fun middle grade that brought lots of smiles to my face.