It is eight years after the tours from offworld have stopped. High Chancellor Querida has retired, leaving Wizard Corkoran in charge of the Wizards' University. Although Wizard Corkoran's obsession is to be the first man on the moon, and most of his time is devoted to this project, he decides he will teach the new first years himself in hopes of currying the favor of the new students' families—for surely they must all come from wealth, important families—and obtaining money for the University (which it so desperately needs). But Wizard Corkoran is dismayed to discover that one of those students—indeed, one he had such high hopes for, Wizard Derk's own daughter Elda—is a hugh golden griffin, and that none of the others has any money at all.
Wizard Corkoran's money-making scheme backfires, and when Elda and her new friends start working magic on their own, the schemes go wronger still. And when, at length, Elda ropes in her brothers Kit and Blade to send Corkoran to the moon . . . well . . . life at the Wizards' University spins magically and magnificently out of control.
This breathtakingly brilliant sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm is all one would expect from this master of genre.
Infused with all manner of enchantments, this boisterous spoof of the campus novel reads like a cross between David Lodge and a particularly buoyant incarnation of J.R.R. Tolkien. Standards at the Wizards' University have fallen grievously in recent years: under the leadership of Wizard Corkoran (a charismatic slacker preoccupied with dreams of moon travel), the school's main goals seem to be to enrich its coffers and graduate classes of mediocre bureaucrats. Into this unpromising situation bounds first-year student Elda, griffin daughter of the powerful Wizard Derk (the eccentric breeder of flying pigs, winged horses, etc., previously seen in Jones's Dark Lord of Derkholm). Elda becomes fast friends with other new students, among them a rebel dwarf, a penniless crown prince, the Emperor's jinxed half-sister and two youths who must hide their true identities. A newly kindled passion for the great works of magical literature and a shared struggle against such foes as a tyrannical professor and a band of trained assassins deepen the bonds of the students' friendship. One exuberantly inventive adventure follows the next all the way to the pleasing conclusion, in which matches are made, secrets revealed and numerous loose ends tied up. Great fun. Ages 10-up.