||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2009)|
|Author||Diana Wynne Jones|
|Cover artist||Peter Mennim (first ed.)|
|Publisher||Victor Gollancz Ltd|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Pages||383 (first eds. UK and US)|
|LC Class||PR6060.O497 D44 1999|
|Followed by||The Merlin Conspiracy|
The multiverse, shaped like a figure eight, contains Ayeward (generally good, pro-magic) and Nayward (the opposite) worlds. It is the task of the magids to urge the worlds in an Ayewards direction. In Ayeward worlds, magids can operate openly. Earth is an exception; it is generally Ayeward, but magic is still difficult and mostly hidden.
The narrative in this book is told variously from the point of view of Rupert Venables in his magid report, Maree Mallory's Thornlady computer files, and in an epilogue from Nick Mallory.
Rupert Venables is Earth's junior Magid, though his day job is writing software. He is also responsible for the Koryfonic Empire, a collection of Ayewards worlds. The Koryfonic Empire's present emperor has made it a capital crime for his many banished children to discover their identities, and thus Rupert witnesses the execution of the emperor's eldest son for daring to discover his origins. When the Emperor is assassinated a short time later, no heir can be found and this creates a huge unwanted problem for Venables.
Meanwhile, Earth's senior magid, Stan, has died. It is now Rupert's job to find a new magid. Stan has compiled a short list of five candidates for Venables to research and is allowed by the "Upper Room" to remain in an advisory role by hanging around as a disembodied voice in Venables' house and car. However, each magid candidate proves to be difficult to contact. Venables does encounter one of the British candidates, Maree Mallory, but their meeting is disastrous and he rejects her as a candidate.
Using magid fateline methods, Venables draws the candidates together in an unlikely place: a science fiction convention in the fictitious town of Wantchester. Unfortunately, during the magid working to consolidate their fatelines, his peculiar inventor neighbor Andrew becomes tangled in the magical working and later accompanies Venables to Wantchester.
Meanwhile, destitute Maree Mallory has been forced to move in with her uncle Ted Mallory, a horror writer, her hostile aunt Janine and their fourteen-year-old son, Nick. Ted is to be the guest of honor at the upcoming convention in Wantchester. Janine, Maree, and Nick are to accompany him, even though Venables has specifically prevented Maree from attending the con through a magic working.
All arrive at the convention, where the reserved Venables is somewhat stunned at the bizarre nature of the convention and its attendees, particularly as it is housed in the strange, Escher-like Hotel Babylon, which appears to be centered on a powerful magical node. He seeks out each magid candidate, but is disappointed to find each of them entirely unsuitable. His opinion of Maree Mallory rises, however, as they encounter each other several times at the convention.
Pleas for help from the unsettled Koryfonic Empire force Venables to cross over to the Ayewards world Thule to seek help from his magid brother Will. Maree and Nick unwittingly follow him through the gaps between worlds, nearly killing themselves in the process. Rupert is furious with them, but the placid Will decides to tell them all about magids and the multiverse.
Afterward Will arrives at the Hotel Babylon in his car, but hits a centaur who arrives simultaneously from the Koryfonic Empire with a message for Rupert. Maree uses her veterinary skills to help heal the centaur Rob, something which reveals an unlikely bond between him, Maree and Nick.
Rupert returns to the Koryfonic Empire to recover the heirs, but is thwarted in horrific ways by those who later prove to have been the emperor's assassins. What transpires after this is a comedy of mistaken identity, horrible violence and dark magic (including the increased influence of a bitter thornbush goddess), a trip into the bizarre, nightmarish land of Babylon, and the ultimate restoration of the Koryfonic Empire to its rightful ruler after his memory of himself is abruptly restored..
- "Bibliography: Deep Secret". ISFDB. Retrieved 2014-12-19. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
- Berry, Michael (1999-07-18). "Skipping a New Cyborg for an Old Wizard". San Francisco Gate. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
- "Deep secret" (first US edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2014-12-19.