Help me remember this book about a maybe-Dutch not-wizard
February 1, 2014 2:05 AM   Subscribe

Hi metafilter, I read this (fantasy?) book as a kid and only remember it vaguely. I was hoping someone could help me find it. Here is all that I remember, which might be made up or two books joined into one in my head:

I think it was set in Denmark, or something that was supposed to be like a fictional Denmark. Or Holland? There may have been levees. There were boats and swords but also gunpowder and things. No electricity. There was some kind of monarch who wasn't well-liked, at least by the maybe-protagonist, who might have been a youth working as an apprentice in some kind of blacksmithy place with gunpowder(?). There was a conspiracy to construct a bomb and they had to skim tiny quantities of gunpowder from the stock over the course of years to avoid detection, and this kid was supposed to toss it at the king during some kind of parade, but lost his nerve and ran off.

After that, things get really fuzzy and there was a lot of sailing and some islands. Somebody taught the protagonist about five or so Powerful Words which, when uttered aloud, caused some pretty unfuckingbelievable shit to happen. Earth opens up and devours a field of bad guys, that sort of thing. The words, when used, were either set in W I D E B O L D T E X T or just not printed at all. I think each one only got used once, and he had no idea what was going to happen in advance. They were words to be used as a last resort in difficult situations. There were no other magical elements in the story that I can remember.

That's about all I've got. Certain parts of that story stand out in my mind but it was such a long time ago and I'm sure I have misinterpreted or misremembered or at least miscommunicated even the small part of that story that is still with me. So after writing that out and reading it, I think I'll be astonished if anyone knows what I'm talking about. But I thought I'd give it a shot. Thanks!
posted by c[,,] to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, this is easy. You're talking about Drowned Ammet by Dianna Wynne Jones. It does exist!
posted by Frowner at 2:58 AM on February 1, 2014

And it's also part of the Dalemark Quartet! I really love those books - some of her best work, IYAM, not least because there is very little recuperation of the bourgeois family. Some pretty tough and sad stuff happens in those books (in a remote and historical way, they're sort of lyrical) and it doesn't get fixed in the end.

I also enjoy those books because they give a sense (despite, like, the magic and the gods and so on) of the political sophistication of early modernity.
posted by Frowner at 3:02 AM on February 1, 2014

Wow thanks! I thought the question would be impossibly vague. Metafilter is cool.
posted by c[,,] at 3:25 AM on February 1, 2014

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