A novel by Diana Wynne Jones. The protagonist's father—an author—is visited by a mysterious figure, who demands that he write two thousand words of gibberish.
While investigating, Howard and his sister Awful learn that their town is secretly controlled by seven mysterious siblings — Archer, Torquil, Dillian, Hathaway, Shine, Erskine, and Venturus — at least one of whom seems to be thinking in terms of "tomorrow, the world".
Adapted as a TV mini-series in 1992.
- Amnesiac Dissonance: Venturus spends over a decade in a new identity, with no memory of his former self. When he starts encountering evidence of what he used to be like, he doesn't approve.
- Ambiguously Gay: Torquil. Has a great love for theatrical outfits (eyeliner included), shopping, and disco dancers. This trope is even more true for the TV miniseries.
- Dumb Muscle: The Goon. Except he's not.
- Fountain of Youth Venturus.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Archer's fate is ultimately sealed by the typewriter he enchanted.
- Large and in Charge: Shine. Erskine as well.
- Left Hanging: The origins of the seven siblings is never explained.
- Little Miss Snarker: Awful - when she isn't screaming instead.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Only with siblings.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Archer, more so in the miniseries than the book.
- MacGuffin: The 2000 words. They do nothing, Venturus set them up to mislead the others and to give his adoptive father tax-free income.
- Magical Seventh Son: Although all the siblings are magical, the seventh son is supposed to have twice the gifts of the others.
- Meaningful Name: Venturus, its meaning isn't mentioned in the book but the tv series has Quentin translate it as "he who is to come" in Latin.
- Mouthy Kid: Awful.
- Muggle Foster Parents: Quentin and Catriona, to Howard/Venturus.
- Nice Guy: Hathaway is the only one of the siblings who comes across as a completely decent person, although some of the others are trying to improve.
- Obfuscating Stupidity Erskine.
- Overnight Age-Up: When Howard and Awful visit the home of Venturus, which is in the future, they're both temporarily aged up into young adults until they leave.
- Portal to the Past: A door in the museum turns out to be a portal. Handy.
- Rewriting Reality: Archer enchants a typewriter to do this.
- Rule of Seven: Several things to do with the seven siblings.
- Secondary Character Title: Neither Archer nor the Goon are the lead character. The Goon plays a large role but the protaganist and viewpoint character is Howard.
- Stout Strength: Shine, who runs around with a rocket launcher at one point.
- Stripperiffic/Hell-Bent for Leather: Shine. She's somewhat fatter than your usual Vamp, though.
- Take Over the World: Most of the siblings have this as their goal as soon as they can leave the city.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Shine and Dillian.
- Tomato in the Mirror: When Howard finally tracks down Venturus' lair and learns where he's been hiding all this time.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Dillian is easily able to use her magic to charm Howard and Fifi, but Awful is simply too... awful.
- Wham Line: "You finished now? Or do we go around another thirteen years?"
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: While Archer's wonderful toys wow everyone else, they only manage to piss Quentin off, since he realizes (correctly) that they were paid for with redirected taxes.
- Zeerust: Venturus' ship-building robots have voices that sound like mouth organs.
- Everything in Venturus' futuristic temple and spaceship deliberately evokes this, since they represent the childlike Venturus' romanticized sci-fi view of the future.