Book Cover
Title Charmed Life
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Art Greg Newbold
Publisher SFBC - 2000
First Printing 1977
Book Cover
Title The Magicians of Caprona
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Art Greg Newbold
Publisher SFBC - 2000
First Printing 1980
Book Cover
Title Witch Week
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Art Greg Newbold
Publisher SFBC - 2000
First Printing 1982
Book Cover
Title The Lives of Christopher Chant
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Art Greg Newbold
Publisher SFBC - 2000
First Printing 1988
Book Cover
Title Mixed Magics
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Art Thom Lang
Publisher HarperCollins - 2005
First Printing HarperCollins - 2000
Book Cover
Title Conrad's Fate
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Art ---
Publisher HarperCollins - 2005
First Printing HarperCollins - 2005
Book Cover
Title The Pinhoe Egg
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Art Brandon Dorman
Publisher HarperCollins - 2006
First Printing HarperCollins - 2006
Category Children/Young Adult
Warnings None
Main Characters Chrestomanci (Christopher Chant), Cat Chant, Charles Morgan, Nan Pilgrim, Tonino Montana, Angelica Petrocchi, Conrad Tesdinic, Marianne Pinhoe
Main Elements Wizards, witches, enchanters
Website Diana Wynne Jones Official Site




Click to read the summaryCharmed Life

Click to read the summaryThe Magicians of Caprona

Click to read the summaryWitch Week

Click to read the summaryThe Lives of Christopher Chant

Click to read the summaryMixed Magics

Click to read the summaryConrad's Fate

Click to read the summaryAnthology Details

Click to read the summaryThe Pinhoe Egg




This series came to me with high recommendations, and having seen Howl's Moving Castle, a movie recently made from another of Diana Wynne Jones books, I was looking forward to getting acquainted with Chrestomanci. I was not disappointed, the books had earned every compliment I'd heard. Written for a younger age group than Harry Potter, the books sometimes come across as a little childish, but I found that was part of their charm.

Chrestomanci isn't so much a person, but a position. As the most powerful enchanter in all the worlds, he is a kind of the chief of wizard police. He alone has nine lives and no counterparts in any of the other worlds, easily identifying the one who should take the post. Aside from The Lives of Christopher Chant, Chrestomanci plays a surprisingly minor role, often just showing up to give advice. Instead the stories revolve around other characters.

The truth is the four stories were very similar. In each, there are two main male and female characters, both children. Generally they are orphans, but sometimes they are simply misunderstood by their parents. In each case the children discover they have great powers, or at least have a great destiny in store for them. The worlds and names change, the general idea behind the plot stays the same. That is the major fault in this series.

However, one cannot deny that Chrestomanci is a fascinating character, and one is willing to put up with a bit of repetition for the sake of each tantalizing look into his life. I personally love how when he gets summoned to a world, he always appears a little out of sorts. That's understandable of course, considering he never knows when or where he will be summoned, one just needs to say his name. He is handsome, dashing and confused. ^___^

Each story contains a lot of twists and suprises, and very few people are as they appear. Here is a lovely snippet from Charmed Life, the imagery is just wonderful:

As a rule, gingerbread men were fun. They leapt up off the plate and ran when you tried to eat them, so that when you finally caught them you felt quite justified eating them. It was a fair fight, and some got away. But Mrs. Sharp's gingerbread men never did that. They simply lay, feebly waving their arms, and Cat never had the heart to eat them."

Think my calling the books "childish" might make them boring? Well you haven't read any good children's books then. These books are full of action and danger, after all Christopher dies several times in the Lives of Christopher Chant. And I had this problem...see I'd read them before going to bed, and as I got towards the last third of each book I found I couldn't put them down. I'd end up reading far longer than I'd intended, making getting up for work the next morning harder than usual. But I'd say that is a good problem to have, no?

Reading the first four books made me run out and get the other three. I actually liked the last two best of all. Either I just grew more attached to the characters, or Jones actually got better as she went along. I found the last two stories to be more inventive, not the same "orphan discovers power" stories. Though there was still a little of that going on, I like how Conrad had to enter the world of butlers and maids. The extra twist made it that much more fun. And the short stories are not just random excursions, they link up with the novels and they refer to each other. And The Pinhoe Egg brings the humour to another level. I can't get the scene of the Gammer, rooted to the bed, being carried down a hill by her family, and the whole lot of them being chased by a rogue kitchen table!

If you've seen Howl's Moving Castle, this series has the same whimsical feel to it. Though this is for a younger age group (10-12 year olds) I still recommend it to older readers. If you liked Harry Potter but thought it got too dark and adult, well here are some fun stories without the doom and gloom.




Posted: April 2008

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