I haven’t read all of Diana Wynne Jones but I really liked Howl’s Moving Castle so I thought it’s about time that I read her other books. I just finished reading The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant, which I got from Celina. This volume contains the first two Chrestomanci books and I’ve heard good things about this series.
Here’s the summary for Charmed Life from Diana Wynne Jones’ official website:
Cat and Gwendolen were orphans, and when an old friend of their father’s, the mysterious Chrestomanci, came visiting and offered to adopt them, Gwendolen, who was already studying Advanced Magic, knew that she was destined for Great Things – for hadn’t the Fortune-Teller predicted that one day she’d rule the world? Cat, who had never been able to manage turning brass buttons to gold, wasn’t so sure he was going to enjoy his new life. But then what he thought didn’t count for much. Ancient and turreted, Chrestomanci Castle was every bit as grand as Gwendolen had hoped. But there were disappointments. No butler opened the door to her, no lavish banquets were given in her honour. Instead, she and Cat had to do lessons in the schoolroom with Chrestomanci’s two children, and worse of all she was forbidden to practice magic except under supervision. In fact, she wasn’t being treated with the respect she deserved, and she very quickly decided to do something about that. It was difficult for Cat, who clung to his unpredictable sister as the only familiar person left in his life, especially when he guessed that Gwendolen was planning to go to far, and he didn’t see how he could stop her. He didn’t realise, though, quite how ambitious Gwendolen’s ultimate plan was, nor how closely he himself was involved in it.
This is the first book in the Chrestomanci series and introduces readers to the Twelve Related Worlds. Even though I haven’t read a lot of Diana Wynne Jones, I think it’s safe to say that all of her books are similar in the sense that they all have magic, adventures, interesting characters and a lot of humor. I wish I found out about her books when I was younger. I think I would’ve loved her books as a child. In any case, I still enjoyed reading them as an adult so it’s all good. In Charmed Life, the main character is Eric Chant, nicknamed Cat. Cat thinks he can’t do magic and he’s used to being bossed around by his sister Gwendolen, who’s destined to be a great witch. This book isn’t as fast-paced as other Diana Wynne Jones and you tend feel sorry for Cat because he’s clueless most of the time. What I really liked about this book was the characters in Chrestomanci Castle – Chrestomanci himself, his wife Millie and their kids Julia and Roger. Chrestomanci reminds me of Howl because of the way he dresses although he does have more extravagant tastes when it comes to dressing gowns. I felt like this book was more of an introduction to the world than anything else. It did make me look forward to reading more about the world and the characters in the series.
Here’s the summary for The Lives of Christopher Chant from Diana Wynne Jones’ official website:
Christopher often makes night-time trips to the Twelve Related Worlds. He thought there was nothing unusual about this until his Uncle Ralph hears of it and sends him on mysterious missions. One such mission reveals Christopher’s very special magic powers – gifted with nine lives, he is destined to become the next Chrestomanci, the greatest magician in the country.
Christopher goes to study at the formidable Chrestomanci Castle, but even here he is not safe. Outside, the forces of evil are poised for attack and Christopher is losing his lives at an alarming rate. Can Christopher defeat his enemies alone, before his remaining lives run out?
The Lives of Christopher Chant occurs a couple of years before Charmed Life and it’s about the childhood of Christopher Chant, the Chrestomanci in Charmed Life. I liked this one better than the first book, Christopher have more adventures as a child than Cat did in the first book. Christopher’s back story is much more engaging than Cat’s. One thing they have in common though is that initially, both of them thought that they couldn’t do any magic when in fact, they’re both destined to be powerful enchanters. Although Christopher couldn’t do magic, he can travel between the worlds. His travels are very interesting and they show how diverse the worlds really are. I enjoyed reading about his escapades and I had a couple of laugh out loud moments with this book. The way he kept losing his lives one after the other was hilarious. As with the first book, the characters in this one also had remarkable personalities and they add more depth to the story.
If you haven’t given Diana Wynne Jones a try, I definitely recommend starting with either the Chrestomanci books or Howl’s Moving Castle.
This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.