A book review: The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol I

Title: The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol I

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Publisher: January 9th 2001 by Greenwillow Books

Synopsis: In this multiple parallel universes of the Twelve Related Worlds, only an enchanter with nine lives is powerful enough to control the rampant misuse of magic–and to hold the title Chrestomanci… The Chants are a family strong in magic, but neither Christopher Chant nor Cat Chant can work even the simplest of spells. Who could have dreamed that both Christopher and Cat were born with nine lives–or that they could lose them so quickly?

From Goodreads

This book has been languishing on my TBR pile for a long while and I don’t know why I left it there for so long.

The Chronicles are actually made up of two books that introduce the concept of Chrestomanci. I loved the beginning of Charmed life.

Cat Chant admired his elder sister Gwendolen. She was a witch. He admired her and he clung to her.

Straight away we are introduced to the two main characters, we know Gwendolen is a witch and we’re not quite sure which world this story is taking place in because there are aspects that are reminiscent of our world and others that are so different. For instance, witchcraft is readily accepted as the norm in this world. Cat and Gwendolen are orphans who have been taken in by  a kind Mrs Sharp. Cat adores her, but really all she wants is to profit from Gwendolen’s talent. Gwendolen is really a most formidable character: egotistical, boastful and really quite incorrigible. When they are taken to live in Chrestomanci’s castle, Gwendolen embarks on a campaign to prove what a talented witch she is. Unfortunately Chrestomanci doesn’t want her using any magic and this leads to some impressive confrontations. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, other than to say that as a result of Gwendolen’s plotting a new character Janet is introduced and a whole host of trouble for Cat.  When writing we are often told to put our characters into the worst possible situations and basically Cat’s life becomes practically unbearable. While everything that was happening was terrible, Wynne Jones does all this with a touch of humour that has you laughing out loud.

Despite all his trouble Cat really does try to the best thing and he goes from a naive young fellow to one who realises that he is growing up and that people are not all that they seem. And yet he continues to unquestioningly trust his really rather evil sister.

The end of Charmed Life came a little abruptly for me. I felt the story was really kicking off and it was over. It definitely left me wanting to read more and I felt a little upset that there wasn’t more. Except there kind of was…

The lives of Christopher Chant. This book deals with the childhood of the Chrestomanci in Charmed Life. Again we are plunged into the characters life straightaway. Christopher goes to different lands in his dreams and meets people like the silly ladies. When he is first introduced to his mother’s society friends he rolls around on the floor trying to look under their skirts to see if they have tails.

This book deals and explains all the things we come across in Charmed Life. Why there is a Chrestomanci, the connected worlds, how they are created, why the Chrestomanci must have seven lives. And then we spend the rest of the book finding out how Christopher inadvertently gets involved into all sorts of trouble and keeps losing his lives. He also meets a goddess and a terrible, terrible cat, who comes in quite useful in the end.

I loved all the characters in this book and felt they were more fully developed. We really understood the motivations of the goodies and the baddies. Again Christopher gets into all kinds of trouble and ends up having to save the day, but I won’t tell you how.

I suppose part of the reason I loved the second book so much is that the first book built the world and the second one built upon what we already knew, developed and told a really great story. I totally recommend these books.

I think if Id’ read these on their own I’d give them a three and five, so averaged out it’s a :

A book review: The Undrowned Child

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