Sunday, March 2, 2014

#DWJMarch: Series Highlight -- The Chronicles of Chrestomanci

"Diana Wynne Jones herself recommends reading Charmed Life first, followed by The Lives of Christopher Chant. Then Witch WeekThe Magicians of Caprona and the short stories can be read in any order after that. (Since she made that comment, the books Conrad's Fate and The Pinhoe Egg have been published. They too can probably be read in any order after the recommended first two." (from The Official Diana Wynne Jones website)

Charmed Life

Orphan siblings Cat and Gwendolen come to live at Chrestomanci Castle, Gwendolen seeking to carry out the rather nasty plans of her magic tutors, and Cat simply wanting to be looked after. This does not prove a good desire for Cat, and the book turns on his claiming agency – not at Chrestomanci’s behest, or to help Gwendolen, but because he wants to manage his own life himself. (summary by Jenny)

The Lives of Christopher Chant

The Lives of Christopher Chant tips us backward to Chrestomanci’s youth, when he is a young boy called Christopher with useless parents and a penchant for traveling to alternate worlds ... Christopher’s shady uncle Ralph employs him to bring things back from the other worlds, which Christopher does because he admires Uncle Ralph desperately. As the reader can see from the beginning, Ralph is Up to No Good, but he is dashing and has a winning smile; whereas the old man Chrestomanci that Christopher has to go live with? Old and cranky. So this one’s about Christopher being slung between these two opposing forces in the world of magic, and figuring out where he wants to align himself. (summary by Jenny)

Witch Week

Witch Week is set in an alternate world quite like ours, except there is magic there, and the magic is illegal. If a witch is caught, she or he is burned straightaway. Mr. Crossley, the English teacher of Class 6B at the Larwood House boarding school, is dismayed, therefore, to find an anonymous note amongst his textbooks accusing someone in 6B of being a witch. Is it plump, unpopular Nan Pilgrim, descended from the famous Archwitch Dulcinea Wilkes? Is it perpetual victim Brian Wentworth, the deputy headmaster’s son? Charles Morgan with the evil stare and the encoded journal? (summary by Jenny)

The Magicians of Caprona

Tonino is the youngest son of Antonio Montana. His magical family lives in Caprona, a state in an alternate-universe never-unified Italy. Also there is the Petrocchi family, the other strong magical family of the land. The two spell-houses hold the city together but they hate each other due to a decades-old feud. Unfortunately, their feud makes each house weaker and more vulnerable to an evil enchanter who has decided to destroy Caprona. Unless they come together, they can never complete the task that Chrestomanci has set for them -- to find the true words to the powerful hymn, "The Angel of Caprona".

Conrad's Fate

Conrad works in a bookshop near the grand mansion of Stallery, and in Stallery there are magicians who keep changing the world slightly. The magicians in Conrad’s town realize that Conrad has an Evil Fate left over from a previous life, a Fate that can only be expiated if he kills the person he was supposed to kill in his last life. Conrad is to take a place as a servant at Stallery in order to kill the person, and get rid of his Evil Fate. While there, he meets Christopher, an arrogant, charming enchanter from another world, who is taking a place as a servant at Stallery too, in order to find a friend of his that’s gone missing. (summary by Jenny)

The Pinhoe Egg

Focusing on the villages around Chrestomanci Castle, The Pinhoe Egg returns to the story of Cat Chant. There is some bad magic going on and it takes the strength of a few brave children to set everything right.

Mixed Magics

Four short stories set in the Chrestomanci universe -- Warlock at the Wheel, Stealer of Souls (featuring Tonino and Cat), Carol Oneir's Hundredth Dream, The Sage of Theare.

Series Reviews

Chachic's Book Nook, April 2010 (first two books)
Goldeen Ogawa, August 2012
Reading the End, January 2010
We Be Reading, July 2008

Share your Chrestomanci love today!


  1. Oh Witch Week! I so love Witch Week! It's one of the DWJ books that has aged the best for me -- every time I read it, I find something more to love about it. Easily my favorite of this series, with Conrad's Fate a close second because it's fun for me to see teenager Chrestomanci.

    1. I did like it more the second time I read it (go figure!) but it didn't grab me in the way other DWJs have. I guess I need to read it again!

  2. I love The Lives of Christopher Chant best. Witch Week is one of my very oldest DWJ friends, though. And the last two are to my mind taking the whole thing to a new level. :)

    1. Yes, the last two are more settled and start expanding the world. It would have been interesting to see if DWJ would have ever continued the series.

  3. I am trying to decide what Jones to read... Maybe this series? So this is the order to read them in. hm...

  4. Yay, my favorite series! I need to read Conrad's Fate and The Pinhoe Egg about three or four more times to really lock in what I like about them. Every time I think about them I think "meh," which I KNOW isn't true because I rated them fairly high. Why do I only remember the meh? (This same thing happened with The Magicians of Caprona, which was a meh book for about ten years until I finally read it enough times to remember it properly.)

    -- Anastasia @ Here There Be Books

    1. This is what a series should be -- not one big long story that could be one stretched book, but stories all branching off and expanding the world and visiting the characters in different parts of their lives. It's much more fun this way!
      And I had that problem with Caprona too until it all clicked on a reread.

  5. For me the thing about the Chrestomanci books that inspires the 'meh' remembrance is the really unappealing characters--even the heroes and heroines tend to be selfish and bratty, and the bad guys are just awful (in an intensely mediocre way: not deliciously awful like Voldemort, just really stupidly unpleasant)! But then I reread them, and Chrestomanci puts everyone in their place, and the kids live up to his expectations (finally, mostly, sort of), and the stupid bad guys get hoist by their own petards, and I remember why I love the books so much!

    1. So true. How does she manage to make us read about so many unpleasant people over and over and over? ;)

  6. I've only read one of these, which was Witch Week. I read it a long time ago, so don't remember much about it. This series is part of my mental TBR though.

  7. If I have time, I am really hoping to tackle the first book in this series this month! I'm pretty sure I have it on my shelf!

    1. I'm rereading it right now. It's even crazier (in a good way) than I remember!