The Chronicles of Chrestomanci: Volume 1
Diana Wynne Jones
I read this book when I was much younger, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was introduced to the works of Diana Wynne Jones through ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ (which is now a film by Studio Ghibli) – I’ll get around to reviewing that when my new copy arrives.
This is a relatively new edition of the two novels ‘Charmed Life’ and ‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’. They concern the nine-lived enchanters called the Chrestomanci.
Within ‘Charmed Life’ Cat and Gwendolen are siblings orphaned in a tragic steamboat accident. Gwendolen is a powerful witch, foretold to rule the world. What she doesn’t seem to realise is that there are multiple worlds in the series. The Chrestomanci adopts her and Cat, and brings them to his wonderful castle – where magic is forbidden to beginners like Gwendolen. Thus begins the battle of wills for the lives of Eric Chant…
‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’ comes chronologically before ‘Charmed Life’, but Jones suggests the reading order for being the second book in the series. Christopher is a relatively ordinary boy, who just happens to be able to travel between worlds in his dreams. He has nine lives, but no desire to live in Chrestomanci’s castle – he would rather play cricket.
These two books are an enjoyable, honest read. The worlds are described in beautiful detail that manages not to be too overwhelming for the younger reader. Although some aspects are unsuitable for younger readers (such as the guns and mermaid deaths), they are dealt with delicately. Parents of children ages 10 and up can feel confident that their child will be introduced to concepts such as loyalty and honesty in a fantastical, sympathetic, enjoyable environment.