The Chronicles of Chrestomanci is my VERY FAVORITE Diana Wynne Jones series. I’ve read the first four books1 at least five or six times by now. The later Chrestomanci books need a few more rereads before I can feel absolutely fantabulous about them, but they don’t detract from my love of the series as a whole. I’ve reviewed each book at least once on the blog here; here’s what I’ve said about them!
(Various covers found via Goodreads.)
Like all books I massively love, it’s nearly impossible to say WHY I love it so much with any sort of specificity. I get all incoherent and ramble about the same things over and over again. I mean, I love the characters, the story, the writing, etc. and I love them SO much I can’t think of any reason why I do except for “because.” Because DWJ was an excellent writer, because this book has all my favorite things in YA stories in it, because I first read it when I was younger and no doubt there’s some nostalgia going on as well. It’s also just a very entertaining book– who among us doesn’t like “normal child goes to magical school” stories (Harry Potter!) and/or “ordinary poor child gets moved up into lap of luxury” stories (Little Princess)? Plus then you’ve got betrayal, conspiracies, interesting magical things, and even a bit of horror! Very exciting stuff, that. The rest of the review.
The Lives of Christopher Chant
This one’s just as good as Charmed Life! Plus you get to see what the Chrestomanci in Charmed Life was like before he was the Chrestomanci, in a way that isn’t annoying like some other prequel books have been (I can’t think of any now, but I know they’re out there). I also really like Millie; DWJ has a lot of good girl characters, ones who can keep up with the boys without BECOMING a boy, if you see what I mean. Maybe they’re a bit prone to crying moreso than the boys, but they’re good heroines nonetheless. The rest of the review.
Magicians of Caprona
Maybe it’s a little annoying, because I’m the sort of person who is annoyed by generations of families fighting for no reason and never thinking that maybe, y’know, 200 years is too long to hold a grudge for a reason that you can’t even remember properly, and maybe they should just stop now before it gets REALLY embarrassing, but it’s NOT a bad book. I had a good time reading it, this time around! Usually I just skip it and move on to Witch Week. Read the rest of the review.
Witch Week is another DWJ book which I think is PERFECT. It shows how well DWJ understood kids, even if they’re magical kids who can fly on broomsticks and what have you. Every kid in here is believable in a way that makes you want to kick them, and I think that’s a mighty fine accomplishment. Plus it’s a good story, of course! Read the rest of the review.
Maybe DWJ was trying something new? It’s in first person POV (and I don’t think I’ve ever liked DWJ’s first person POV stories). It ALSO does that thing that I hate where the narrator keeps mentioning things happening in the future while things are going on in the present (“Christopher would later tell me blahblahblah but right now the chef’s head is exploding,” to paraphrase). Ugh. Read the rest of the review.
The Pinhoe Egg
The first Cat book was written in 1977; this second one was written in 2006. That’s a long time between writing the same characters, and you can see the differences in DWJ’s writing from then and now. It’s ALMOST the same, but no-one can write in the same way for 30 years unless they’re a robot or something. So it’s Cat, but not quite the Cat from Charmed Life. Read the rest of the review.
There’s also a short story collection, Mixed Magics, which I have yet to read!2 I’m not sure where it’d best fit, but I’d probably read it after The Pinhoe Egg.
What’s your favorite Chrestomanci book?
- there are several ways to organize the series, including by publication date and internal chronology. I tend to favor a mix, which is apparently also DWJ’s recommended order: Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, Magicians of Caprona, Witch Week, Conrad’s Fate, Pinhoe Egg. ↩
- Which means my video from yesterday was wrong! I have TWO books in my collection which I haven’t read yet! Yay! ↩