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THE CHRESTOMANCI SERIES

Reading Order
Diana Wynne Jones herself recommends reading Charmed Life first, followed by The Lives of Christopher Chant. Then Witch Week, The 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.

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci series includes Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant in Volume 1. Volume 2 contains Witch Week and The Magicians of Caprona, and Volume 3 is the collected short stories also known as Mixed Magics.

Charmed Life

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Description from book:
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.

Magic is an everyday affair in the charmed world of this story, and you never know who may turn out to be a witch or enchanter. Like every book by Diana Wynne Jones, it bubbles with invention, and as the story unfolds the people in it grow and change with all the surprisingness of real life.

Charmed Life won the 1977 Guardian Award for Children's Books.

The Lives of Christopher Chant

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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?

REVIEW by 11-year old Elina Chin:

"I think that The Lives of Chistopher Chant book is the best book I have ever read. It's hilariously funny, and just so amazing. I couldn't believe that now I love them, that I had never heard of The Worlds of Chrestomanci series. The book is a wonderful story of Christoper Chant thinking he is just a normal boy with no magical power at all, and then he is amazed at the force of his magic when he gets rid of all his silver things. This book, I recommend to everyone who has not read this. You will laugh yourself to death, and follow the adventures of Christopher. "

The Magicians of Caprona

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Description from book:
There are two great spell-houses in Caprona, the Montanas and the Petrocchis, and they are deadly rivals. Every soul in both houses is a powerful magician - except Tonino Montana. The only magical thing he can do is understand cats. Understanding cats is a valuable gift, but cats or no cats, the spells of the Montanas are beginning to fail. Something - or someone - is definitely sapping their strength, and unless it is stopped, there will be war. But is it the Petrocchis? Or is there an evil enchanter at work?

Either way, unless something is done quickly, there will be war and the city will be destroyed. Even Chrestomanci, the cleverest enchanter in the world, seems unable to help. Can anyone save Caprona?

Author's Note from book
The world of Chrestomanci is not the same as this one. It is a world parallel to ours, where magic is as normal as mathematics, and things are generally more old-fashioned. In Chrestomanci's world, Italy is still divided into numbers of small States, each with its Duke and capital city. In our world, Italy became one united country long ago.

Witch Week

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REVIEW by Jessie Powell
Witch Week is a great place to start, if you've never read Diana Wynne Jones books before.  It's good for experienced readers as well.  It is a perfect example of her upside down style of prose, and a  favourite Diana Wynne Jones  character - Crestomanci - turns up near the end. 

The book opens in the classroom of a private British school.  The teacher has just received a note which reads "Someone in 5B is a witch". Charles Morgan has a knack for the evil eye and suspects that he may be that "someone".  Terrified of his own power and of being burned for witchcraft, he grows desperate. Another student, Nan Pilgrim, cannot climb rope in gym, says ghastly things at dinners and is being harassed by an unusually persistent broomstick.  Nan knows she is a witch, and is every bit as frantic as Charles. 

Diana Wynne Jones turns a tale like nobody's business. She holds you tight with an unending stream of memorable characters and events. From an entire flock of birds (a parrot among them), to a rain of twelve hundred shoes, to several black marks, to a visit from Crestomanci, you don't want to skip a page of Witch Week.

REVIEW by 10-year old Cheyenne:
Witch Week is about a class called 6B and, of course, witches. You can follow the book easily. Witchcraft is illegal in the world in which this book takes place. If you do witchcraft, you would be burnt at the stake. But when a kidnapping takes place, an inquisitor - someone who finds witches - comes to the school, Larwood House, and tries to find the witch. Was the witch Brian Wentworth, a quiet boy, or Nan Pilgrim who hides a secret? This book would be fun for the whole family! It is a Chrestomanci book, so you can find it in The Worlds of Chrestomanci, vol. 2.

Mixed Magics

Click here for larger picture A collection bringing together the Chrestomanci short stories in one volume. Contains:

  • Warlock at the Wheel
  • Stealer of Souls. Set after both Charmed Life and The Magicians of Caprona, this story features Tonino and Cat when Tonino visits England for Chrestomanci to examine his talents. The two boys have to face a dangerous magical adversary as well as learn to be friends.
  • Carol Oneir's Hundredth Dream. Pampered Carol can create dreams which other people can buy and enjoy. But something is blocking her all-important 100th dream. Only Chrestomanci can sort out the dream characters for Carol.
  • The Sage of Theare

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