Sunday, March 02, 2014

#DWJMARCH - Day 2 - Series Highlight: The Chronicles of Chrestomanci

**For #DWJMarch, today is about the Chrestomanci Series... This is STILL the only one I have read in the series! I must do better... Here is the review I wrote back in 2011.**

The Lives of Chrestomanci: Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones (Book 1)

Completion Date: March 28, 2011
Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time V challenge
A bewitching comic fantasy by a master of the supernatural Cat doesn't mind living in the shadow of his sister, Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the moment the two orphans are summoned to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Frustrated that the witches of the castle refuse to acknowledge her talents, Gwendolen conjures up a scheme that could throw whole worlds out of whack.
On Saturday, March 26, 2011, the fantasy and young adult world lost a fantastic writer. Diana Wynne Jones had been battling lung cancer for a while now and the cancer finally won. I always knew of Diana Wynne Jones, but it wasn't until a Fantasy/Science-fiction course that I took in university that I actually read her. One of our assigned books was Fire & Hemlock and I loved it! It remains to this day one of my favourite books of all time. I always intended to read more from her, but I was not a big young adult reader at that time. It was actually when I read the Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray that I slowly started to accept that there was maybe a reason I should start. In 2009, I returned to Diana Wynne Jones by finally reading Howl's Moving Castle and then one of the sequels, House of Many Ways. I loved both of them and fully intended to get back around to reading more from her. Since then I have had books aplenty to read, but have only actually managed to read Black Maria.

For the Once Upon a Time Challenge this year, I wanted to make sure to read at least one book by Diana Wynne Jones. Then, she passed away and it become more of a tribute to her that I was finally going to accomplish reading a bunch of her back list and posting about them. On the one hand, I am sad it takes me so long to read books by her, but on the other hand I am glad I still have so many books by her to look forward to in the future. Charmed Life is my first foray back into her magical worlds.

Now, after that rather long intro, I should maybe talk about the book itself. It is the first book in a longer series, so that means that I have of course started another series. The main character is a little boy called Cat. His real name is Eric, but his origins for his nickname are explained later in the book. The book centers around him and by association, his sister Gwendolen. I just noticed that on the back of the book they spell her name 'Gwendolyn', but throughout they spell it 'Gwendolen'. Anyway, Cat and Gwendolen survive a terrible boat crash, but their parents are not so lucky. After living with a woman named Mrs. Sharp for a time, they are adopted the Chrestomanci and taken to be raised with his family. They are an entertaining assortment, which you will learn if you read the book.

Gwendolen is the one that puts things in motion to move, but Cat is hesitant to leave the place that he knows. He always goes along with his sister, though, and so finds himself transported to a very different world than the one that he knows. Sometimes young narrators bother me and take away from my interest in the book, but even though Cat has his moments, he didn't really bother me that much. I think Gwendolen was the more annoying character, but I also thought it would be interesting to hear her side of things. This book was basically a lot of fun. The antics that Gwendolen gets up to are entertaining. And, the progression of the story works rather well. I find I do not really want to say much more because I do not want to destroy the magic of the story for anyone else.

So, I will just say that I enjoyed this book, look forward to reading the next book in the series, and recommend that you give it a read if you have not had the chance.

This counts for the Once Upon a Time Challenge V.

I have no idea. This is the first published book, but there is talk that you should read others first...

Feel free to chime in with a reading order in the comments! I think I actually meant to read this book second, but forgot when I requested something by her from the library...


  1. I love DWJ! When I first read HP & Philosopher's Stone I thought it was a rip off of her and it wasnt until the 3rd book was out that someone convinced me to give HP another try LOL. Yeah, Chrestomanci doesn't have to be read in order; it's not that type of chrono. series. But then I'm always a stickler for reading in published order :-) I haven't read the last ones she added to it at the end. My favourite was the witch one, forget the title, maybe Witch Week??

  2. Well, in a way it's good you haven't read the others, because you still have them to look forward too!

  3. I agree with Charlotte. Beginning a series is more fun than having the series come to an end. :)

  4. Who on earth says you should read one of the others before Charmed Life? I totally disagree. Charmed Life is the place to start with this series. I wouldn't recommend it any other way.

  5. This is such a wonderful series and I find something different in it every time. In fact, I'm considering a re-read sooner than later!
    And since DWJ herself recommended a reading order, I think you'll be okay going with that. :)


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