Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Charmed Life (Chrestomanci, #1)” as Want to Read:
Charmed Life (Chrestomanci, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Charmed Life (Chrestomanci #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  24,041 Ratings  ·  865 Reviews
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.
Paperback, 252 pages
Published 2000 by HarperCollins Children's Books (first published 1977)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mark Lawrence
Aug 02, 2015 Mark Lawrence rated it really liked it
I've just finished reading this to my daughter Celyn (11, too disabled to read for herself).

It's a fun story of Cat and his witchy sister Gwendolin living in a world that's almost ours but where witches and wizards exist and are well-known.

Like an enormous wedge of literature it's one of those adventures that would be over really quite quickly and with very little fun if the man (or woman) at the top just sat down and told everyone what was going on. Dumbledore could probably have reduced the H
Sibling rivalry can feel like life or death when you are a kid. I mean, probably. I have an older brother* but I think the roughest thing that ever went down between us was maybe at ages 4 and 6 when he kept all the toys at one end of the bathtub. We've never had a physical fight. I don't see one in the offing, since we're both pushing/well past 30, agree on everything (well, not politics, but the important stuff like the Star Wars prequels suck and Mario games are the best, plus he lets me borr ...more
mark monday
Jul 25, 2011 mark monday rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a winning intro to what looks to be an enjoyable children's fantasy series. the young Chant siblings exist in a world with magic, one of many such worlds - or, rather, dimensions. after a tragic accident that leaves them orphans, older sister and talented witch Gwendolen takes to learning magic the old-fashioned way, through some sort of hedge wizard, while so-passive-it-hurts younger brother Cat blithely assumes he is magic-free. soon they are taken to the castle of Chrestomanci, an enc ...more
What a perfect book for my mood. Thank you, Fiona! And a terrific introduction to a new (for me) series. Diana Wynne Jones was a talented writer, and I so enjoyed wandering through the pages of this book. Don't let the YA throw you off. If you like Harry Potter, I think you would like this also. Not saying they're very similar, really, but the magical worlds created are so interesting and fun. I just love her writing and the audio performance was also well done. Will definitely be continuing wit ...more
Serena.. Sery-ously?
Questo libro è una chicca!
Azzardo a dire che secondo me l'ha letto anche la Rowling.. Per me Charmed Life è un po' il nonno di Harry Potter, sotto alcuni aspetti :3

Punto di forza sono sicuramente i personaggi: non credo di aver mai incontrato tra le mie letture a target giovani un personaggio cattivo e meschino come Gwendolyn.. Ragazzi, che tipaccia! Crudele, amorale, egoista, subdola e presuntuosa..
Ah sì, ha circa 12/13 anni :D

Il modo in cui poi Cat viene dipinto è davvero particolare: è lui i
Arielle Walker
Aug 20, 2012 Arielle Walker rated it really liked it
It may seem odd that I can give 4 stars to a book that I the label under "favourites", but my reasoning is this: The book is not perfect, nor is it quite close. However, since the first time I read it over a decade ago, and in the many times since, it has never failed to pull me into its world and allow me a brief escape from the mundanity of everyday life. Books like this may not be technically the best I have ever read, but nonetheless remain among my all-time favourites
DWJ Book Toast, #1

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite fantasy authors, growing up and now, and I was saddened by the news of her death. I can't say I'm overcome with emotion - as personal as some of her work is to me, its not like I knew her after all - but I wish I could put into words how I feel about her no longer being out there, writing new adventures and laughing at all of us serious fans thinking so hard about her words when we should simply get on with the business of enjoying them.
~ Giulia ~
Jun 28, 2017 ~ Giulia ~ rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks their sister is horrible
Shelves: fantasy, magic
Once again, Diana Wynne Jones did not disappoint.
Gwendolen has to be one of the most cruel, ruthless, self-serving, self-important villains I've ever encountered!
The world is magical, the writing is good and the main character, Scaredy Cat, endearing. Too bad that everything could have been solved, young girls would not have been uprooted from their lives and family, and lives could not have been lost from the very beginning, if only the characters had communicated with each other. sigh
Sheila Beaumont
I love this book! I've already reread it several times, and it seems to get better every time I revisit it. The same goes for the rest of the Chrestomanci series, and indeed for all the books by the late, great Diana Wynne Jones I've read. This book, published in 1977, was the beginning of the craze for kids' books about witches and wizards and schools of magic, and the Chrestomanci series obviously was a major influence on J.K. Rowling, who DWJ said had likely read them when she was young and, ...more
I've loved everything from DWJ that I've read. From Howl's Moving Castle to Castle in the Air to House of Many Ways to Charmed Life to The Lives of Christopher Chant, Diana Wynne Jones showed such wonderful imagination. I never quite know where her plots will head or how her quirky characters will fare, and I love every minute I spend in her worlds.
Brick Orrock
Jan 22, 2014 Brick Orrock rated it it was ok
Well, I read book one of the Chrestomanci Chronicles: Charmed Life, written by Diana Wynne Jones. I was excited for this book as I’m excited to read the other books that she has on this list (Howl’s Moving Castle), and after reading this one I can say that I still am.
This book is written well and I found myself getting lost in the writing and the story. With that being said I didn’t really like it. I didn’t like the characters. They are whiny and cruel, mostly all of them. Except, the main char
Melissa McShane
Jones's ninth novel is probably one of her best known, and is the first of several books set in the world of the nine-lived enchanter Chrestomanci. Eric (Cat) Chant's sister Gwendolen is a witch, and a promising one, while Cat is just ordinary. Gwendolen's abilities bring her to the attention of Chrestomanci, and the two go to live at Chrestomanci Castle so that Gwendolen can study magic. Cat loves his sister despite her nasty personality and occasional cruelty toward him, but even he has troubl ...more
This is the first of the Diana Wynne Jones books that I ever read, probably shortly after it was published in the late seventies. It's one of the few books that I still go back to, and find things to admire and enjoy to this day. It's not the book that's been longest in my collection, but it's the book that I've loved consistently over the last thirty r so years.

The book is from the pov of Cat, a small boy who has literally no idea of what is going on around him. The clues are all there, but he'
Jul 03, 2008 Anastasia rated it it was amazing
Stories of learning magic have become commonplace these days: I've even heard Diana Wynne Jones dismissed unfairly as a ripoff of JK Rowling when Diana Wynne Jones came first. There's nothing commonplace about Charmed Life: this is a fantastic story about a boy, Cat, who lives with a very ambitious witch sister after their parents drown. He goes to live with an impressively powerful man, Chrestomanci, and becomes involved in a strange political war between those who want to use magic without reg ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Alison rated it really liked it
Eric and Gwendolen Chant have been left orphans by a steamboat accident. Cat, as Eric is known, seems an ordinary, very nice little boy, but his sister Gwendolen is a powerful young witch.

Cat and Gwendolen are taken to live at Chrestomanci Castle with Chrestomanci, a man who controls all magic use, and his family. There, Gwendolen's arrogance and selfish nature becomes evident, and makes life extremely uncomfortable for Cat, until one morning he awakes to find that she has disappeared, and in he
Ed Kay
Oct 28, 2014 Ed Kay rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't get this book at all. Winner of awards, recommended profusely online and described as "subtle, funny and smart" by no less than Neil Gaiman... I found it tiresome, bland and rather vacuous. There are nice touches - Gwendolyn making the stained glass windows come to life, for one - but everything feels rather sketchy and unplanned. Things happen for no reason to partly drawn characters without any sense of narrative drive. It's wishy washy.

I should add I bought this for my nephew and tho
Rosie Nguyễn
Feb 01, 2017 Rosie Nguyễn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ui giời giờ hiểu được lý do vì sao bà này được cả J. K. Rowling lẫn Hayao Miyazaki thần tượng. Harry Potter chắc sẽ gọi Chrestomanci là cụ. Hay quá không làm sao mà dứt ra được. Có điều không tìm thấy quyển 2 ở đâu cả, mà ngh. Bứt rứt chết người. Ai mà tặng mình luôn bộ Chrestomanci này chắc yêu ngay và luôn :)).

I'm so in love with this book. Good plot, beautiful details, strong characters and lovely setting. Wish I can write something like that. Omg when and how???
Jun 03, 2017 Danya rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I think I may have read this one many, many years ago, but I really didn't remember anything about it. I found it was pretty slow-moving for the first three-quarters, and then in the last quarter it was like everything happened at once! Like what happens when reading many Diana Wynne Jones books, I was confused at times about what was going on, how things worked in this world, and that sort of thing. There are hints at the mystery as the story goes along, but since Cat is the main cha ...more
Nov 24, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, ya
Diana Wynne Jones has a wonderfully whimsical ability to worldbuild (of which J.K. Rowling should be jealous). Books with magic in are slowly tending to become more technological (as our technology becomes more magical, perhaps, or maybe it's just because of games in which magic has to be "balanced"); there are clear rules for what can and can't be done. This author was writing before that trend, or ignored it, and her magic is like the magic of folktales. It works because it ought to work, beca ...more
I'm not sure what to rate this book. I did enjoy it, but it is not my usual cup of tea. I would probably never have read it if a friend hadn't recommended it to me, and this is simply because I don't read many middle-grade books. So don't let the three star rating give you the wrong idea, because this is a great book, if not really my type of book. Magical, well-written, and hilarious. Just take this paragraph for example:
"As a rule, gingerbread men were fun. They leapt up off the plate and ran
This is the first book in the Chrestomanci series, though not the first book in the series I have read. Luckily for me, they are mostly stand-alone books so that didn't really matter. Except I sort of understood the concept of the Chrestomanci, which made this book.. a little predictable. I'm sure that when the whole concept is new, everything is just genius, because the idea behind Chrestomanci (which I obviously won't be spoiling!) is intriguing and awesome. But being already familiar with the ...more
Jul 04, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I listened to this book on audiobook. It was narrated by Tony Robinson. I am very familiar with Tony Robinson from TV series here in the UK. He is a good actor and has a good voice for narration. However, all I could think of was his character Baldrick from Blackadder while I was listening to it - that was what I found myself visualising and not the children this story is about. I think this ruined the charm of the book for me somewhat.

This story was written over 35 years ago and I'm re
Jun 15, 2012 Joan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy lovers
This was lots of fun. I've read others in the Chrstomanci series but never in order and I know I've missed several, including this one. You could see how it was going to turn out if you've read others in the series but it was still loads of fun getting there. Cat is a fantastic character, and the secondary characters were all well developed too. Fiddle was a particularly original character. Janet was a most likable person as well, especially considering she was a sort of relation of the one trul ...more
Althea Ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristin Boldon
May 29, 2015 Kristin Boldon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, re-read, read-aloud, 2015
Tried to get my 9 and 11 yo boys to read it. They wouldn't, so I read it aloud. They were jumping and cheering by the end. We LOVE this book and the younger couldn't wait to start the next one in the Chrestomanci series. If you love Harry Potter, check out Diana Wynne Jones and see one of Rowling's main influences.
Sep 26, 2014 Steph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful read full of magic, mischief and adventure!
Jun 25, 2016 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, library
Fun and vivid YA fantasy. I really enjoyed reading this.
Anzu The Great Destroyer
After an extremely slow start the book becomes awesome goodness.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I have to say I liked this much more than I did the only Harry Potter book I have read. It doesn't work quite so hard to be "witchy" (broomsticks, writing with quills instead of pens in the modern world). Gwendolyn and Eric aka "Cat" are orphans, and eventually are taken to Chrestomanci Castle. Gwendolyn, who reminded me strongly of Nellie Oleson, thinks she is the last word in witches and that Chrestomanci has taken her in because he admires her. She soon discovers this is not the case, and of ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Mairelon the Magician (Mairelon, #1)
  • Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles, #2)
  • The Sherwood Ring
  • The Cuckoo Clock
  • Something's Fishy, Hazel Green (Hazel Green, #2)
  • The Wind on the Moon
  • Magic Below Stairs
  • Flora Segunda (Flora Trilogy, #1)
  • The Tricksters
  • The Little Bookroom
  • Dark Quetzal (The Echorium Sequence, #3)
  • Charlotte Sometimes
  • Autumn Term (The Marlows, #1)
  • The Hounds of the Mórrígan
  • Bagthorpes Unlimited: Being the Third Part of the Bagthorpe Saga (The Bagthorpe Saga, #3)
  • Which Witch?
  • The Exiles (The Exiles, #1)
  • The Secret Country (The Secret Country, #1)
Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an ed ...more
More about Diana Wynne Jones...

Other Books in the Series

Chrestomanci (6 books)
  • The Lives of Christopher Chant (Chrestomanci, #2)
  • Witch Week (Chrestomanci, #3)
  • The Magicians of Caprona (Chrestomanci, #4)
  • Conrad's Fate (Chrestomanci, #5)
  • The Pinhoe Egg  (Chrestomanci, #6)

Share This Book

“Chrestomanci smiled and swept out of the room like a very long procession of one person.” 52 likes
“Then watch out. I warn you!"

"That is very considerate of you," said Chrestomanci. "I like to be warned.”
More quotes…