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Chrestomanci (Recommended Reading Order) #2

The Lives of Christopher Chant

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His father and uncles are enchanters, his mother a powerful sorceress, yet nothing seems magical about Christopher Chant except his dreams. Night after night, he climbs through the formless Place Between and visits marvelous lands he calls the Almost Anywheres. Then Christopher discovers that he can bring real, solid things back from his dreams. Others begin to recognize the extent of his powers, and they issue an order that turns Christopher's life upside down: Go to Chrestomanci Castle to train to be the controller of all the world's magic.

318 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1988

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About the author

Diana Wynne Jones

182 books10.2k followers
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 educational conference centre. There, Jones and her two younger sisters Isobel (later Professor Isobel Armstrong, the literary critic) and Ursula (later an actress and a children's writer) spent a childhood left chiefly to their own devices. After attending the Friends School Saffron Walden, she studied English at St Anne's College in Oxford, where she attended lectures by both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien before graduating in 1956. In the same year she married John Burrow, a scholar of medieval literature, with whom she had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin. After a brief period in London, in 1957 the couple returned to Oxford, where they stayed until moving to Bristol in 1976.

According to her autobiography, Jones decided she was an atheist when she was a child.

Jones started writing during the mid-1960s "mostly to keep my sanity", when the youngest of her three children was about two years old and the family lived in a house owned by an Oxford college. Beside the children, she felt harried by the crises of adults in the household: a sick husband, a mother-in-law, a sister, and a friend with daughter. Her first book was a novel for adults published by Macmillan in 1970, entitled Changeover. It originated as the British Empire was divesting colonies; she recalled in 2004 that it had "seemed like every month, we would hear that yet another small island or tiny country had been granted independence."Changeover is set in a fictional African colony during transition, and begins as a memo about the problem of how to "mark changeover" ceremonially is misunderstood to be about the threat of a terrorist named Mark Changeover. It is a farce with a large cast of characters, featuring government, police, and army bureaucracies; sex, politics, and news. In 1965, when Rhodesia declared independence unilaterally (one of the last colonies and not tiny), "I felt as if the book were coming true as I wrote it."

Jones' books range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation (Changeover is both), to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless (though not unaffectionate) critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.

The Harry Potter books are frequently compared to the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Many of her earlier children's books were out of print in recent years, but have now been re-issued for the young audience whose interest in fantasy and reading was spurred by Harry Potter.

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She was friends with both McKinley and Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman are fans of each other's work; she dedicated her 1993 novel Hexwood to him after something he said in conversation inspired a key part of the plot. Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.

For Charmed Life, the first Chrestomanci novel, Jones won the 1978 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime award by The Guardian newspaper that is judged by a panel of children's writers. Three times she was a commended runner-up[a] for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book: for Dogsbody (1975), Charmed Life (1977), and the fourth Chrestomanci book The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988). She won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, children's section, in 1996 for The Crown of Dalemark.

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5 stars
10,261 (45%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 757 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,097 followers
February 28, 2013
this prequel to Charmed Life gives the mysterious and urbane Chrestomanci (multi-dimensional policeman of all things magical) his own backstory. this was a wonderful kid's novel, swiftly-paced and enjoyable from beginning to end.

i loved the connectivity between this book and its predecessor, seeing the basic similarities and differences between Cat and Christopher, their similar reactions to their current Chrestomanci and Chrestomanci Castle, their different ways of not being magical, their similar abandonments and the different ways their families let them down, their different sorts of victimhood and their similar ways of finally taking command. the girls that they sorta fall for. the relatives who betray them. their mutual destiny.

Cat and Christopher are both very special people who are trapped by that destiny. i liked how Jones did not sugarcoat the trap. being Chrestomanci is neither boy's dream, and the job is never turned into anything approaching wish fulfillment - despite its power, and despite its potential for wonder and adventure. she made this grand position - master of all magic, traveler throughout all dimensions - somehow prosaic. even rather dreary. a smart and surprising choice by the author.

i think that Jones also captures Christopher's age perfectly. his young voice and thought process are what guide the reader, and so we get to see things with both objective distance and a subjectiveness that allows us to be fooled along with Christopher himself - fooled by the people around him and fooled by himself into acting in certain ways, refusing to believe obvious truths and eager to believe obvious deception. he is not always a nice boy - at times sulky, arrogant, or unkind. but he is also often quite kind, and brave, and good. a well-rounded boy! Jones' writing style conveys all of this in an appealingly straightforward and rather tidy style. even better, she shows how a boy can change, sometimes slowly over time, sometimes in a great big rush, eyes suddenly opened and aware of his own biases and his own strengths.

plus it has Throgmorten, best magical cat from another dimension ever!
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
540 reviews123 followers
October 18, 2019
I liked this better than Charmed Life, even though it’s a prequel. Fun stuff.

There were some cliche trappings that shouldn’t have worked (rich neglected kid who is somehow nice and who finds out he’s super duper magical but finds a way to be even nicer). And the whole nine lives and multiverse idea doesn’t make sense at all, but all that was somehow okay because this was such fun to read! I’m curious to see where the series goes from here.

There’s also a pretty deep idea here about the disconnect between kids and adults. The adults here are trying to use the kids for their own purposes, setting them on tracks and trying to exploit their talents. The kids have to learn how to communicate effectively, lie well, and learn to find their own way through all the pressure and influences.

(Okay but seriously, there’s a multiverse of worlds in series but somehow they mostly have some kind of generic British thing going on? Honestly now. I don’t believe for a second that a world like ours but with magic would be so similar.)

I’ll have to track down book 3. I’m excited to see what’s next.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,809 followers
December 8, 2020
Thoroughly enjoyable - one of my favourite Diana Wynne Jones books so far. Great fun, entertaining, compelling and just a lovely read.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
722 reviews1,400 followers
February 16, 2019
Wonderful like I remembered. I love putting all the pieces together. The ending with the people of Eleven wasn't the best, sadly. I think the 'noble savage people' idea is showing its age.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,930 followers
February 23, 2018
Maravillosa precuela de 'Charmed life' (traducido al castellano como 'Una vida mágica') en la que conocemos los orígenes del fantástico hechicero Chrestomanci, cuando era tan solo un niño que viajaba de un mundo a otro conociendo diosas, robando gatos y soñando con ser jugador de críquet profesional.
Tan solo desmerece un poco el desenlace, pero aún así he disfrutado muchísimo de toda la novela que es divertida, original y llena de personajes geniales.
No es necesario haber leído 'Charmed life' para catarla, por cierto
Profile Image for Libby.
36 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2013
I don't know how to accurately describe my love for this book. Every time I read it I feel more strongly (and I think on average, I read it about twice a year, so I feel very strongly about it indeed!) Never-mind that it's a "children's book" (whatever that means). It's beautiful, it's timeless, it's rich and it's subtle. I adore it.

I first read it when I was about ten. This and "Witch Week" were in the two little bookshelves at the back of my fifth-grade classroom, and as you do when you're a ten-year-old bookworm, I had carefully gone through almost every book there over the course of the school year, leaving only those that looked uninteresting. Somehow I'd missed Diana Wynne Jones (I think the covers of those editions were a little strange, and I was conscious of covers at ten.) But I'd read almost all of the other books, and it was there, and so I took it to my desk to read instead of listening to my Social Studies lesson.

It ended up being the kind of book that was impossible to put down. I think I got in trouble about it a few times. I liked it and I finished it and it went on my mental "good book" list (which at the time meant that I would someday read it again, when I got around to it.) That was that for a few years. I didn't recommend it to anyone but my sister. I loved Christopher's dream journeys, his parents' strange aloofness, his carelessness with his lives, Tacroy's secrets, the Goddess turning into Millie, the cricket matches, and that bold, beautiful moment of release when Dr. Pawson coaxes Christopher's magic out of him -- but I thought my friends would find it strange, and so I didn't tell them about it. It was a kind of private book. I wanted it to be all mine, so that nobody could corrupt it.

Somehow, this translated to me reading it year by year, eagerly and thirstily, sucking in all the multi-layeredness and life lessons that I'd missed on previous rereads. It's THAT kind of book -- it's full of things that you don't fully understand the first time, that you have to get older to appreciate, or that you have to think about in a certain way to comprehend. I've read it at least ten times, and I don't even think I've found everything yet.

I love the other Chrestomancis too, but they pale in comparison to this one. I don't know WHAT it is -- I've tried to put my finger on it for years, and I can't. The other books are multi-layered too, with characters just as dynamic, plots just as complex, as this one. Maybe it's what whoever-it-was said, that quote about reading a book at the right age, and it leaving an impression on you forever. It really did.

I don't want it to be my secret anymore. It frustrates me ridiculously that nobody seems to have read this book. I want people to read it. I want to run around on rooftops and FORCE people to read it. (But at the same time, I do appreciate that there isn't a wild and rabid fandom rushing to make memes or write frightening fanfiction. That's nice. That kind of reaction destroys books' dignity, and the dignity of Christopher Chant would be a terrible thing to mess with.)

At any rate, that's all I'm able to say about it. I love this book with an enormous, wild passion, and I think I always will.
Profile Image for Cat M.
170 reviews24 followers
October 18, 2018
Reread for the umpteenth millionth time.

The Lives of Christopher Chant wasn't my first DWJ, or even my first Chrestomanci book, that was Charmed Life, which I acquired at about 8 and read until it was falling apart.

This one I had to get from the library for years before picking up my own copy, so I didn't read it as many times as a kid, but over time it's become my absolute favourite of the series. I love that, not to put too fine a point on it, Christopher is a complete asshole for quite a lot of this book, but in a very believable way. He's a sheltered kid whose been lied to and had stuff hidden from him his whole life. He makes the choice to trust the first adult who treats him like a competent, autonomous human being, and furiously resents the ones who keep dragging him from place to place with no seeming interest in his own cares and desires.

This all makes quite reasonable sense!

Also, he has the emotional intelligence of a ROCK. He's a kid who's never been taught empathy or how to think about other people's needs as well as his own. He's fumbling around learning these skills on his own, because the few adults he interacted with as a small child spectacularly failed to model them to him.

But at heart he is caring and kind and considerate, just in a kind of autocratic-leaning kind of way.

The scene where he helps Throgmorten escape is one of my favourites in the entire series, because it's one of the first times we really see that kindness come out in an overt way.

His gradual burgeoning friendship with Millie is wonderful. The way he doesn't realize they've become friends until well after it's already happened. The way Millie figures out his magical silver allergy before he does. And the way he handles a bedraggled Goddess showing up on his doorstep while the entire world is already falling down around his ears.

As for Millie, well, I've idolized Millie since I was eight years old, and that hasn't changed. She's just so practical. Not necessarily sensible, she's still a kid after all, but practical and decisive and confident in a way small child me always wanted to be.

I've also always loved Mordecai Roberts and Flavian Temple, the way their friendship and betrayal and renewed friendship plays out in the text, but also the very different ways Christopher treats them. The dashing and rake-like Tacroy he takes to instantly because he's part of the grand adventures of the Anywheres, but the more upright yet kind Flavian he immediately resents because he represents the restrictions of the Castle that he does want to be in and does not understand.

Mordecai and Flavian are set up as opposites, but are really actually remarkably similar when it comes down to it, and the scene where Flavian finally loses his temper with Christopher is perfect. As a child I always recognized myself in that scene, because I could be so like Flavian. I would hold it all in and be quiet and polite and friendly until suddenly some little thing was just too much and all my anger would burst out of me in a torrent.

I kept coming back to DWJ's books as a kid and keep coming back to them as an adult because she really got kids, in a way that was neither sappy or moralizing. Children's wonder and excitement and obsessive passions, sure, but also their self-centredness and shortsightedness and difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions. And she shows them learning and changing and discovering in the most delightful and believable of ways.
Profile Image for Michele Monteleone.
Author 37 books1,065 followers
April 22, 2021
Ho l'impressione, quando leggo Diana Wynne Jones, di trovare nei suoi libri il meglio di Gaiman e della Rowling. Avete presente tutte quelle cose deliziose e geniali come la metropolvere, la giratempo, la stanza delle necessità? Tutte quelle trovate che rendono memorabile il mondo di Harry? Ecco in Diana Wynne Jones quelle trovate non sono diluite in sette libri, ma ce ne sono sette in ogni pagina, la sua narrativa sembra esplodere di idee, essere un concentrato di intuizioni magiche. Alla fine del romanzo, nell'edizione Salani, c'è una sua breve intervista in cui parla del fatto che da bambina il padre non gli comprava i libri e quindi era costretta a inventare, per sé e per le sorelle, storie sempre nuove. Penso che questo sfortunato evento, abbia portato la mente dell Jones a rimanere un po' quella di una bambina e proprio per quello a essere iperattiva e in grado di partorire stupende follie.
Questo senza dimenticare le sue trame intricate, ma sempre ditate di finali ad orologeria, con colpi di scena che Shyamalan scansate.
Se non leggete Diana Wynne Jones perché siete troppo grandi, sappiate che vi state sommamente sopravvalutando e invece dovreste proprio mettere alla prova i vostri pregiudizi.
Profile Image for Elana.
Author 8 books109 followers
December 19, 2018
This is my favorite of the Chrestomanci Quartet by leaps and bounds. Jones' pacing is impeccable, and there is never a dull moment. While her ability to spin everything together in endings is a bit lackluster in some of the other books -- Magicians of Caprona and Charmed Life being the worst offenders -- here we have a wonderful buildup to a very fulfilling climax. Her characters are vivacious and likable (even when they are doing unlikeable things), her wit is as sharp as ever, the magic is brilliantly simple in a complex sort of way, which is my very favorite type of magic . . . and there is even a dragon.

This story brought something of the Young Me back to life. I'd remembered very little of it apart from the general overview (and it turns out I'd been conflating this story with the one in Charmed Life), so it really was like reading it for the first time. I loved the magic system. It helped illuminate the path I'd taken to becoming a magic-writer. I loved the adventure aspect. It reminded me that I'd once been someone who loved going on adventures -- big or small, it didn't matter. And I loved simply reading it. It made me realize that perhaps I'm not quite as different from Young Me as I'd imagined. I started reading to settle my brain before sleep, and as you can see, I stayed up half the night. Not due to anxiety or depression, Thank Shivnath . . . simply because I *had* to know what happened on the next page.

I remember now the days before PCs and Smartphones, when books were all I had. How much I loved them. What good company they were. What adventures I had alone, in my room. This book brought out the best in me -- it was just like old times. I felt like myself again after closing it. It is a rare and truly magical book that can make you feel things so deeply, and something here resonated with me on a profound level. For that, I am supremely grateful.

Five stars, easily, hands down.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 58 books746 followers
July 19, 2019
This is my favorite of the Chrestomanci books, and to my surprise I had completely forgotten the final confrontation. I guess it's been a while.

The Lives of Christopher Chant lacks the strong through-line of Charmed Life, which is maybe why the latter is more generally popular, but I enjoy the development of Christopher as a character and the exploration of the Related Worlds. There's also some of DWJ's trademark subtle horror, such as and her wonderful feline characters. I really love Throgmorton the Temple Cat. The narrator for the audiobook rendered his yowl perfectly.

This is also best experienced as a prequel, because there is something really fun about seeing the Chrestomanci of Charmed Life as an ordinary, lonely, occasionally bratty boy. So read at least Charmed Life and possibly also Witch Week, and then give this one a shot.
Profile Image for nastya .
418 reviews257 followers
January 13, 2021
Where Charmed Life and Magicians of Caprona were more on a kiddie side of the series, somewhere around Witch week the series started to grow up. This one is the 4th in the series and it has definitely a more complex plot. I really loved this book till almost the end. The landing was rocky, DWJ sometimes rushes in the end, story became a bit too convoluted. But I loved young boy Chrestomanci and The Living Asheth very much.
Profile Image for Jamie Dacyczyn.
1,611 reviews89 followers
April 14, 2023
A reread of an old childhood favorite. DWJ is a wizard (if not a nine-lifed enchanter) when it comes to inventive fantasy stories.

It's been a long time since I've read this one, so although there were some parts I remembered vividly (like how Christopher walked around the corner of his bedroom to get to other worlds), I was amazed to see how much I didn't remember at all. The animosity between Christopher's parents must have gone right over my head when I was younger.

A great old-fasioned feeling fantasy. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for beatricks.
195 reviews20 followers
March 21, 2016
Of the three Chrestomanci books I've read so far, this was easily my favorite. I've enjoyed DWJ's style from day one, but this is where everything came together for me and I developed really strong feelings about plot and relationships. I love how DWJ just goes for it in terms of frankly messed up subject matter but still keeps things brisk and funny. She does a great job of putting us in the tight POV of Christopher as a very young child as well as when he gets older, so that we share much of his interpersonal obliviousness even as we pick up on plot cues that he doesn't.

I felt (and enjoyed) that Tacroy seemed to be a guest from a Wharton novel or the like, off in some seedy garret full of opium or laudanum. But the actual twist was even better! What a well-drawn character and set of relationships (including his with Miss Rosalie).

I also loved the Goddess, although I was pretty annoyed that she and the rest of the people in her world seem to be white. This annoyance doubled when it became clear that Tacroy -- and the entire rest of his (evil, extra alien) world -- are not white. Because of course they are. SMH

Still, overall really loved this book and am excited to read more about Christopher and Millie.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
August 8, 2010
Fun and easy to read. Pretty sure I didn't read this, the first time, so, hm. Maybe I only read the first book, when I was younger. In any case, it's best to read this after Charmed Life, otherwise it would give the game away with some of what happens in Charmed Life.

Christopher Chant isn't the pleasantest kid to read about, if you're reading in an aware sort of way and you know some things about the world -- e.g. dragon blood -- but at the same time, you get sucked into what he's doing. And it's lovely when he starts to develop -- because he does develop -- and becomes more self-aware. Millie/the Goddess is a fun character, too, and I kind of identify with her obsession with school novels... as a kid, I ate 'em up. I'd still like to get hold of the Chalet School books, someday... But my favourite character, somehow, is Tacroy, who still manages to be a decent kind of guy, despite everything.

The only quibble is how neatly and quickly it all ties up at the end. It felt rather abrupt, and just... too neat.
Profile Image for Roslyn.
345 reviews17 followers
January 29, 2020
Another 5 stars for this re-read.

Every re-read of a DWJ book seems to bring something new or at least emphasises in capital letters something I've long felt about her as a writer. After my recent re-read of Charmed Life, this book again strongly reminded me how DWJ's villains are villains not because they are cartoonishly Evil but because they knowingly and callously use people and fail to value people simply as people. It also hit me how different and more vivid DWJ's children's and YA books (also of course for adults!) are from most YA today. Despite the fact that today's YA books try to deal face-on with lots of issues, DWJ seems to be in some ways so much more unflinching. I realise that must sound strange and perhaps it isn't even true, but it's how I felt when reading this. She's so very honest about people, with all our good and bad stuff mixed together.
Profile Image for Ksenia (vaenn).
436 reviews207 followers
January 22, 2021
О, маю поповнення на поличці одного з улюблених релакс-жанрів - "Приємні книжки про неприємних дітей" (особливо вдатні до нього британські письменниці, але в скандинавських теж часом класно виходить).

У невиразно-класичній (такій собі чи то пітер-пенівській, чи то шерлок-голмсівській) Британії з магією та крикетом живе собі виразно-класичний зарозумілий малий Крістофер. Поміж інших дітей малого Крістофера вирізняють сни про мандри в дивні краї - дуже яскраві сни, а ще такі живі, що хлопчик може з тих сувеніри приносити. "А давай перевіримо?" - пропонує йому якось добрий дядечко Ральф, і це стане початком, як не чудової дружби, то вже запевно цікавої кар'єри.

Ті, хто читали "Зачароване життя", знають, що тут до чого і хто саме виросте із зарозумілого Крістофера, котрий звик дивитися на дорослих... не дуже привітним поглядом. Але "Життя" чудово працюють і як окремішній пригодницько-химерний роман з його бадьоро-іронічним сюжетом, дистильовано-бісючими, але дуже живими центральними дитячими персонажами, низкою прекрасно-ексцентричних персонажів дорослих, приємним гумором (а часом - ще й відверто чорним) та акуратно вплетеними алюзіями та "бюрократичними" жартами. А ще, а ще! Мені останнім часом незрідка трапляються книжки, де до числа ключових героїв належать безтолкові, але дуже симпатичні пси. Так от, в "Дев'яти життях" є кіт. Огидно-демонічний, тертий-битий-стріляний, жахливий кошак з тих, кого небезпідставно ненавидить весь світ, і ця тварюка відповідає світові авансом. Воу-воу, Трогмортен - мій герой! Він додає ідеального градусу епічності цій зага��ом затишній книжці.
Profile Image for Becca .
605 reviews37 followers
November 6, 2009
I read this series as a 5th grader. In fact, my copy got confiscated by the terrifying 4'9" Mrs. Wasserman because I was reading it under the desk and trying to look innocent.

I was delighted to reread this and realize that these books really ARE captivating, and maybe I did have some literary taste as a kid.

I loved the way the adolescent hero has a terrible shock discovering that he is not adorable, and that he may in fact be an arrogant jerk. What a perfect insight into being 13! And Jones is a master of the dangerous mistrusting gulf between children and the adults around them. How can adults and children understand or trust each other? Who is reliable and who is dangerous? Very -- dare I say it? psychologically realistic-- in a magical alternate universe.

Profile Image for Rosamund Taylor.
Author 1 book122 followers
June 13, 2021
2021: Possibly loved this even more on my reread. Especially charmed by the Goddess, who reads lots of boarding-school novel, and wants to exist in a school story from the 1950s, despite her ferocious powers. Very funny and charming. Also delighted to meet the cats again: Throgmorten the daring and Proudfoot the adorable.

Review from 2018:
This is an excellent children's fantasy novel: it does absolutely everything it needs to do. It begins with Christopher Chant (who we have met as an adult in Charmed Life, but this book stands alone), a lonely child with wealthy, self-obsessed parents, who can travel to other worlds. This is a singular skill, but Christopher doesn't know it: he gets solace from travelling, but doesn't know it's an exceptional skill until he meets his charismatic uncle, Ralph. Unfortunately, Ralph is not really on Christopher's side at all.

It's a fast paced novel, with Christopher shuttled from place to place, meeting many unsatisfactory adults. In another world, he befriends a Goddess in human form, and they become allies, along with a number of delightful and fiercesome cats. The story is very satisfying, keeping to its internal logic, and full of daring, and, not always present in children's books, genuine human emotion. It's fun to read and makes wonderful escapism.
Profile Image for J. Aleksandr Wootton.
Author 6 books134 followers
October 16, 2020
This second installment of the Chrestomanci series is direct prequel to Charmed Life, in which Jones more fully develops her "many worlds" fantasy setting by telling how Christopher Chant grew up to occupy the position of Chrestomanci, despite losing so many of his nine lives along the way.

It is a quite magical biography and a different sort of story than Charmed Life, although both are tinged with real darkness, and both deal with the consequences of emotional neglect, which leaves others, children especially, vulnerable to manipulative persons. The thematic content is, again, a bit deeper and more disturbing than you might expect for middle-grade fiction, yet handled with a wonderfully light touch.

As with every installment of this series, it's Jones' keen attention to the details and concerns of real life that makes her fantasy so good. Her characters are vividly human: being magical doesn't particularly ennoble their virtues, intensify their faults, or alleviate their stresses. Deftly-told otherworldly adventures make the stories fun, while ordinary concerns and choices makes the stories credible. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Hymerka.
598 reviews101 followers
December 7, 2021
Діана Вінн Джонс не припиняє ламати неписані правила дитячих пригодницьких книжок. От у цьому творі головний герой — малий чарівник — помирає. І не раз. Ціле щастя, що життів у нього аж дев'ять (хоча, якщо він і надалі втрачатиме їх з такою швидкістю, не бачити йому пенсії). Якщо ви раніше читали "Зачароване життя", то вже трохи знаєте про устрій цього альтернативного вікторіанства, присмаченого магією, але "Життя Крістофера Чанта" можна читати і окремо. Юний Крістофер Чант удень живе досить звичайно, щоправда шлюб його батьків — гроші, які побралися із титулом — геть нещасливий. Інша справа вночі: вночі Крістофер подорожує паралельними світами. Дізнавшись про це, його дядько вирішує використати дар хлопця для своїх темних справ, і так Крістофера по вуха втягує в контрабанду могутніх, коштовних і вкрай нелегальних артефактів із інших світів. І хоч сам Крістофер мимохіть став на шлях злочинності, і він сам, і всі без винятку дорослі, і інша дитина, яка має важливу роль у цій історії — абсолютно чарівно неідеальні. А є ще й котисько — той просто лютий. Моральна сірість героїв додає справжню родзинку і без того оригінальному тексту.
Profile Image for Filipa.
594 reviews1 follower
May 26, 2022
Very glad I read this after Charmed Life.

Interestingly enough, if feels like it follows the same kind of formula. A child throwed into a world they don't really understand or particularly care about, turned left and right by those who take advantage of a child's eagerness to belong, to be cherished and loved.
(not gonna lie, i love it - you can't help but ache and feel deep fondness)

Once again in awe of Diana Wynne Jones' imagination. You feel enchanted with the possibilities the magic provides, you can never predict what might come next from one of the Related Worlds. Everything is new and refreshing and an utter delight to discover as you read.

I'm really curious to discover the rest of the stories in the Chrestomanci series.
Profile Image for Emma Rose.
1,054 reviews73 followers
October 25, 2022
Reread in 2022 - I really really loved this book. It's SO imaginative. I love Christopher so much as a character. His life starts out so simple and fun - he travels between worlds from time to time and people like him so much there they give him little trinkets to keep as presents - until people realise what he can do and try to use him for their own purposes. The cast of characters is rich and I'll remember them forever and this has so many cosy scenes which I completely adored - Christopher playing cricket, The Goddess talking about vintage school books to name just two. This was a joy.

Wow. Diana Wynne Jones is quite incredible, she's unlike anyone I've ever read (apart from maybe Pratchett). Her books are SO unique and memorable .

This was no exception, and I liked it more than Charmed Life because I loved all the main characters. The magic is super fun. Christopher can travel between worlds during his sleep and has got nine lives so his Uncle tasks him with recovering a series of objects from different, sometimes dangerous realms - until Christopher finds out he's destined to become the greatest sorcerer of all time.

Super clever. The writing is GORGEOUS - she's the best author I know when it comes to sneaking in some small cosy details in the middle of action-packed scenes that make you feel instantly warm and at home. The dialog is sharp and witty, really funny. I enjoyed everything about this book. Absolutely going in my library to reread forever.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
1,402 reviews77 followers
May 2, 2020
This is a fun one, though probably my least favourite of the Chrestomanci books. I enjoy The Goddess, Throgmorton, and Tacroy, but I don't feel all that connected to the actual plot. A bit too long, perhaps. Still, I enjoy revisiting when I reread the whole series!
Profile Image for mirnatius.
736 reviews37 followers
September 12, 2020

“savage” slur, g-slur, fatphobia.

This is the one I really want to re-read. But I will do so sometime after I finish this series. Christopher has grown on me and I just want to see the way he has changed. My favorite aspect of him does not look like it will change. Which I love. I just admire his cynicism and this is very much a part of him that seems to remain with him through the years.
Profile Image for Gus.
558 reviews51 followers
May 25, 2020
--- The Lives of Christopher Chant ~ Christopher Chant, Bocah Bernyawa Sembilan ---
Plot: Ok.
Penokohan: Ok.
Gaya bercerita: Ok.

Selamat datang di Dunia Chrestomanci, dimana semua enchanter bernyawa sembilan memiliki takdir khusus.

Christopher terang kaget dan dongkol sendiri saat ia diberitahu akan dididik oleh Gabriel-- atau orang-orang di Kastil untuk menjadi Chrestomanci selanjutnya. Sebelumnya ia bahkan tidak tahu apa Chrestomanci itu! Gara-gara ini, hidupnya diseret pada kehidupan baru yang jelas tidak begitu disukainya. Pelajaran sihir dasar, orang-orang yang tidak menyenangkan, Gabriel yang menakutkan, dan surat-suratnya yang terbuka dan dibaca tanpa seijinnya.
Memangnya Chrestomanci itu apa sih?

Hyahoo!! Akhirnya saya menyelesaikan buku ini!
Baiklah, ini buku ketiga WynJones yang saya baca. Overall semuanya khas WynJones sekali ❤️. Semuanya diramu menarik dan lucu sewaktu-waktu. Ada beberapa bagian yang sangat manis dan konyol. Tapi tentu saja lengkap dengan beberapa bagian lain yang membuat saya sedikit bertanya-tanya dan membaca beberapa kali untuk mengerti dan mengimajinasikan stage-play di otak kecil saya (⌒▽⌒).

Plotnya berjalan dengan baik. Tidak terlalu cepat, juga tidak terlalu lambat. Cuma kadang saya harus membaca beberapa kali untuk benar-benar 'ngeh' maksudnya.
Tidak pernah terlupakan, hubungan antar tokoh di karya WynJones selalu memikat saya. Jika sebelumnya saya suka sekali hubungan di Charmed Life [ Cat dan Janet, Chrestomanci dan Millie istrinya (yang toh sangat "awwww" di bagian pertempuran pemungkas Charmed Life ❤️) ] dan di The Magicians of Caprona [ Paolo dan Renata juga Paolo dan Tonino ], maka disini saya terpikat dengan Christopher dan Sang Dewi. Saya senang bagaimana Christopher menyenangkan sang Dewi, sampai kadang tidak habis pikir tentang mahluk bernama perempuan saat melihat sang Dewi. Tidak hanya itu, sang Dewi memiliki kecerdikan atau kelicikan tersendiri. Syukurnya, pikirannya kebanyakan seirama dengan Christopher. Saya senang sekali di bagian mereka berdua (´∀`) //intinyaitu //ehehehehh. Saya masih gak habis ketawa memikirkan ekspresi Christopher di bagian endingnya saat tahu dengan apa si Dewi bisa ke dunianya X"D //srsly,ituagaklicik //danmemangbrengsek //huahaha.

Tidak kalah menyenangkan, senang sekali melihat perkembangan tokohnya. Mulai dari Christopher yang awalnya menyukai orang yang salah, Christopher yang menjadi anak paling menjengkelkan kalau di kastil Chrestomanci, sampai Gabriel sendiri. Saya rasa; bagian dimana sosok bocah Gabriel diperlihatkan, itu harus diperbanyak. Saya bisa menjamin dia, Christopher, dan sang Dewi akan menjadi teman yang baik. Soalnya nak Gabriel itu lively sekali ❤️ //serius //sayasukasenyumusilnya //khasanak-anak //anakyangusil //heh.

Keluhan terbesar saya hanyalah bagian yang menghangatkan, misalnya mencairnya hubungan antara Christopher dan Gabriel tidak diperbanyak. Soalnya-- setelah setengah buku masuk ke bagian Kasti Chrestomanci, Dua per tiga bagian itu menceritakan betapa menjengkelkan hubungan Christopher dan Gabriel pada masa itu (sebenarnya tidak juga, tapi menyerempet lah). Jadi rasanya ada pembenaran untuk memperbanyak bagian dimana mereka diperlihatkan membangun hubungan persahabatan yang baik. Bukan cuma di satu dua tiga lembar halaman terakhir //lhe.

Tapi yah. Kalau dilanjut juga saya bisa memprediksi kalau semuanya akan baik-baik saja ^ p ^ ). Kurasa saya tidak boleh terlalu banyak mengeluh--- TAPI SERIUS SAYA BUTUH ASUPAN HUBUNGAN BAIK LEBIH BANYAK LAGI ( > Y < ;; ) .
Yah paling tidak saya akan melukiskan akhir yang indah untuk menyempurnakan ending ini. Mudah bukan membayangkan Christopher mulai dekat dengan Gabriel-- yang ternyata punya keusilan tersendiri di umurnya yang sudah segitu, juga mulai menghargai manusia lain di Kastil, lalu nantinya ia akan menjadi Chrestomanci menyukseskan Gabriel, kemudian menikah dengan sang Dew-- eh Millie.
Urutan dua yang terakhir boleh untuk dibolak-balik (͡° ͜ʖ ͡°).

Terakhir-- saya agaknya tidak begitu seirama dengan teman saya-- BUKAN! BUKAN! Jangan memikirkan yang negatif! Kami sama-sama menikmati buku ini. Maksudku; semua karya WynJones yang saya baca ini bagus. Tapi... dibanding buku pertama, saya rasa saya lebih menfavoritkan Charmed Life. Hehehe... Paling tidak; untuk sekarang ❤️.

Ps: Surat Ibu Christopher di tamatnya itu... saya rasa hal paling membahagiakan di bab terakhir ^^ (disitu semua menyenangkan. Tapi surat Ibu Christopher, adalah GOLDDD!! //wat) (」゚ロ゚)」
Profile Image for Julie.
938 reviews241 followers
October 26, 2021
Before he had a chance to do more than look around, a man with a little pointed gray beard stepped up to him and took the striped scarf away. “He won’t be needing this,” he said, rather shocked about it.

Christopher thought the man was Gabriel de Witt and was all prepared to hate him, until Flavian said, “No, of course, Dr. Simonson,” apologizing for Christopher. “The old lady gave it to him, you know. Shall I—?”

Christopher decided to hate the bearded man anyway.

In this book, we meet the Chrestomanci from Charmed Life once again, except now we’re seeing his origin story as a child: a precocious boy who keeps accidentally wandering into other universes during his dreams. He’s a combination of endearingly, hopelessly naive due to his distracted personality, and being homeschooled & barely socialised in the outside world, and so he often doesn’t even realise how he’s being used by the adults around him— but he’s also a somewhat entitled only child who was both neglected and doted upon, which makes for an interesting personality, his independent streak but also his spoiled streak, the way he focuses so much on himself and misses things about his treatment of the others around him. Following his bildungsroman is great, his trials and tribulations plus stumbling his way towards understanding that he actually does have magical abilities. We also get to meet the previous Chrestomanci, Gabriel de Witt, and his household.

The twists here are actually more predictable than Charmed Life, imo, but now that Diana Wynne Jones is a more experienced writer, the world feels richer and more well-developed (we learn even more about the alternate universes and how they work), the character work more detailed, and the end result is ridiculously compelling. Every chapter left me desperate to keep going (“just one more chapter… just one more chapter!”), so I basically inhaled this book in a day and a half.

It’s warm and witty — the sequences with Christopher’s parents and their cold war is so hilarious that I wound up in gigglefits so often while reading. Christopher’s character development is nice to follow, as well as Millie! The origin story for Christopher and Millie’s first meeting, and how they eventually become friends, is a+ (and I’m hoping we see more of her in subsequent books because I want to see how it becomes a romance, okay).

Learning more about Christopher’s deaths and how he burned through his lives so quickly (hinted at in Charmed Life), and his blase attitude towards it is just so funny:
The dragon’s eyes met Christopher’s, almost soulfully. Among the ruins and rafters of the farm roof, it opened its huge mouth. It was rather as if a door had opened into the heart of a sun. A white-orange prominence spouted from the sun, one strong accurate shaft of it, straight at Christopher. WHOOF. He was in a furnace. He heard his skin fry. During an instant of utter agony, he had time to think, Oh bother! Another hundred lines!

The whole novel is so much fun, and even better than the previous one. The Chrestomanci books remain fabulous stuff as ever — just lovely middle-grade fantasy — and I remain so excited to read/reread the rest of them.
Profile Image for Beth.
1,144 reviews113 followers
July 24, 2016
I really love the Chrestomanci universe. (At least, I love the stories that surround the character and the castle, so notable exceptions include Volume II.) As a story, I don't think this is paced as well - or as fun - as Charmed Life, but it does dovetail with Charmed Life in fascinating, tongue-in-cheek ways, and those overlaps do a lot to elevate the story, placing it in context in the wider Chrestomanci universe.

More specifically, this is the story of the way the vague, suave, dressing-begowned father of Roger and Julia in Charmed Life came to be that person. It's interesting how much his story overlaps Cat's experience in Charmed Life: he, too, gets sent to live at Chrestomanci Castle against his will and feels very lonely there, plus -
"My advice is that you then start with pentacle and fire," Dr. Simonson droned on, "using the simpler form of words to start the process, but..."

Christopher sat silent, thinking that if he did get to be the next Chrestomanci he would forbid people to talk about their work at mealtimes. Ever.
And of course, that didn't happen (though Cat does notice that Roger and Julia are able to contribute to the conversation, which he and Gwendolyn cannot do).

There are more overlaps, like the discussion of Christopher cultivating that vague look, but they never become cutesy, probably because the tone of the book is darker. It's not just that in a household full of adults, no one is willing to extend themselves to understand why the young teenager might not be so friendly - Flavian's outburst is out of line, frankly - and no one seems to know how to teach. Christopher's sarcasm was welcome in the face of Gabriel de Witt's "your family is awful, so you understand, of course, why I am reluctant to teach you?" Even earlier on, in one of Christopher's conversations with Tacroy:
"I don't know who my parents were."

Christopher was impressed. "Is that why you're always so cheerful?"
I don't remember that line making an impact on me when I was eleven, but now it's one of the most powerful lines of dialogue in the book. I mean: yikes.

Anyway, jocular darkness and all, the novel proceeds at a steady pace and builds to a great climax, at which point it darts in a ridiculous, mostly-unprepared direction at full speed. My favorite Diana Wynne Jones novels tie all the threads together in a messy, exciting ending. This introduces an entire new world and new wrinkles in the final pages, and it's messy and exciting, but also very out of place, and that means that dealing with the Lobster Pot immediately after - in a situation that does tie into the main plot very well - feels out of place, too. Which it shouldn't.

I do appreciate how differently Christopher is drawn from Cat - and those differences are highlighted, too, in Conrad's Fate and The Pinhoe Egg - and I like how the Chrestomancis do seem to learn as they go along. This is a really entertaining series, but it's the character growth almost hidden beneath the plot that I'm finding most compelling this time around.
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