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Charmed Life

(Chrestomanci #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  28,056 ratings  ·  1,087 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)
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Moriah Mason They are (in the order I would read them):

The Lives of Christopher Chant
Conrad's Fate
Charmed Life
The Pinhoe Egg
Witch Week
The Magicians of Caprona
Mixed…more
They are (in the order I would read them):

The Lives of Christopher Chant
Conrad's Fate
Charmed Life
The Pinhoe Egg
Witch Week
The Magicians of Caprona
Mixed Magics: Four Tales of Chrestomanci
(less)

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3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  28,056 ratings  ·  1,087 reviews


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Mark Lawrence
Aug 02, 2015 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
...more
unknown
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
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
Laura
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
Jayanth
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I guess I'll read the complete series, this book was good.

While reading this, I realized that J. K. Rowling might have had some inspiration from this series for Harry Potter, not in terms of story or characters, but the fantasy and magical elements. The name 'You know who', the moving paintings, chess pieces that are animated and so on.

Cat Chant and Gwendolen Chant are orphan siblings. Gwendolen is a witch and she is a very ambitious one at that. Cat is quite a mellow and reserved kid and stays
...more
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
Arielle Walker
Aug 20, 2012 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
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Gwendolen was just as horrid as I remembered, but oddly I somehwat disliked Cat this time around - though nothing's exactly his fault, he is so terribly attached to his sister... who is horrid to him! I agree completely with Janet that it's infuriating Chrestomanci and the Family said nothing about what was going on to Cat. But most of all, I want one of those dressing gowns!
Anastasia
Jul 03, 2008 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
Alison
Mar 20, 2011 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
...more
Tina
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.
Floor Flawless
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2019
Listened to the audioboek.

I heard some great things about this series, so I wanted to give it a shot.
So I listened to it whilst doing some household chores. I liked it, but it had less impact on me than I thought it would have. The story was okay, but I won't continue the series I think.
~ Giulia ~
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks their sister is horrible
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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
After the parents of Gwendolen and Cat are killed in an accident, the siblings go to live with the world's most powerful enchanter, Chrestomanci, in the hopes that Gwendolen, the only one of the two with magical abilities (or so it is thought) can be tutored by the enchanter. Gwendolen becomes angry after Chrestomanci fails to make much of her magical abilities and disappears, only to be replaced by a decidedly nonmagical duplicate, Janet.

The story is great fun, with a big alternative world wher
...more
aleks
Nowhere near as good as the other Diana books I've read, hence the 3 stars, but I still love her so much and I've heard that the rest of the series is better?

Anyway, mostly I didn't enjoy it that much because, for Diana, it wasn't that creative. (Note, I stress, for Diana). Still, it had golden moments and the last few pages are so wholesome. Also, bless everyone in this book besides Gwendolen the evil sister.
Totoro
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
the story was about a boy named Cat and his wicked witch sister Gwendolen. well , they're orphans now and after going to a couple of other people they find their way to the castle of mr.Chrestomanci.
there , Gwendolen wants to show this warlock that she has magical talents but he keeps ignoring her which makes her all the more evil.

well, first about the characters, the sister is a monster, nothing special about her, i hated her. Cat , i don't know how to feel about him, but i didn't like his mee
...more
CLM
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a pleasure to reread this fantasy, first in a series, for the #1977Club! As I observe, usually a story about plucky orphans shows how tragedy or circumstances unite them agains the world, but here big sister Gwendolen is out for herself while her brother Cat struggles to find his place in a new home.

Here is a link to my review:
https://perfectretort.blogspot.com/20...
Brick Orrock
Jan 22, 2014 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
...more
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
Temaris
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'
...more
Elana
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book began with five stars for nostalgia (I read it ages ago, when I was just starting out on my fantasy-reading journeys).

I docked 1.5 stars for the ending, which -- while it was foreshadowed well in little sprinkles throughout the book -- felt sudden and left quite a deus-ex-machina taste in my mouth.

I docked another .5 stars for Chrestomanci himself; I remember such a larger-than-life character, but it seemed, upon my re-reading of the book, that we hardly got to know him at all. Nor do
...more
Ed Kay
Oct 28, 2014 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
...more
sassafrass
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am intensely jealous of DWJ's ability to weave such subtle hints throughout her impeccably crafted plots, of her wit, of her brilliant talent for creating unique and interesting magic, and of course her unforgettable characters. I GOTTA GO READ ALL THE OTHERS NOW!!!!
Jo
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this because I was ashamed that I hadn't read it already, when I admire this author so much; now that's rectified, I can confirm (as if anyone needs me to) that it's a classic, and worth the time.
Danya
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
Julie
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
How do I know I loved this book? When I reached about the 70% mark, I had to walk away because of my anxiety over the terrible decision the characters were making. A shining example of plot driven by young kids trying to solve problems themselves, and the adults in their lives thinking they are doing best, but not. This is one of those plot devices that can be too heavy-handed if overdone, but I think Jones handles it finely. It would almost be farce if there weren't danger involved, and those s ...more
DeLani
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: do-not-own
I love the Chrestomanci books with my whole heart. I didn’t read these books till I was an adult, but they are some of the best fantasy middle grade there is and somehow still make you feel nostalgic. I love the way magic works here. I love that the entire book feels very quiet—quaint, actually—but still really manages to surprise you.
Sara
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Good dose of magic and a little bit of fun!! It did not go where I thought it was going to go at all though; I wish there had a bit more of an explanation or a more wrapped up ending but maybe that's explored more in this series. Overall a 2.5 read for me; it was alright but not something I can see myself re-reading.

ps. The views expressed in this review are my own and do not reflect the views of Indigo Books & Music Inc. or any of it's subsidiaries.
Brandy Painter
Review originally posted here

Charmed Life tells the story of Eric "Cat" Chant. He is an orphan who is completely useless at magic but his sister Gwendolen is a powerful witch. When a distant relation bearing the title of Chrestomanci takes an interest in them and moves them to his castle with his family things become very interesting and upsetting for Cat. His sister is angered by Chrestomanci's disregard for her magical talent and an angry Gwendolen is a dangerous person to have around. Cat be
...more
Mike
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, kindle
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
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7,847 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 ed ...more

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)
“Chrestomanci smiled and swept out of the room like a very long procession of one person.” 63 likes
“Then watch out. I warn you!"

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