Cat Chant and Marianne Pinhoe have discovered something exciting--something truly precious, very strange, and valuable. An egg.
An egg that has been hidden away in an attic for who-knows-how-many years. An egg protected by some strong "Don't Notice" spells. An egg that Marianne gives to Cat, even though he lives at nearby Chrestomanci Castle. Chrestomanci himself, the strongest enchanter in the world, is sure to be interested in the egg--and interference from the Big Man is the last thing Marianne's family of secret rogue witches wants.
But how much longer can the Pinhoes keep their secrets? Gammer, the leader of the clan, has gone mad, a powerful bad luck spell is wreaking havoc, and there's an unexplained plague of frogs. Not to mention the mysterious barrier Cat finds in the forest.
Marianne and Cat may be the only two who can set things right. But first Marianne must accept her own powerful magic, and Cat must uncover the secrets behind the mystical Pinhoe Egg.
In this new Chrestomanci book, Diana Wynne Jones is at her most magical.
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.
Diana Wynne Jones does so much with The Pinhoe Egg and makes it look so simple and easy. I think that must be her special gift as a writer: exploring dark themes and complex messages within the pages of children's fantasy novels that remain bright and fun despite the darkness and disorder lurking beneath the sparkling adventures. This, the final book in the series, is about two children from very different cultures living side-by-side who somehow manage to be change agents despite everything including their own personalities working against them. It is rife with terrible things like mind control and past atrocities being buried and difference being imprisoned rather than celebrated and torture being chosen as an alternative to murder and religious fanaticism and uncaring adults willing to harm children and towns that revel in their toxic tunnel vision. And it is also a whole lot of light, pleasant fun that is exciting and ends on a a wonderfully positive note.
⇨ some vague spoilers approach
All of the Chrestomanci books have been concerned, one way or another, with the evil that parents and parental figures and family members can do to their young protagonists and to children in general - often for the most banal of reasons. This book takes that theme to next level and widens its scope with whole villages willing to isolate, harm, and raise their children in ignorance in order to achieve their highly questionable ends. It was a bit breathtaking to realize how deep the evil ran. Jones did a particularly canny thing by setting the first 3 chapters, 50 pages worth, within one of these villages. The reader gets to see the rather charming misadventures of a whole clan of madcap eccentric types trying to move their ailing, senile matriarch into a new home while she tries to use the might of her magic to stop them. It was all so funny and human. By the end of the novel, with all of their misdeeds revealed, I was thankful that these terrible people had been given their moments of humanity despite the revelation of their close-minded villainy.
⇨ you can now lay to rest your fear of being spoiled
Perhaps to counter all of the darkness under the surface of this cheery adventure, Jones really ratchets up the cuteness factor. I'm used to at least one grouchy, adorable cat per novel. Pinhoe Egg has a cat of that sort, and another cat more maternal in nature, a luckless donkey, a wonderfully quirky horse, a unicorn, and most loveable of all, a baby griffin. I just want to say that again: a baby griffin! The scenes featuring the griffin and the horse together were the best sort of cuteness overload.
The Chrestomanci books are about how adults can harm children, but that's only half of the lesson - and not even the most important half. They are just as concerned with children being given the opportunity to follow their own hearts when deciding how they want to eventually live their lives; children learning to trust themselves and finding an inner bravery despite what fate has handed them. Valuable lessons! The series is a marvelous achievement.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH I LOVE THIS BOOK SO SO MUCH!!! It may be my absolute favorite Chrestomanci book ever. <3 And one of my top DWJ books, period.
Just so much is going on in this thing! Not to mention all the fabulous characters, including several familiar ones.
It’s closer to an actual sequel-type-book than Diana Wynne Jones usually wrote. A lot of her sequels follow entirely different characters, just in the same world, with cameos. This was more of a proper sequel to Charmed Life and some of the other Chrestomanci books, and it was such a delight to be back at Chrestomanci Castle with Cat, and Chrestomanci, and Millie, Janet, Roger and Julia, etc. New characters Marianne Pinhoe and her brother Joe were great fun. I also really liked Irene! And a certain character who’s a spoiler ‘til near the end… but he was great too! :)
It’s HILARIOUS, too. Julia and Janet going into a horse-craze, Roger and Joe and their inventing, etc. (WE BELONG TO CHRESTOMANCI CASTLE!)
And I so so enjoyed reading about Chrestomanci and his misadventure or two and how he fixes things when he knows about it; Marianne and the Pinhoe shenanigans; Cat and his problems with having to raise a baby griffin, keep a horse happy, help Marianne without Chrestomanci (doesn’t go so well), and learn more about his magical abilities, because he is, after all, going to be the next Chrestomanci someday.
These CHARACTERS, though!
Cat is just a fabulous hero. I really like him a lot, for some reason.
Marianne is a lot like Cat, though his opposite in some ways. They’re fun together.
Millie is the best mum/wife ever. She’s so calming and great! Gah.
Time would fail me to talk of sullen Joe Pinhoe, Roger and Julia, Cat’s sort-of-sister Janet, the lovely Irene (formerly Pinhoe; yes, there are a lot of Pinhoes in this), and all the rest. But it’s such an awesome cast!
Plus Klartch the griffin. There’s also a unicorn. Yesss to the fantasy goodness.
Last, but far from least, Chrestomanci himself is the absolute BEST!
I felt like we got to see an unusual amount of Chrestomanci in this one, which was fantastic! His dry and witty dialog, his sarcastic look that makes you want to melt into the ground, his elaborate dressing-gowns (one for every day of the year, according to an interview with the author!), his elegant suits, his vague looks that mean he’s paying extreme attention, his calm ability to step in and fix a magical disaster efficiently and with some great sarcastic remarks — as soon as he knows the disaster is there, of course (since the main characters often don’t tell him until it’s almost too late).
But he’ll also make sure that the right people help fix it, so that they learn from their mistakes, etc., and also that the right people get their comeuppance. It was also fabulous/hilarious to see him more in a parental-type-role, dealing with the antics of his son and daughter, Roger and Julia, as well as with young Cat and Janet.
AND HIS DIALOG. I CANNOT GET OVER HIS DIALOG. He’s sooo funny and dry and sarcastic and just… I cannot. (It was absolutely so much fun reading this book aloud, if only for his lines.)
Chrestomanci (a.k.a. Christopher Chant, since Chrestomanci is merely the title of the nine-lifed enchanter) is simply one of the absolute best characters ever; and if ever I was in a magical difficulty, I’d definitely want his help!
I love this series, and although I would read dozens more if there were any, this book was the perfect ending for it. Classic DWJ, and Chrestomanci is one of my top-favorite characters ever. <3
This was another delight. I was hooked early, by a scene about a witch grandma who didn't want her family moving her out of her house. She poltergeists the live-in nurses! She melds herself into the bed! When the whole family tries to levitate her bed-self out, she resists and then flings herself into town, a bed on the run.
Saddened by the passing of Diana Wynne Jones, I thought it appropriate to commemorate her by dipping into her vast bibliography of books. She can be a charming writer, with interesting characters, gentle humor, pointed social commentary, and creative plotting and world-building. An unplanned stop at an unfamiliar library turned up The Pinhoe Egg, described as "Book 6 in the Chrestomanci Chronicles." As I had read two or three of the Crestomanci books in the past, I thought I could get by in the world--in my experience, her books are more like loosely related stories in the same world with some of the same characters, and not an epic novel in installments like Harry Potter. It turned out to be a bit of a wander through the woods but had some nice stops along the way.
Super-fast non-spoiler summary: teenage girl, Marianne, with a large, intrusive and witchy extended family. Although she is supposed to be heir to the family position of power, she has little say in what she does, and is delegated to deal with a failing grandma. Meanwhile, teenage boy enchanter, Cat, discovers his own growing powers as he meets a horse. On their explorations he encounters the complicated witchy dynamics of the surrounding town.
The good stuff: DWJ has an interesting world idea, the concept of multiple variations of a basic format (ex. World A having 1-9 similar realities). Love the idea, although she doesn't play with it at all here. There is a lot of magic thrown about, and I enjoy her applications of magic in creatures and activity, and the fact that there are limitations to it and it can't solve everything. I thought Marianne and Cat were characterized well--when she takes the time, DWJ's characters shine. Touches of humor were sprinkled throughout, from a contrary magical cat (aren't they all?) to Crestomanci's variety of dressing gowns, to magical shenanigans. The little girl in me squealed at and the magical creatures made the story worthwhile.
Unfortunately, "Pinhoe" could have used more development. It generally suffers from an assumption that the reader is familiar with the world. The Crestomanci world is never really very well explained in any book but the first, and even then the level of explanation is questionable. While a telephone makes a singular appearance, people are forever being sent on errands to deliver messages, and a crucial plot point involves mistakenly knocking on one person's window in an attempt to reach the brother's. As cars also exist, it seems to be about an early 1900s sort of time/tech level, but it bugs my Virgo soul that no one calls each other if the tech is available.
Unfortunately, uneven pacing almost hamstrung it from the start, where the first seventy-five pages deal with moving Grandma ("Gammer") out of her giant house and into the hands of someone who can care for her. Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the drawn-out problem of dealing with an aging but incompetent relative, but as this is a young adult book, it would likely be a section that lacked relevance to younger people and contained too much detail. Had I been a teenager and in Marianne's place, I would have wandered away from the adults tout de suite and found my own thing to do, but instead there is far too much story focus on "Uncle Edgar did this," and "Aunt Dinah did that" that detracts from Marianne's story and own conflict development.
There were also rather disturbing actions by the adults, who not only behaved in typically ignorant adult ways (ruining holidays, ignoring talented children, discounting their ideas, etc), but flagrantly homicidal ones . Including those crimes into the repertoire of childish pranks was an odd decision on the author's part that seemed to either inflate the seriousness of their earlier crimes, or minimize the seriousness of ones the teens didn't know about. It takes the story to a rather disturbing level that doesn't fit well into the whimsy of the rest of the book.
Heavy-handed application of A Message at the end hurt an otherwise nicely dovetailed wrap-up.
Like Neil Gaiman, I do love me some DWJ, but this isn't one of the books I'd recommend. Try The Dark Lord of Derkholm for a better story, even stronger characterization and even more or The Year of the Griffin for a lovely little "magical college" storyline that's told with humor, wild creativity and left me wishing DWJ could write at least six more.
Three stars for beginning, three for the ending, four for a fun, fast-paced middle, leading me to three and a half stars.
Definitely my least favorite of the series, this book is a bloated mess. Things happen, that's how I would describe the plot. It's also the last one she wrote in the series, and the previous 5 were under or around 300 pages. I really believe this is the ideal length for these whimsical stories. This monster is almost 500 of, I suspect, unedited pages. Also didn't we already get the similar themes of fighting families in Magicians of Caprona, but less nasty? Also, this is the second Cat's book and he is remarkably completely devoid of personality, even for a kid's book.
So it works like this: I think the Chrestomanci books that are about Chrestomanci (Charmed Life, The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant) are better books, but I think that the books that just feature Chrestomanci are often more interesting (Witch Week, Magicians of Caprona). And I didn't care for Conrad's Fate at all, which is odd considering that it's the only one I own in hardback.
BUT ANYWAY. My point being: this Chrestomanci book is the best of all of them, because it's about Cat Chant and Janet and Roger and Julia and Millie and Chrestomanci, but it's also about people who have nothing to do with Chrestomanci at all getting into trouble. It's like smooshing Charmed Life and The Magicians of Caprona together, and it was an utterly delightful perfect read. Nothing will ever surpass Dogsbody as my favorite DWJ, but this one is a very, very close second.
Absolutely worth the 25 cents I paid for a hold on it at the library. I would have paid the full buck if I'd had to.
This was kind of darker than any other DWJ I've read, which was interesting. Although there are hints of a more adult world lurking in her books for older readers such as Fire and Hemlock and Hexwood, this book comes closer to describing overt violence than any of her others (that I've read). Unlike in her other books, where the villains are rather tame and any actual brutality takes place off-screen, the real villain in this book is human nature and the consequences of its existence play out before the reader's eyes. A man is crippled and imprisoned for life behind a magical barrier because it is "kinder" than killing him. The children of an entire village are infected with whooping cough and at least one child almost dies. War is declared and blood is spilled, though no one dies.
I wonder if DWJ meant to do this. This book is just an add-on to the Chrestomanci series, which are very much childrens books, told from a child's perspective. They are less about magic than about the way adults and children constantly misunderstand each other. There is that in this too, but there is also more.
And I loved it, but mostly for the reasons I love all DWJ books, which are irrational and largely inexplicable. It suffers from the fantasy sequal blow-out syndrome, but DWJ can get away with it where other authors can't. The plot wrap-up at the end is slightly too neat, but seriously, who gives.
This apparently is the last of the Chrestomanci series of which I have read a few of the earlier ones so I wasn't as lost as perhaps I might have been afterwards, at least knowing about Chrestomanci, the castle, Cat who is the nine-lived enchanter understudy to be the next Chrestomanci, Millie, Chrestomanci's wife and an enchanter in her own right, and their children Roger and Julia, plus Janet the girl from our world who ended up stranded in Chrestomanci's world after Cat's nasty sister Gwendolen caused havoc in 'Charmed Life'. However there was still a 'cast of thousands' as the beginning plonks us into the life of the villages around the castle where a few familes, the Pinhoes being one of the chief ones, have been hiding their magical abilities from the castle for centuries to avoid 'interference' from Chrestomanci and his predecessors. For the families are all witchy people who routinely misuse magic - although it is not till towards the end when it is revealed precisely how bad that misuse has been.
This is a story about adults behaving badly and victimising children in various ways. Brother Joe, who has his own ideas about magic, and sister Marianne are both pushed about by their family - it being the school holidays, they have already lined up a job for Joe at the castle as a boot boy but really because they want him to spy on the 'Big Man'. And Marianne ends up lumbered running general errands and helping out with her grandmother, Gammer Pinhoe the matriarch of the clan, who starts acting very peculiarly at the start of the story thanks to a spell from the rival Farleigh family. Gammer's manipulative behaviour is the driving force behind the magical feud which breaks out between the families and ends up being the catalyst to reveal just what they have been up to for centuries.
Along the way is the discovery of the egg which setting off the breaking of the century long secrecy and fulfilment of a prophecy, plus the arrival of a spookily intelligent horse Syracuse who soon becomes Cat's mount despite his procurement being at the insistence of Julia and Janet.
The book is rather long and a bit uneven. Partly a romp, partly a rather dark tale of imprisonment and torture, partly a rather drawn out account of the attempt to pacify Gammer, then of Marianne's realisation that no one will believe her about Gammer. It starts off with with three chapters dealing with the havoc Gammer causes and how she is gradually settled into ther new accommodation during which it seemed dozens of uncles and aunts plus two grand uncles are introduced. It was very difficult to keep these people differentiated and they had only sketchy characterisation at best. On top of this, there are the several children, various animals - and I wasn't a fan of the wandering cat - and the extended Chrestomanci circle which includes another sorceror, Jason and his new wife Irene. Plus other relations of Marianne and Joe - cousins etc including one who is working at the castle as an ostler but really is there to spy on Chrestomanci and family. And the various Farleigh characters too.
The cast is huge and at the end most of them sit down for an extended infodump at the pub where all is revealed about the various badness that has gone on and the reasons for it, which involved some rather odd history (baddies invaded centuries ago and the families' mistaken "mission" arose as a direct result, as these baddies were anti-magic/anti-nature. I assumed the Christian church was referenced until it was said that the Romans had conquered the baddies - if instead it was meant to be the Celts it doesn't make sense as they worshipped various nature deities. So I was thrown by that.) Anyway, I liked the fact that things ended on a happier note, but given the various issues would rate this at 3 stars.
Because Jones opened this story with tensions between two local extended families - neighbors, and none too fond, of Chrestomanci Castle - I thought at first it was going to be another riff on cliches a laThe Magicians of Caprona, but the narrative sidesteps that trap soon enough, and branches into something more interesting and original. This story deepens the Chrestomanci setting quite a bit, and like the other installments, doesn't shy away from exploring difficult themes. I really love how ordinary Jones' villains are in this book, and throughout the series: it's rare for genre fiction to showcase the true banality of evil, and harder to do it well in any narrative, including nonfiction.
As with a couple of the previous installments, The Pinhoe Egg really could have benefited by including a couple more chapters, enabling Jones to avoid the Summation Gathering-style wrap-up. But it's ok: the story still works, and the explanation manages to charm, even if the resolution feels a bit hasty (both within the narrative and without).
In all, a great series of novellas. I'm looking forward to reading the accompanying short story collection, Mixed Magics.
The newest Chrestomanci novel. This is now one of my favorite Diana Wynne Jones books. I love her so, so madly, she is just so creative and clever. Which makes me sound like a prig, but seriously, her books are always totally original. I always either ADORE her books, or find them just a little oddly flat---and this one was just brilliant. I loved all the children, especially Marianne, and her family was convincingly family-like yet also sort of sinister...like, she really captured the betrayal that children can get from adults who don't understand them or take them seriously, or who seem to be nice family members and then turn out to be massively fucked up.
Also, Chrestomanci is so damn hot. In this book, he wears at various times:
A dressing gown made of peacock feathers; dark crimson velvet evening dress WITH A FRILLY APRON; various other amazing amazing dressing gowns.
DWJ's femmy heroes are the best. If you haven't read any of the Chrestomanci books, though, don't start with this one---start with the Nine Lives of Christopher Chant or Charmed Life, they are both brilliant.
The last of the Chrestomanci books written by Diana Wynne Jones, The Pinhoe Egg was also the longest and, arguably, the most complicated in terms of plot. Unlike some of the novels preceding it Chrestomanci doesn’t just have a walk-on part at the end but takes on the most integrated role in proceedings since Charmed Life, the very first Chrestomanci story of all. The story actually centres on young Eric ‘Cat’ Chant, who lives at Chrestomanci Castle near Helm St Mary, and his contemporary Marianne Pinhoe, who lives about ten miles away in Ulverscote. Marianne’s grandmother appears to lose her mind in a blast of magic — did I mention this is a fantasy? — and poor Marianne’s long-anticipated summer holidays start to disappear over the horizon as her extended family gets drawn into a feud with a neighbouring village. Not only this but her family also fear the attention of Chrestomanci, the ‘Big Man’ at the Castle, whose job is to monitor any misuse of magic. And it turns out a whole lot of misuse of magic is going on.
As well as the last of the Chrestomanci books this was the first of the series where I felt you could draw a detailed map of the localities and how they related to each other; which, in fact, is just what I did. This gave the characters a landscape in which to work and interact, and helped to make the story more grounded, as it were, than some of the others in the series. This was, for me, also one of the richest and most satisfactory of the stories, as well as one of the longest, and helped to further enrich the sequence as a whole. True, some readers have been overwhelmed by what seems a cast of thousands — at a conservative estimate six ‘family’ members at the Castle , their staff of over two dozen, at least forty named villagers (a thousand appear in the final battle) and a handful of assorted non-humans. But rather than being a turn-off surely such complexity, requiring close attention to and engagement with the text, is something to celebrate rather than criticise? There is certainly no let-up in the expected drive of her story-telling.
The joint fulcrums on which the story turns are personified in both Marianne and Cat, the latter a nine-lifed enchanter who is likely to become the next Chrestomanci. The general assumption that children should be seen and not heard is not one that Diana Wynne Jones subscribed to, and so both youngsters have to struggle against not being believed by adults by becoming more brave and assertive. Being gifted magically they recognise each other’s innate abilities, and by working in tandem have the opportunity to avert the dangerous situation that all and sundry find themselves in. Things are particularly hard because there seem to be outside forces operating that prevent the truth from being investigated, let alone revealed. Is that truth being hidden by 'dwimmery', a state brought about by an Old English word implying an illusion brought about by sleight or magic?
The Pinhoe Egg is a novel that reveals more the more you enquire. The author explains in a note that she could only get started on the book by imaginatively exploring the countryside around Chrestomanci Castle and the villagers who lived there. Many of the names of villages and families are genuine, and Jones clearly delved around in her memories and her extensive learning to retrieve them. The Pinhoes for example live in a village called Ulverscote. There is in fact a real village called Pinhoe on the outskirts of Exeter, where a great battle was fought by Danish Vikings and King Ethelred’s army in the 11th century; the settlement, in hilly country, has a name probably derived from Celtic pen and Old English hoe, meaning ‘top of the hill’. As it happens, the village inhabited by Jones’ Pinhoes is called Ulverscote, close by Ulverscote Wood and situated on an eminence. The ‘cote’ element could denote ‘cottage’ or Welsh coed (‘wood’), while the first element seems to imply a personal name like Ulf, an old Scandinavian name meaning ‘Wolf’. Is it beyond the bounds of reason to suggest that ‘Ulverscote’ was concocted partly from a memory of the real Wolvercote, on the outskirts of Oxford? After all, Jones went to Oxford University, where she attended lectures by Tolkien, and the man himself was buried in Wolvercote cemetery. Yes, Wolvercote was before the 12th century originally the cottage of a certain Woolgar, not Ulf, but I am also mindful that in Charmed Life Cat’s home town is noted as … Wolvercote. In a lively and creative mind like Diana’s all these associations could easily have been tangled together, partly consciously, partly subconsciously; as a reader it is not necessary to know that these associations are possible but it certainly adds to one’s appreciation if historic events, etymologies and personal experiences are woven together in an artful and satisfying way.
With exactly 400 pages in the paperback edition it’s neither possible nor desirable to give a detailed plot description, so instead I’ll draw attention to a few other aspects that struck me in this reread. Fot example, Jones slyly alludes to the fairytale trope of seven sons, but despite Marianne’s father being one of these boys she herself is no seventh son of a seventh son; instead, she is the only girl amongst thirteen cousins — a fact which helps cement her unique magical status. Another theme that Jones harps on about is bigotry. Though there is a church and a Reverend Pinhoe in evidence, we are never anywhere told the precise religion of this fantasy world; however that doesn’t stop the rival Farleigh family, equally witches and magic-users, from inveighing against “ungodly abominations”, an all too familiar rant in our own world. There’s a confusing backstory of an orthodox religion but this seems to predate ‘the Romans'; whether these are ‘our’ Romans or a closet reference to Roman Catholics is unclear, and may be the sort of typical obfuscation that Jones tends to throw into her novels from time to time.
The final aspect I want to explore is the place The Pinhoe Egg has in the series’ chronology. Luckily Jones gives us some clues. It’s been almost a year since the moment in Charmed Life when Cat accepted he was a nine-lifed enchanter. So we have a fairly tight timeline between the 1977 title and this last in the series published nearly three decades later, all linked by the character of Cat (and Chrestomanci, of course). Since I’ve reviewed all these at some time or another I won’t give full details, but the sequence is Charmed Life (when we first meet Cat) followed by the short story ‘The Sage of Theare’ (where Cat puts in a brief appearance). The young Italian Tonino (who appears in The Magicians of Caprona) meets up with Cat in another short story ‘Stealer of Souls’, and both feature again in ‘Caroline Oneir’s Hundredth Dream’. This last short story ends with the Chrestomanci ‘family’ on holiday in the South of France, from which they return in time for the start of The Pinhoe Egg. As always, most of these tales can be read as standalones, but those readers wanting continuity in their series reading could do worse than read the stories in this order.
You will by now be wondering what the egg of the title is. This appears as a result of “a promise I made to my sister” (Ursula, perhaps) “that I would write more about such things”. What this spotted mauve egg contains is a surprise I leave to the reader to discover for themselves, but it is a creature that traditionally guards gold. And while I feel the egg itself is a bit of a McGuffin I suppose the story itself, in a way, is the gold.
Luulin lukevani Chrestomanci-sarjan kolmatta osaa, mutta kävikin ilmi, ettei sitä ole käännetty suomeksi. Taikuuden taakka on kirjasarjan kuudes ja viimeinen osa ja tässä ilahdutti paluu tuttujen hahmojen pariin. Kirja on tyypillistä DWJtä: vasta kirjan loppupuolella käy ilmi, miten kaikki asiat liittyvät yhteen. Sitä odotellessa lukija saa nauttia hullunkurisista hahmoista, oudoista sattumuksista ja ystävyyden kuvailusta. Tässä kirjassa oli mielestäni vähän turhaa jaarittelua, mutta monia ilahduttavia yksityiskohtiakin löytyi: esimerkiksi se, että Kissan vasenkätisyys antaa hänelle etulyöntiaseman joissain taikuuteen liittyvissä tilanteissa. Taikuuden taakka ei ole suosikkikirjani DWJltä, mutta tuttua, turvallista ja ilahduttavaa tämän lukeminen silti oli.
Awwh man, this was definitely my favourite of the Chrestomanci series - such a shame it was the last one! It's another one set in the castle during Christopher Chant's reign as Chrestomanci, with Cat as his apprentice. I do love me some Chrestomanci in his dressing gowns XD
Initially I didnt really know where the Pinhoe/Farleigh storyline was going, and I spent many a page wanting to stab Gammer and all the Pinhoes. But all tied up wonderfully in the end, especially with the stories of the hidden creatures, and the Pinhoes slightly redeeming themselves - though I still find myself wanting to stab Marianne's father.
This is by far the cutest book of the series, and everytime Klartch was mentioned my face literally went like this ^_^! I think I loved this one the most because it dealt with magical creatures, and the story about Gaffer and the unicorn, and the sinister misdirection spells and barriers were genuinely mysterious, unlike Witch Week, which I hated with a passion.
Don't want to spoil it for any potential readers, but this book is positively ADORABLE and definitely redeems any faults with the other books in the series. Diana Wynne Jones creates cute and fascinating mythology, and yet again manages to create utterly frustrating characters that make you want to throttle them XD
2021: *wipes away tear* I don't want to be done :( This was a lovely ending book to the series, but as usual made me want so much more. I just adore Cat. I feel like in Charmed Life he became free from being manipulated all the time, and then in this book he really started to come into his own. I desperately want a scene 20 years into the future where someone shouts "Chrestomanci" and he just appears with a unicorn and a griffin and everyone is like "what. the fuck."
Now that I have finished them all, here are some of my thoughts about the Chrestomanci books: -My definitive ranking goes Conrad's Fate, The Magicians of Caprona, The Lives of Christopher Chant, Charmed Life, Witch Week, The Pinhoe Egg. -I loved the character of Chrestomanci himself. -The cats in The Magicians of Caprona are lovely. -Once again, Diana Wynne Jones' imagination has impressed me. -Although I loved the characters in The Pinhoe Egg (and that we got to see Cat again), I thought that the plot (though a clever concept) was a bit all over the place and underdeveloped. It was also very long. -Conrad's Fate is glorious. The houses. The Countess. Conrad himself. CHRISTOPHER. -I loved visiting all the different worlds that DWJ has created for this series. -DWJ made a good choice by having the books be about Chrestomanci, but not from his perspective. Instead, you read from the point-of-view of someone in one of the other worlds, and you get to know and love that character while you are waiting for Chrestomanci to show up. -Witch Week was good, but it didn't make a huge impression on me. I liked the end when the MCs were wandering about in the woods and then had to go back to school to be questioned. -Klartch and Syracuse. -Millie and Christopher's friendship in The Lives of Christopher Chant is lovely. -The fabulousness and variety of Chrestomanci's dressing gowns delighted me.
This was a fun series to read over the summer. I recommend it for people who have read and enjoyed Howl's Moving Castle and for people who just need a little whimsy in their lives. Young and old alike can enjoy Diana Wynne Jones books, so maybe make this a family read.
I know the Chrestomanci books can be read in pretty much any order, but starting with A Charmed Life and finishing with The Pinhoe Egg feels very natural, and I really enjoyed seeing Cat and Janet again. I felt like this book combines elements of my two favorite Chrestomanci books, which are A Charmed Life and The Magicians of Caprona , so naturally I really liked it.
I did think Janet and Julia were both a bit underused in this book, they showed up a little bit in the beginning but then didn't really get any involvement at all. I really liked Janet from the first book, so I was sad to see her sidelined this way. Besides that, I really thought the story was well done and had a very satisfying ending.
I had read a couple of Chrestomanci books about a decade ago (Charmed Life and The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant, I believe) and enjoyed them, but remembered very little about them. Fortunately, this book stands on its own, although it has backstory I know I'm missing.
Anyway, it is darling. It starts a little less slowly than the other books of hers I've read (Howl's Moving Castle [still my favorite], Castle in the Air, House of Many Ways, Fire and Hemlock, The Dark Lord of Derkholm), and it also doesn't have that classic DWJ ending that those all share - you know, the one where you think you're following the plot acceptably well, and yes, sometimes little subterranean bits of plot make appearances like they're supposed to be relevant but you completely have no idea why and they're confusing but they go away pretty quickly and you're back riding the surface of the story with no trouble, and then all-of-a-sudden-in-the-last-two-pages-18-storylines-emerge-and-are-all-interconnected-and-resolve in a giant mass of confusion that you have to read twice more before you understand what happened.
Was that grammar?
The point is, that is both a strength and weakness of her other books, but The Pinhoe Egg doesn't have it, which is kind of nice. I don't remember if the other Chrestomanci books have it.
At any rate, the story is fun, I enjoyed Cat and Marianne and Roger and Joe and the rest of the Castle folk, and I thought Marianne's relationships with her extended family were well-drawn if sometimes maddening. Gammer cracked me up every time she was onstage. In fact, she might be the best part of the book.
I guess this review spent more space saying what the book isn't than what it is, but the point is, I recommend it!
In the final instalment of the Chrestomanci series, we meet Cat Chant once again, as well as the families who live outside Chrestomanci Castle, including Marianne Pinhoe, a powerful enchantress in her own right. The Pinhoes are at odds with other magical families, including the Farleighs, who have set out to destroy the Pinhoes by a thousand cuts. But at the same time, many secrets are hidden within the Pinhoe and Farleigh lives, and once Cat and Marianne meet, they begin to uncover them. This is an entertaining, sprawling narrative, full of surprise twists and likeable characters. I always enjoy a fantasy novel in which a character discovers an egg, and the egg in question does not disappoint. In Jones' world, the adults are always either clueless or malevolent, although in this novel Chrestomanci and Millie try their best to be neither. With the general malevolence of adults getting in their way, Cat and Marianne set out to right wrongs, and on the way, discover unicorns, griffins, and a beautiful horse named Syracuse. This book is full of wonderfully chaotic animals, and a host of plot-twists. I found it really engaging and very, very likeable. Recommended.
I'm meandering through the Chrestomanci books - haven't reread them in ages - and I'd forgotten how entertaining they are! This is Diana Wynne Jones at her most maddening brilliance: she manages to make ordinary events so important and diverting, and then tightens the screws by making everything happen at once, in an almost slapdash way, and then suddenly everything comes together, and it becomes obvious that she's been telling a different story under the surface the entire time. Here she manages to describe Marianne's life so well, and yet it isn't until Marianne herself realizes she's under a spell that you, too, realize just how isolated Marianne's reactions were. And Marianne's changing perceptions of her father are superbly done, too: shown, never highlighted, and unnoticed until everything is explained.
It's almost like misdirection - only I never feel cheated, because the story is never a diversion; the journey is important, too.
As is usual for DWJ, this is an engaging book that will suck you enjoyably right in. Only after, when (as it were) the spell is broken will you pick a few nits. This is a late work in her oeuvre. I do feel it would have benefited from one more rethink and rewrite, to smooth out some of the odd plot bumps and make it hang together better. How many totally new magical systems can there be? Is it reasonable, to overlook an entire batch of fairly major stuff right in your own back yard? Unreasoning malice as a motive for the antagonists is unsatisfactory at best. But it is well worth while to see Cat and all the denizens of Chrestomanci Castle in action again.
In which Jones continues this series' main theme, which is that Family Is Terrible. Seriously, the books in this series are all quite different and mostly feature different characters, so one of the most cohesive threads running through all of the books is that all of the main characters have absolutely rotten families. Storywise, this last novel had trouble keeping my attention; it was mildly entertaining but overall not terribly memorable.
There is so much to love and appreciate in The Pinhoe Egg. Lots of time with Cat, Chrestomanci, Millie & company; new characters like Marianne Pinhoe and her brother Joe, and Jason Yeldham and Princess Irene, and Gaffer Pinhoe. PLUS we get a whole menagerie of new animal characters who are just a joy to read about.
There are deep themes here about the cruelties adults, especially family members, can inflict on children. Marianne Pinhoe has a family (and village, and culture) that considers her a disappointment because she's not as skilled in the family's traditional arts - and they never bother to consider that she might be, say, enchantress-level in a different kind of magic. The insular nature of the community makes for a culture of secrecy, distrust of outsiders (even when they're actually related to the family!) and it's really infuriating how often Marianne's concerns or problems are brushed off. Top that off with the deep vein of evil self-interest and self-righteousness in this community, add in magic (some really awful magic!) and it's a toxic, dangerous combination.
There are many light-hearted moments in this book, especially involving the baby griffin(!), and while sometimes frustrating, it's satisfying to see Marianne and Cat learn to trust themselves and stand up to authority when it's necessary. The book as a whole was just such a comfort to read - so satisfying that even though I think it was longer than the others in the series, I wasn't really ready for it to end.
There was also a bit of melancholy knowing this is the final book, with no possibility of more. I think it is a very satisfying end to the series, though. The characters end up in a good place and if that's where we leave them, I can accept it.
Every time I pick up a DWJ she dazzles in new and surprising ways... even when I'm expecting to be dazzled and surprised at this point! I thought for sure the Pinhoe Egg would contain a dragon... and there would be an impeding war over the hatching of the egg, either in the current world or with other worlds in the series, or with another series altogether. And that's so like DWJ, she sets up these incredible worlds and then she just smashes all your expectations and builds a whole other world and plot just because she was a power plant of creativity. Because nothing is predictable, in the best possible way. So I won't give away what the Pinhoe Egg contains, but there's plenty of magic about the creature, the history, the legend, and the future, all bound up with the towns just outside the gates of Chrestomanci Castle. Cat has a central role and he really finds himself and his purpose through this adventure. The story opens in the town of Pinhoe, and we spend the first several chapters learning about the families and townsfolk, then switch gears back to the Chrestomanci clan. Cat and Roger and Julia and Janet are all freshly back from the summer in Italy and the girls are horse crazy. They convince Chrestomanci to get them a horse with unexpected results for everyone! This seemingly mundane subplot winds up having major implications, as DWJ does so well. In the town of Pinhoe young Marianne is constantly chasing down her grandmother's cat named Nutcase, who always mysteriously finds a way to sneak out of the house. This becomes a recurring plot advancement and a punchline... as if I needed another reason to love this book. DWJ takes what are essentially some very heavy topics and wraps them up in so many entertaining, layered characters, with multiple, complex plotlines, and then coats in all in sparkling magic and mythical creatures that you are just... as I said... dazzled! So happy to have discovered this series and somewhat sad to be at the end of it. Comforted by the knowledge that I can always return to Chrestomanci just by picking up one of these books.
This is a wonderful book - I wish I'd read it years ago. It's number six in the Crestomanci series, and the problem is that I never really liked the first book, so I never read further. Had the series been out when I was younger I might have gone on anyway, but the first book focuses on a nasty, self-centered girl named Gwen, and leaves so many questions unanswered I never found it very satisfying. I only read this book because it was available from the library at a time when I felt like reading a longer kids' fantasy novel. I'm really glad I did!
This book focuses around a young girl, Marianne Pinhoe, and to a lesser extent her brother, Joe. They're growing up in a small town where the grownups never explain anything to them, and in a world of magic they don't seem to have much. Of course, the grownups are wrong. How Marianne and Joe learn about themselves was a creative, fascinating story that kept me turning the pages. If, like me, you've only read the earlier book, you'll be glad to see more of Cat and Chrestomanci. But you could start here if you don't mine jumped straight into a new world. I think the author did a good job explaining who people were and how the world works,without any info dumps.
I enjoyed this book so much I'll definitely be going back and reading some of the other stories from the series. The author has written lots of fantasy books, including Howl's Moving Castle, which is probably her best known. But I think I liked this even more. 5 happy stars.
A feud between families in the villages around Chrestomanci castle reveals a new type of magic. Extending the view to just outside the castle works better than some of the more distant, and therefore more tangential, stories while still broadening the world to a lovely ensemble cast of new and old characters. It meshes well with DWJ's humor and deceptively complex characterization. The ending relies too much on coincidence, the relationship between themes and social commentary never quite coalesces, and this isn't one of the greater Chrestomanci books; nor does it feel like an explicit finale, but I'm not sure it was meant to be. Rather, it's a solid installment, vivid, playful, and I love this world and these characters; I'm glad to have seen this delightful series through to the end.
As an aside: I typo'd this on my TBR as "The Pinhole Egg" and for ages thought it was named such. It's a great title!--what is a pinhole egg? an egg the size of a pinhole? a pinpricked egg? It's engagingly precise and strange, and, while I'd never speak ill of DWJ's imagination, I'm enthralled by the book that might have been.