by Diana Wynne Jones
This book, the second one included in The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol I, has some of the same characters from Charmed Life, but it takes place some twenty-five years earlier. Here we get the story of how the powerful enchanter Chrestomanci of Charmed Life, was once a young boy himself.
His name is Christopher Chant. He lives in a rich household, provided for but rather neglected (parents not on speaking terms) and his only enjoyment is nighttime travels. Through his dreams, Christopher visits other worlds, but he doesn't realize how unusual this is. When his family discovers his magical abilities, he is sent away to live at Chrestomanci Castle, for he will one day become the next Chrestomanci himself. Christopher doesn't want the job, he just wants to be an ordinary boy and play cricket. Unlike Cat of the previous book, Christopher is well aware of his powers and what is expected of him, but he is still just a young boy so of course he wants to do his own thing. And it is some time before he realizes that his charming uncle who has Christopher doing interesting "experiments" in the other worlds, is really an illegal smuggler, trafficking in dangerous magical goods. By the time young Christopher realizes what's going on, he's so deeply involved it seems near impossible to convince one side of his good intentions, and the other of his innocence.
This was a really fun story. It was interesting to read it from a different perspective, already knowing what it meant to be Chrestomanci and the implications of having nine lives, being able to see past the tunnel vision of Christopher's youth and understand what was really happening to him. I also liked seeing earlier events including characters from Charmed Life who in that book were rather aloof, in-the-background adults but in this one were the main characters, kids themselves. It made me want to go back and read Charmed Life all over again, just to see how I view the story different knowing more about the characters' past. That's a pretty good book for you.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 329 pages, 1988
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