The Pinhoe Egg (Chrestomanci)

Title: The Pinhoe Egg

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Series: Chrestomanci

Marianne Pinhoe was looking forward to summer vacation, but everything is upended when Gammer Pinhoe breaks down. The entire extended Pinhoe family rallies to take care of her, but Gammer is stubborn, angry, and crafty. Only Marianne seems to see the trouble she’s causing, but no one will listen to her . . .

Cat Chant is in training to be an enchanter up at Chrestomanci Castle. He’s somehow accumulating creatures—a horse, a cat, and the mysterious egg he discovers with Marianne Pinhoe in a dusty attic. But he never expected to stumble across mysteries just outside the castle doors. Mysteries that could be more dangerous than he ever anticipated . . .

Has it really been ten years since I first read this? It certainly doesn’t feel that long. This story is a loose followup to Charmed Life (at least, in the sense that Cat is a main character again), but it can be read alone.

I like Cat’s side of the story better, mostly because Marianne’s is darker and more frustrating for her. Cat balances her out with more lighthearted moments, like the horse Julia and Janet want so badly that somehow Cat, the sole child who wants neither horse nor bicycle, ends up with. And, of course, the egg and what comes out of it. And Roger and Joe’s sudden obsession and what comes out of it.

I liked, too, how despite some very drastic differences between them, both Marianne and Cat are struggling to be taken seriously. Cat is bad at putting things into words anyway, and Marianne is arguing against people who habitually write her off. I liked that Marianne chooses to be brave, even though it makes things harder short-term. She displays really practical heroism—continuing to do what’s right even though she gets a lot of abuse for it.

And this wouldn’t be a Jones novel without some terribly dysfunctional family relationships. It strikes me that the main evil in her villains is how incredibly selfish they are. Gammer is concerned only about Gammer—her pride, especially. She has no qualms about getting her extended family hurt as long as she gets what she wants. She’s highlighted against Gaffer Farleigh, who has simply made up his mind and refuses to listen to anything that contradicts him (which is in its own way selfish—the attitude that says I refuse to consider I may not be absolutely correct).

The big fracas at the end does wrap up with a bit of an info dump, although I am still happy to see most people getting what they deserve. Especially Gammer. The multitude of secondary characters can be a bit hard to keep track of, mostly on the Pinhoe side, but the important ones do stand out.

Overall this is a great book. I rate this Highly Recommended.

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