Title: Conrad’s Fate
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Conrad lives in the tourist town of Stallchester in the English Alps. The mysterious Stallery Manor perches high above. When Conrad’s own plans for his life are upended by his family, he finds himself on his way to Stallery to take care of the black Fate that’s haunting him. That’s where he meets Christopher, who has come from another world in search of a friend of his. But Stallery is stranger than Conrad could have imagined, with someone manipulating probability for unknown ends. . .
Another excellent book I haven’t read in far too long. Christopher is, of course, Christopher Chant, and here he is at 15. He’s somewhat cocky, self-assured, well-dressed, and plenty of wry observations about the life of a domestic servant. The scene where he’s told to identify fruits and vegetables makes me laugh hard enough to cry. I’m also fond of the scene where a maid sticks Christopher and Conrad in a room with irons and tells them to iron clothing without realizing that neither young man has touched an iron in his life. But for all his self-centeredness, Christopher is only here to save Millie, who has run away from boarding school and promptly gone missing.
Conrad both contrasts and complements Christopher. Conrad, having a simpler life, is a bit more familiar with basic domestics, but that doesn’t make him good at it. Conrad has been told by his uncle that he has an evil Fate, and he’s desperate to get rid of it. It struck me particularly this time around how effective this is at pointing out the problems with karma: if everything good or bad that happens is a result of something from a previous life, it ruins people over something they can’t change. Conrad is eventually confronted with the fact that this is a lie, but he still has a hard time getting over something he’s spent quite a bit of his life hearing and believing.
I also really like how Gabriel de Witt points out to Conrad’s mom when she’s whining about both her children leaving that neglecting people does mean they tend to leave. Conrad’s mom is so blind to her own faults (while endlessly writing about the faults of men) that it’s almost amusing to look at the contrast. That lack of self-awareness is present in the Countess as well, who tries to manipulate both her children to her own ends. The best part though is that her children, though too polite or embarrassed or intimidated to generally stand up to her, nonetheless do their best to not allow her to run their lives.
Overall this is a lot of fun, mixing crazy magic and multiple realities with the hazards of being a butler’s apprentice. I rate this book Highly Recommended.