The Lives of Christopher Chant (Chrestomanci)

Title: The Lives of Christopher Chant

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Series: Chrestomanci

Christopher Chant travels in his dreams, through the Place Between to the Almost Anywheres. It’s a way to escape from his dreary life and find some adventures elsewhere. Even when Uncle Ralph gets involved, and asks Christopher to help him transport a few things, he sees it as a good thing. But everyone wants to involve him in their schemes—Mama’s plans for Society, Papa’s desire to make him the next Chrestomanci, Uncle Ralph and his business. Can Christopher find a way out?

This is the beginning of the story of Christopher Chant, who is Chrestomanci in most of the latter books (Conrad’s Fate excepted). And his backstory is a lot of fun. The story begins when Christopher is small, and it’s easy to see why he goes along with his uncle, even though the astute reader will pick up quite quickly that something is wrong with this picture. He’s making horrible choices, but he doesn’t know they’re horrible, and his family is so neglectful of him that it’s hard to blame him for not knowing right from wrong.

And he might have nine lives, but Christopher’s main talent seems to be losing them. His magic is extravagant. This usually means when he messes up he manages to do it spectacularly. I like too how that for all Christopher is sympathetic from the inside, he has a rude awakening to the way his behavior is coming off to others. He just assumes too much about the Castle, and never acts in a way that would challenge those assumptions, and they end up almost as self-fulfilling prophecies.

I am also particularly fond of the ruckus at the end. It’s very satisfying to see Uncle Ralph getting thirty seconds of justice from someone he tried to destroy. Overall this is a great adventure on its own, and particularly fun if you’ve read any of the other Chrestomanci books and can spot Christopher beginning to develop some of his trademark traits. I rate this book Recommended.

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