Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review: Charmed Life & The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume 1

Diana Wynne Jones


The Chants are a family strong in magic, but neither Chistopher nor cat can work even the simplest of spells. So how can they hope to thwart the schemes of an avaricious enchanter and a ruthless young witch—schemes that could destroy all the worlds of Chrestomanci?


Now Diana Wynne Jones has been one of my favourite authors for about 8 years now, ever since I read Year of the Griffin. Though one of my favourite memories is when Howl's Moving Castle came out and would see commercials and go: Hey! That's the name of my favourite author paired with my favourite animator, what is going on!? I have since read many books by her (rest in peace Jones, rest in peace), but Chronicles of Chrestomanci is a series that I found myself avoiding for the longest time.

I couldn't tell you exactly why I avoided the series for so long, possibly it could be because of my long standing prejudice against reading books from a male point of view (silly really, but I convinced myself that I could only connect to female narrators).

And then one time perusing the library I noticed The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume 1 and decided, what the heck, I love her writing style I should give it a try. And I must say, I don’t regret it at all.

Comprised of two books, both older than me, Charmed Life, whose hero is Cat Chant, and The Lives of Christopher Chant, starring Christopher Chant. They are actually in backwards chronological order as Jones wrote Charmed Life first.

The books are very stylistically Jones, very whimsical and light. It became my before-bed wind-down book because its simplicity was perfect for me to unwind to with a cup of herbal tea in bed.

Of the two, Charmed Life was my favourite as I found myself enjoying the character of Cat more than the character of Christopher, though there was a joy in reading the second book as you knew by then who Christopher is in the first and making the connections was exciting.

In Depth Spoiler Review

Cat's sister is truly, truly dreadful! I always knew she was terrible, but when I realized just how terrible I was pretty unhappy. Cat was such a sweet character that the way she took advantage of him made me quite sad, but because of that seeing him come into his own felt like a great victory. Her use of his lives was especially horrid.

Christopher being the Chrestomanci in Charmed Life, was an interest to watch only because I loved his character in Charmed Life. I unfortunately found his child version less than entertaining an rather dumb in a different way than Cat had been dumb. But I adored Goddess just as much as I did and I really, really hoped throughout the story that she was Millie, Chrestomanci's wife in Charmed Life, so when it was revealed that she was I may have gotten up and done a little dance. When Christopher came into his own I also found him incredibly likable, he just belonged in charge.

Reading both stories right after each other was really interesting as well because I couldn't help but compare and contrast how both boys are future Chrestomanci and how different they are, yet where they are alike.


These two books have earned a place on the comfort shelf in my heart bookcase. It's not a set of books that "changed my life" but when downed by stress and anxiety, Charmed Life especially, is a nice read to escape.

I recommend this to book to those who liked Howl's Moving Castle and Jone's distinct writing style. People who want to introduce fantasy to their kids, people who love fantasy even when it's not overly complicated.

I do plan on picking up The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume 2 (containing the books The Magicians of Caprona and Witch Week) as soon as I stop at my library next, and as for reading order, which seems to be a controversy since written and chronological order is different, I would read Charmed Life first and Lives second only because I feel Cat is more relatable if you have no idea what is going on in the world, because he sure does not, and I personally enjoyed making the connections from Charmed Life while reading Lives.



Post a Comment