diana_wynne_jonesBiography : Diana Wynne Jones was born in 1934 in London. She grew up in a house where there weren't too many books, so she decided to write them, despite her dyslexia. Between the age of 12 and 14, she wrote 2 epic tales. She studied English in Oxford, where she attended lectures by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Diana Wynne Jones writes for children and adults, principally fantasy, but also non-fiction and plays.
Her first novel was published in 1973. She gave birth to the character Chrestomanci in Charmed Life in 1977, with which she won the Guardian Award for Children's Books. In 1999, she won the Mythoepic Awards and the Karl Edward Wagner Award. And J.K. Rowling was nominated too for the latter.

You can find more about DWJ and all her books at http://www.leemac.freeserve.co.uk/


Bibliography :

* Independent novels : Changeover (1970); Wilkin's Tooth (1973); Witch's business (1974); The Ogre downstairs (1974); The eight days of Luke (1975); Dogsbody (1975); Power of three (1976); The Homeward Bounders (1981); The Time of the Ghost (1981); The Skiver's Guide (1984); Archer's Goon (1984); Fire and Hemlock (1984); A Tale of Time City (1987); Wild Robert (1989); Aunt Maria (1991); Yes, Dear (1992); A Sudden Wild Magic (1992); Hexwood (1993); Everard's Ride (1994); The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1996); Deep Secret (1997); Puss in Boots (1999); Stealer of Souls (2002); The Merlin Conspiracy (2003); Enna Hittims (2006); The Game (2007)

* Short Stories : Who got rid of Angus Flint? (1978); The Four Grannies (1980); Dragon reserve, Home Eight (1984); The Green Stone (1988); Chair Person (1989); The Master (1989); Mela Worms (1989); Nad and Dan and Quaffy (1990)

* Howl's Series : Howl's moving castle (1986); Castle in the air (1990)

* Chrestomanci Series : Charmed Life (1977); The Magicians of Caprona (1980); Witch Week (1982); The LIves of Christopher Chant (1988); Mixed Magics (2000); Conrad's Fate (2005); The Pinhoe Egg (2006)

* Dalemark Series : Cart and Cwidder (1975); Drowned Ammet (1977); The Spellcoats (1979); The Crown of Dalemark (1993)

* Derkholm Series : Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998); Year of the Griffin (2000)


 

THE WORLDS OF CHRESTOMANCI

*****

Genre : Science-Fiction - Children's Books

Notes : The order in which I present all Chrestomanci books is not the original publishing order, but it the reading order I recommend for a better understanding of the characters evolution.

Comprehension keys :

* The Worlds of Chrestomanci : In the universe created by Diana Wynne Jones, there are thousands of worlds different from our own and from each others. The world in which Chrestomanci lives is just beside ours, the difference is that, over there, magic is absolutely common.

* Who is Chrestomanci? Or should I say what is Chrestomanci? Chrestomanci, pronounced KREST-OH-MAN-SEE, is not a person's name unlike what we could think. It is the title of the post held by a very powerful nine-lifed enchanter, which is extremely rare. The role of this person is to supervise and control the use of magic in all the related worlds, in order to avoid abuses, and especially to protect non-magic people.

 

charmed_lifeCharmed Life (1977)


English publisher : Harper Collins, Children's Books : 5,99£

American publisher : Harper Collins, Harper Trophy : 6,99$ US; 9,99$ CAN (Includes The Lives of Christopher Chant)

 

Synopsis : Eric Chant, alias Cat, and his sister, Gwendolen, are the only survivors of a wreck, in which their parents died. They arrive in Chrestomanci Castle, where Christopher Chant, a distant cousin of the family, lives with his wife Millie and their two children. Gwendolen is a witch, unlike her brother who has no power. She does everything she can to make Chrestomanci notice her powers with all sorts of curses and apparitions. But Chrestomanci doesn't want any magic from children in his house so he decides to take away all her powers. And Gwen leaves this world. By going into another world, Gwen takes the place of another girl and this girl, Janet, who looks like Gwen, comes to this world instead. When Cat understands what happeneds he tries to keep it secret from Chrestomanci. But Cat has to face trouble after trouble, and decides to leave too, but soon he finds himself trapped by a bunch of ill-intentioned wizards, including his own sister, who want to open the doors between the related worlds. They take Chrestomanci prisoner, and Cat is to be sacrificed. Then, Cat realised he is no normal boy, he is a nine-lifed enchanter, the next Chrestomanci.


 

chant4 The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988)

 

English publisher : Harper Collins, Children's Books : 5,99£

American publisher : Harper Collins, Harper Trophy : 6,99$ US; 9,99$ CAN (Includes Charmed Life)

 

Synopsis : Christopher Chant has always been able to travel to others worlds in his sleep. But soon he understands that he does not dream this travels, he lives them for real, because he can bring things with him. When his Uncle Ralph learns that, he decides to make some experiments to know more about it. Each week, Christopher is to join Tacroy, his fellow traveller, and together they bring back heavy loads from the related worlds. When he tries to steal an Asheth cat, Christopher meets the Goddess, Millie, who will play a determinant role in his future life. Then, one day, Christopher's father discovers that his son owns more than one life, and sends him to Gabriel de Witt for checking. Chritopher sees his dream of becoming a cricket champion vanish when he's said that he will be the next Chrestomanci. Although he lives now in Chrestomanci castle, he still keeps his promise to his uncle and carries on with the experiments with Tacroy. Unti he discovers that his uncle is the head of illegal organization that Chrestomanci and his fellows try to break up. A war breaks out and Gabriel de Witt disappears. Christopher has to replace him as Chrestomanci in order to find him.

 

conrad_s_fate2Conrad's Fate (2005)

 

English publisher : Harper Collins, Children's Books : 5,99£

American publisher : Eos : 6,99$ US

 

Synopsis : Conrad lives with his mother, his sister and his uncle. They own a bookshop. One day, his sister decides to go to university without telling her family, and she won't be back, even for the holidays, because she wants to escape the future that her uncle decided for her, working in the bookshop. But Conrad won't the same luck. All his life his uncle has persuaded him that he has a really bad karma, because he didn't do something in a previous life. And if he wants to save his soul, he has to do it in this life, before it is too late. For this, his uncle and his magicians of friends will convince him that the person who's causing his bad fate lives in Stallery Mansion, and he has to kill this person or he, Conrad, will die before the end of the year. Conrad is thus sent over there to be employed like apprentice. But his uncle's attitude is far from being innocent. He just wants to be rid of the person who's pulling the probabilities, that's to say who plays with the related worlds to make money and keep the house in its best. In Stallery mansion, Conrad will meet Christopher, who's there also under false pretence. He's looking for his friend Millie, stuck between the worlds. Both they'll resolve the probabilities mystery and Conrad will understand that his future is not so dark as he once thought.

 

witch_weekWitch Week (1982)

 

English publisher : Harper Collins, Children's Books : 5,99£

American publisher : Harper Collins, Harper Trophy : 7,99$ US (includes The Magicians of Caprona)


Synopsis : " SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH". When a teacher of Larwood House discovers this letter stuck between two essays, he doesn't know how to react. This a very serious accusation in a world where Inquisition rules and wizards are burned alive. Problems pile up when strange things begin to happen. Nan Pilgrim, from her real name Dulcinea ( the same name as one of her ancestor Dulcinea Wilkes, a famous witch) is pointed out by everybody. But is there only one witch in this class composed of burned witches' orphans? When Brian Wentworth disappears with a letter accusing the witch, an Inquisitor is sent for. Some pupils decide to leave to save their lives. One of them finds a magic formula which could save them : "Say three times KREST-OH-MAN-SEE". Chrestomanci arrives in this world and take the place of Divisional Inquisitor to try and find what's wrong in this world where we're exterminating witches. Unfortunately, the real Inquisitor arrives in the school...

 

magicians_of_caprona2The Magicians of Caprona (1980)

 

English publisher : Harper Collins, Children's Books : 5,99£

American publisher : Harper Collins, Harper Trophy : 6,99$ US (includes Witch Week)


 

Synopsis : In the Italian city of Caprona, two magician families are at war with each other, the Montanas and the Petrocchis. When their magic gets weaker, they each blame the other of being responsible. But when the younger child of each family, Tonino Montana and Angelica Petrocchi, war really breaks out between the two clans. A threat hangs over them, forbiding them to use magic if they want their children to stay alive. Chrestomanci is called for help and he thinks some powerful enchanter is behind all this to make Caprona fall, attacked by neighbour cities. The only thing that could save Caprona is the words of the Angel, which governs the city. At the same time, Tonino and Angelica understand very soon that they're in the hands of a very ill-intentioned person, and together, they discover were are hidden the true words of the Angel. But will they manage to warn theirs families before it is too late?...

 

pinhoe_eggThe Pinhoe Egg (2006)

 

English publisher : Harper Collins, Children's Books : 12,99£

American publisher : Harper Collins, Greenwillow Books : 7,99$

 

Synopsis : While Chrestomanci and his family spend their holidays in the south of France, two families try to protect their secret in the village of Ulverscote, the Pinhoe and the Farleigh. Unfortunately, Gammer Pinhoe has lost her mind and she casts spells on the Farleigh who send them back in worse (frogs, small pox...) They send spy in Chrestomanci castle, which is just at the top of the main road. They want to prevent Chrestomanci to notice and take away their magic. But one day, Cat and his horse, Syracuse, discover that strange things happen, and say so to Chrestomanci. In between, Cat meets Marianne who offers him a stone from the Pinhoe cellar. This stone is in reality an egg, and Cat will soon become the mother of a baby Griffin. The Griffin is the symbol of the Pinhoe family and announces the come back of the headf the family who mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. And this can be done only with Cat's and Chrestomanci's help.

 

mixed2Mixed Magics (2000)

English publisher : Harper Collins, Children's Books : 5,99£

This book contains :

* Warlock at the Wheel
* Stealer of Souls
* Carol Oneir's Hundreth Dream
* The Sage of Theare

A few short stories in which Chrestomanci appears, and also other characters as Cat or Tonino.

 


I've discovered Diana Wynne Jones with Howl's Moving Castle. Then one friend offered me Charmed Life, and then I discovered Chrestomanci and this series has become a cult book for me. DWJ is one of the masters of sci-fi literature for children. After reading The Worlds of Chrestomanci Series, we can appreciate her influence on literature for the youngs, for example the famous Harry Potter or His Dark Materials. DWJ managed to create a whole magical world in which we bury ourselves but we only come out with a lot of efforts. The characters are very deep, and endearing, especialy Cat, or else totally detestable. Christopher Chant is the recurrent character of the series. We first meet him as a responsible adult in the role of Chrestomanci, then we read about his childhood when he discovers his powers. Personally, I really love this character but only the adult Christopher Chant, as Chrestomanci. As a child he really had a bad temper and a tendency to treat people disdainfully.  Well this is only my opinion. but i've remarked that I'm not the only one upon who Chrestomanci's charm and presence have a certain effect. Indeed, a lot of feminine characters of the series are charmed;o)

 

Well, in any case, The Worlds of Chrestomanci is magic, mystery, action, reflexion, and beauty. All the ingredients are combined for children and adults to dream...
There are also a lot of literary references, for example, The Magicians of Caprona which really make us think of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare : Caprona / Verona, Montana against Petrocchi / Montague against Capulet, etc...Well in fact it is really funny. The Pinhoe Egg also made me think a little of Eragon with the discovery of the egg.
Well we can say that DWJ's talent and influence are really incontestable. And I think it's a shame that she's not known in France.