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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 8 June 2013
I only started reading Diana Wynne Jones fairly recently, after reading a review of her work in a Sunday paper and subsequently discovering that several friends who also liked fantasy had read her books. I'm not her target audience as I'm a 48 year old woman, but I think my experience as a reader and a writer helps me to recognise how well-written these books are.

I've read the Chrestomanci series in a random order which has actually enhanced the experience for me. I think it is both brilliant and brave of her to write these novels as she has done, each taking a different central character, set in a different time, with recurring characters and the central theme of the multiple worlds and the charismatic and funny Chrestomanci at their heart. It was therefore fantastic to read this book which focuses on Christopher Chant's own childhood, and I thought it was excellent.

Not only is it written in a lively, well-paced style, but the characterisation is entertaining and psychologically insightful, and the story is full of imagination, wit, plot twists and turns, and highly inventive scenarios. I wish I'd had access to her novels when I was a teenager as I'd have loved them. They have elements of Dickens and Ursula Le Guin and a multitude of other writers, but they are distinctively Diana Wynne Jones and eminently readable. As a highly experienced reader I can work out where the plot is heading very early, but this doesn't detract from the pleasure of reading the novels. I particularly love the way she intertwines modern-day elements with more traditional fantasy features, and period details. Charming, highly enjoyable reads and highly recommended.
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on 16 February 2000
This is an excellent book. I borrowed it from the library and began reading it one evening and read right through the night. I just couldn't put it down. I'd recommend it to any lover of fantasy books, young or old. I'm 19 and I still think it's among the best books I've ever read!
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on 6 September 2013
How fantastic that I can now get most of Diana Wynne Jones books on my Kindle - I'm having a brilliant time re-reading all my old favourites. In my opinion Diana was the most perfect writer ever - not a single wasted word and the way she wove a story - sheer genius. I recommend any of her books for children and adults alike.
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on 3 March 2016
The joy of re-reading this book aloud is that I was able to thoroughly appreciate Wynne Jones’ technique, as she steadily builds the story. Christopher is an interesting character – he is misunderstood by the adults around him, coming across as arrogant and haughty, when in fact he is bitterly unhappy. It is a joy to read an adult who gets that miserable, traumatised children don’t necessarily sob becomingly into a hanky and pour all their unhappiness out to the nearest available grown up as often depicted in Hollywood. More commonly, they become one of the awkward squad…

That said, Christopher may be fundamentally unhappy, but this book is still brimful of biting humour, some of it laugh-aloud, some of it just deliciously sharp and grinworthy. If your taste runs to well-constructed fantasy, then consider giving it a go – because it happens to be parked in the Children’s section in the library doesn’t mean it isn’t a thoroughly enjoyable read. Wynne Jones is one of those marvellous authors who doesn’t write down to her audience. Christopher is also surrounded by a cast of enjoyable characters, ranging from Tacroy, his spirit guide in the other Words, to the Goddess of Asheth, who yearns to become a schoolgirl. The antagonist is also very well depicted and all too plausible.

As for the denouement – it is beautifully handled and had me reading to Frankie faaar later than I should, because neither of us were unable to pull away from the story. It is always a risk introducing her to books I’ve previously read and loved – what if they fall short? Not only do am I stuck with reading a disappointing book, but it also compromises my earlier pleasure. It’s one reason why I am not an enthusiastic re-reader. But Wynne Jones is worth the risk, because her writing is so enjoyable and wonderfully crafted.

It doesn’t hurt my rep with my granddaughter for picking great books, either!
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on 14 February 2003
No offence to charmed life but this is secretly my favourite of the Chrestomanci books. It has the best hero-Christopher Chant makes me laugh even when he's being rude and obnoxious and its obvious he's really a very nice person and a bit of a softy(besides Cat is wet and weedy and annoying).I also loved it for the extra insight it gives you into world 12a and how Chrestomanci got to be like he is in Charmed life and why Millie is Called Millie which is brilliant and very cool
It has a very clever plot all about other worlds and multiple lives and evil gangs of smugglers with a magical twist which is written with all the flair and wit I have come to expect from a Diana Wynne Jones book (eg the mallory towers spoof)and has some very neat peices of charachteristation (eg Tackroy and Millie-the-godess)which make it that little bit special and more enjoyable the climax is well measured and skillfull and keeps you constantly turning pages desperate to get to the next bit. This book is brilliant-read it.
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on 27 April 2013
This is a general review for the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne-Jones. I first read the Chrestomanci series when I was 23. I am now 37 and I am re-reading them again and it is just so blissful! The first Chrestomanci book "Charmed Life" was written in 1977 about 20 years before the first Harry Potter. In this book, newspaper photos moved, Chrestomanci had his different lives hidden in different places, people in portraits and pictures jumped from frame to frame, plenty of clever cats, not a magic wand in sight and so on. From the lowest witch or warlock to the most powerful enchanter, no wand. We're talking people with real abilities, and who do not become useless as soon as they lose their wand. Basically, many, many ideas in the Harry Potter books, you will find in her books. Although the stories are entirely different. And she writes in a light fashion, without too much overwhelming descriptions but just enough to keep the story moving at a good pace.

Why there has never been movies made of these books is a mystery to me as they are so superior to a lot of other teenage books around. Perhaps Wynne-Jones didn't want to. I highly recommend these books. I have just about finished the lot and I am restarting them again, particularly "Charmed Life" which I think is just superb. One just falls in love with the character that is Chrestomanci.

I very, very rarely read a book twice. However, with the Chrestomanci, I just seem to never tire. Even more so with her wonderful book "Howl's Moving Castle" which is not part of this series but which was made into an extraordinary full-length animated feature by the one and only Japanese master story-teller Hiyao Mayazki (Studio Ghibli). Now, I have lost count of how many times I have read this book. I just never bore of it either.

Diana Wynne-Jones is the only fiction author whose books I have read over and over. No one else. I completed "Charmed Life", and started straight at the beginning again.

I wish she had had time to write two or more Chrestomanci books before she passed away. At any rate, I believe her books will be in print for many decades to come.
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on 30 August 2013
I remembered reading this book as a child and have for years desperately tried to find the title and own one again - luckily I re-discovered it and it still was a fabulous read. For anyone wanting true magic - buy this book.
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on 26 July 2001
Christopher is one of a kind, left all alone with a steady stream of nursemaids, who never last long because of his parents, he finds a way to visit other lands (Anywheres) and bring back toys to play with. Then Uncle Ralph arrives, and Christopher learns that this is a very special talent, yet despite this he can't do basic magic at school.
Christopher has 9 lives, and loses the first when he meets a goddess who swops him a sacred cat for some books from his world, as all she has to read are boring text books. Naturally Christopher doesn't want to visit the goddess for a while; but in the end they pair up, as the world is in danger.
Enough information is kept back to keep you guessing and wanting to turn the pages and find out if you are right. The characters are very believable and soon draw you in.
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on 23 May 2003
Like the rest of the Chrestomanci series, this book is interesting and inventive in its exploration of what forms magic can take. The way in which Chrestomanci's having nine lives allows him to travel from world to world is more properly explored than in the other books, as are other curious factors taht pop up in the 'later' stories. This is more or less what you would expect from a prequel, but the fact that it is described as 'volume 1' is somewhat confusing, and I do not recommend reading it before Charmed life, as it will spoil many of the surprises for you.
Other than that, it was essentially a good and enjoyable read with colourful characters - not top notch for Dianna Wynne Jones, but wothwhile over all.
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on 24 July 2011
These are an excellent series of books and deserve to be more publicised if you liked the Harry Potter books you will enjoy these..... arguably better written suitable for all ages. Its a shame there cart be any more as the author died earlier this year ( 2011).
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