Book review: Witch Week

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Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Year of publication:2001

Many of the stories in Wynne Jone's Chrestomanci series explore the problems of gifted children who are made to feel inferior or taken advantage of because they are special. This happens to the protagonists of The Lives of Christopher Chant and Charmed Life, for example.

But in the society evoked in Witch Week, anyone identified as a witch is burned at the stake. Which puts the students at the Larwood House School, all of whom are orphaned because of a family connection to witchcraft, in a desperate position. Many of them know they are witches. And although it's exhiliarating to know that one has great power, they know from experience that the penalty for getting caught, or worse, being turned in by one's peers, is death by fire.

Spoilers below...

If my daughter and I had not already read several of the earlier Chrestomanci books, I don't know that we'd have enjoyed this Lord of the Flies meets The Fountainhead for the younger set as much as we did.

When Chrestomanci, he of the perfectly-creased gray suit and impeccable hair, finally makes his appearance, our horror and dread turned to giggles, even while the poor, witchy students retained their mortal fear for quite a few more pages.

But then, once again, there's that ending. In this case, the remedy is to make the gifted students accept that they need to make themselves just slightly less gifted, at witchcraft at least. So they do. Kind of like the protagonist in the movie, Pi, albeit not quite as bloody. Sigh. I'd vote for The Fountainhead instead, but that is more difficult to read.
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