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Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant, The : Reviewed

Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Year of publication:1988

The books in this set are:
  • The Lives of Christopher Chant
  • Charmed Life
We actually read them in reverse order, and recommend that you do as well.

Charmed Life is the story of Cat and Gwendolen, brother and sister orphaned when their parents were drowned. Gwendolen seems to be a talented magician. And Cat -- well, not so much. Both are adopted, for reasons Cat finds difficult to understand, by a very powerful sorcerer, the Chrestomanci.

The Lives of Christopher Chant tells the exciting story of how Christopher Chant (barely) survived to become the Chrestomanci.

Both stories explore the problems of gifted children who are made to feel inferior because they are special.

Growing up, neither Cat nor Christopher Chant understands that he has special talents. Instead, their "caretakers" -- in Cat's case, his sister, Gwendolen, and in Chant's case, his mother and uncle -- use their children's gifts for their own selfish purposes.

It takes Cat significant time after he meets Chrestomanci to understand his kinship (in more ways than one) with him. The advantage of reading Charmed Life first (which we did by chance) was that it made Cat's confusion very real to us.

My then-10 year old and I really enjoyed getting these two glimpses into Diana Wynne Jones' multiple alternative universes, in which the outcomes of historical events led to the preeminence of technology in some universes and the preeminence of magic in others.

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Other reviews: Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant, The
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