Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Charmed Life [1977]

Several friends recommended Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, so I acquired the audio book and quickly finished it. I spent the first half of the book trying not to think about Eragon, as Gerard Doyle does the voices for those books as well, and I didn't want Charmed Life to have negative associations. It turned out to be a pleasing little book.

Eric "Cat" Chant has a sister who is not only a witch, but also domineering and vindictive. Gwendolen has ambitions to someday rule the world, and she thinks that becoming the ward of the famous Chrestomanci (after the accidental death of their parents) might help her achieve that goal more quickly. However, after the debonair and vaguely benign Chrestomanci suspends her magical privileges, Gwendolen's rage spurs some remarkable developments, illuminating the world of magic--including the existence of alternate realities--for Cat as he struggles to become an independent person. Will Cat be able to learn enough about his own magical abilities before he brings disaster on himself and all the inhabitants of Chrestomanci Castle?

Grade: B

This was another book for young readers where I found myself  identifying squarely with the adults, rather than the main characters. Cat spends an inordinate amount of time fearing and avoiding Chrestomanci and getting into trouble when he could just come clean and get help. I suppose that would be a less dramatic climax, however. There was something that felt unfinished about the book, as if there should be more to Cat's story; the characters were too vibrant to exist just in this instance. I gather that there are other books featuring Chrestomanci (he of the fabulous dressing gowns and snappy ensembles--why is it that well-dressed men are so appealing as characters?), and perhaps I will have to look into them as well.

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