BOOK REVIEW: Have you heard of the “Chrestomanci” series?

51zsmj6E L. SX317 BO1204203200

I found the book “The Pinhoe Egg” on the shelf at the library recently (facing out on top of a shelf…that is such a brilliant way to get people to find new books to read! I find things for my kids and myself like this all the time!) and checked it out as it looked interesting…lots of magic and such…Then I discovered it was part of a series and was not the first book. Being a bit obsessive about having to read books in order, I researched it online and found the first 2 books were available in one volume and ordered that from our local library.

Just today finished reading the first in Volume I, “Charmed Life,” aloud to my 10yr old daughter (we LOVE reading together even at her age when she’s already whizzing through books on her own)…We are hooked! Without taking a break, we jumped right into the next book in this volume, “The Lives of Christopher Chant,” we were enjoying this series so much!

“Charmed Life” is about a world of magic…It’s being compared on the web to Harry Potter but I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series and I really don’t find many similarities other than the fact that there is a lot of magic and witchcraft. This series is also much older, written originally in the 1970s, I believe, and as such the language is quite different from the Harry Potter series, I think. It just has a very different feel to it, although I am finding I am enjoying it equally as much as the HP series. :)

The main characters are a young boy named Cat and his older sister Gwendolyn. The story follows their lives after they are orphaned and come to live in the large castle home of the infamous “Chrestomancy.” Gwendolyn proves to be a particularly hot-headed and arrogant character, regularly wreaking havoc on all who get in her way or don’t bow down to her magic talent with appropriate adoration. Poor Cat gets dragged along for the ride and frequently trod upon in the process. But the story gets particularly interesting halfway through with many twists and turns, and I cannot say any more or I would spoil things!

For the most part I would say this book is appropriate for children, although there are some dark aspects…lives threatened and some dark magical images, and such. There is one scene with a spanking that some children might find disturbing. But I am particularly sensitive to violent content for my children and didn’t find this book to be a problem for my 10yr old. My 5yr old didn’t find it of much interest as the language is pretty over his head, so I didn’t have to worry about what he might hear, and its only really parts at the end of the book that I would have wanted to keep from his young ears.

I really like the language this author uses throughout this book, as it was often complex and introduced my daughter (and often even myself!) to words that we never hear in everyday language in our modern world. The character and plot development was also really well done and we found ourselves rooting for young Cat and booing his wicked sister regularly, making reading quite fun!

I highly recommend this series so far, and will post reviews of the subsequent books as we complete them…we are already enjoying the 2nd book in this series, “The Lives of Christopher Chant” after only a few chapters!

Related Posts


  1. I read “The Pinhoe Egg” awhile back, but never went on to find another book! Thanks for the reminder! My kids will love this series!

  2. Oh, I really liked the Chrestomanci series. I read it right after i finished the Wizard’s Castle series (Howl’s moving castle etc) and I just loooooved it! I think Diana Wynne Jones became one of my favourite authors by the time I had finished Charmed Life.
    Now, to get back to the Chrestomancy series, my fav part is the way the universe Ms Jones has created works and the fact that none of the books are from the same point of view. and of course one can’t not mention how ingenious the characters are (especially Christopher ;-) ).
    In my opinion everyone ought to have read at lest one of these books (preferably Charmed life) in their life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *