It was just over ten years ago that I read volume one of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci. Finally I’ve gotten around to volume two, which also includes two books, The Magicians of Caprona and Witch Week. Doing separate posts for them.
This story is set in an alternate Italy, where magic is everyday and two major families are at odds with each other in the city of Caprona. Meanwhile other cities are getting ready to wage war on Caprona, but the city can’t properly defend itself because of all the internal squabbling. It reminded me a lot of Romeo and Juliet– wild insults traded whenever two of the opposing families meet in the streets, while some of the young people don’t care why their elders and cousins fight all the time, and fall in love.
One of the main characters is Tonino, who struggles to learn magic spells that everyone else seems to have an easy time with. He gets kidnapped by an unknown enemy, and finds himself in tight quarters with a girl from the other family. At first they argue and call each other names, but then start to figure out their escape together. Not only that, but maybe that can also find how to active the magic song that should protect all of Caprona- the words having been long forgotten. Because in this world, magic is done by singing special songs. Honestly, I wasn’t too crazy about that aspect of it, though it was kinda interesting in being unlike how I’ve seen magic depicted in other books. I wasn’t too keen on the protecting angel idea either, but I loved the cats. How only certain people could communicate with them, and the cats’ presence always made magic stronger, and of course they were very much themselves as cats are. All the part in the middle when the kids are part of a forced puppet show was interesting too- very unique idea- though I did think of Pinnochio- and also couldn’t help remembering stories about Jack the Giant-Killer, but this was not like a repeat of those. I was glad to find that the ridiculous-seeming Duke was actually an intelligent man in the end, struggling under a strong enchantress and playing the part of the fool to avoid detection. The end was pretty exciting (well, at least for kids this book is aimed at) and quite tidily, the young boy at the center of the story not only helps save the day and bring the two warring families together to save their city, but he also finds out what his magic talent is. Chrestomanci? He’s kind of a deus ex machina figure who steps in at the end- he was alluded to earlier in the story but never played a role until he was there to help the other characters fit the pieces together, vanquish the real enemy (wasn’t who I expected so that was nice) and explain a few things. That’s okay. While not my favorite Diana Wynne Jones, I did enjoy this one.
Borrowed from the public library.