It’s highly possible that these Chrestomanci books might become one of my favorite middle-grade fantasy series. I’m really enjoying what I’ve read so far and can’t help wondering again and again if I’d read these books as a kid. They’re such fun!
Chrestomanci, book 2
Instead of continuing where the first book, Charmed Life, left off, The Lives of Christopher Chant instead gives us the backstory of the Chrestomanci, a noted magician, in Charmed Life.
Christopher Chant is raised as a lonely kid, secluded in his nursery with only his governesses to interact with as his parents become more and more self-absorbed as they grow apart. But soon Christopher is able to go off on adventures, exploring other worlds. He doesn’t realize that he’s unique, that he has more than one life and can do magic.
When his father leaves their home in disgrace (I think he got the family bankrupt), his mother turns to her brother, Ralph, for help instead, and once he learns of Christopher’s ability, Uncle Ralph begins to exploit him. With Christopher’s help, Uncle Ralph is able to smuggle in contraband goods from other worlds, committing atrocious crimes to get it done, of which Christopher is unaware. But soon Christopher’s father becomes somewhat wise to all this and, realizing that Christopher may be key to having a better future, he tries getting Christopher to the best person who can train him — the current Chrestomanci, Gabriel de Witt. But it takes more than simply moving Christopher into de Witt’s care to get him out of Uncle Ralph’s clutches. (Goodreads)
I had a wonderful time reading this, and I think I got through it pretty quickly too. I remember not wanting to break from it for long because I wanted the story to keep going and to see how things would resolve.
There’s much to love in this one. I enjoyed visiting the other worlds with Christopher, since we don’t get much of that in the first book. And I liked how it’s slowly revealed — or we are made aware little by little — what Uncle Ralph is really up to. We read from Christopher’s perspective and because he’s a kid, there are certain details he doesn’t dig into, so hints are dropped along the way and it’s easy to guess that Uncle Ralph is up to no good, but I like that it takes a while for hard evidence to materialize, and for us and Christopher to believe it all.
In addition to the adventures, I also liked the action and shenanigans that occur toward the end as the Chrestomanci staff try to hold off Uncle Ralph, and also the visit to Eleven series to see the Dright to help out Tacroy. I liked a few of the characters, Dr. Pawson most of all. He’s the guy who shouts a lot and gets Christopher started on magic and helps him realize that silver weakens him. It was also lovely to see Millie in this one and to learn where she’s from.
As for the things I didn’t like — it’s just one thing, and it’s that the adults ignore Christopher because he’s a kid. It would frustrate me sometimes, because much could have been resolved quickly or avoided if the adults had just really talked to Christopher. Christopher was frustrated at this too, so I’m surprised that it’s continued somewhat in Charmed Life, when Christopher is the Chrestomanci. Btw, after having met Uncle Ralph, I thought that older Christopher, in Charmed Life, developed his sense of style based on his Uncle’s.
And, OMG! Christopher was so careless with his lives! He mentions this in Charmed Life, but I didn’t realize just how true it would be.
It was a fun read, and I can’t wait to get started on the next book. I wonder if it will be about a different Chrestomanci or if it will pick up with Cat from the first book.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I still think it’s worth owning these books.