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‘Charmed Life’ by Diana Wynne Jones: Classic Fantasy From The Late Great Children’s Writer

Updated on August 4, 2012
sleepyneko on Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
sleepyneko on Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Source

Lately there’s been sad news indeed for those with a real love of immortal children’s books, whether kids themselves or just childlike (or childish) at heart. The death of Diana Wynne Jones, the seventy-six year old children’s author marked a sad day for those of us who have grown up reading her many truly great works.

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Every fan of Diana Wynne Jones is liable, if asked, to name you a different favourite out of her extensive and impressive body of work.  (And in many cases, they’ll be impossible to stop at just the one – starting off with one or two, perhaps the Homeward Bounders or Dogsbody, and then like an uncontrollable stream starting to reel off a huge long list.

Some of Wynne Jone’s books are stand-alone, not connected to any of her other works.  But very often she wrote books as either series or interrelated works, for example the Dalemark quartet or the Derkholm series.   Probably the most famous example of this practice out of her work is the ‘Chrestomanci’ series, featuring the famous, somewhat eccentric and powerful enchanter Chrestomanci.

‘Charmed Life’, if not technically and chronologically speaking the ‘first’ of the series, was at least the first to be published. (If you begin to think of the series in these terms, having read all of the Chrestomanci books, it can begin to get a little bit confusing regarding just what order the books are chronologically arranged in.) The hero of Charmed Life is Cat Chant, a young schoolboy. He is an orphan: as far as he know, his only family in the world is his sister Gwendolen. That’s until he finds out that Chrestomanci is a distant cousin, and he’s whirled off, along with Gwendolen, to an exciting and eventful life in a castle far away. Do magical goings-on ensue? Oh, I think you know it!

If you’re a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, then ‘Charmed Life’ is an essential read: if you adore Chrestomanci, then still more so. If you just love kids’ literature and magical fantasy novels, and want to check out one of the great books by a much-loved and respected late British author, then ‘Charmed Life’ is your next read.


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