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Devotees of The Chrestomanci Quartet and Mixed Magics will pounce on this sixth title in the series by Diana Wynne Jones, whose reputation as a fantasy writer is also enhanced by Archers Goon and Howls Moving Castle (soon to be an animated film). In this Chrestomanci tale, the nine-lived enchanter Christopher, who fans will remember from other books, appears as a dapper and self-possessed 15-year-old, and the narrator is young Conrad Tesdinic, who at the age of twelve has just finished school in the mountain village of Stallchester in the English Alps. He yearns to go on to Stall High, but his tight-fisted Uncle Alfred has other plans. With the help of magical spells and a story of bad karma, he intimidates Conrad into going off to serve on the staff at Stallery Mansion, burdened with a secret about an unknown person he must kill. Conrad makes the best of his new life, especially after he meets his elegant new roommate Christopher, who is, he explains, the heir in a different time level to the job of Chrestomanci, an enchanter appointed by the government to control the use of magic. Conrad joins him in his desperate search for his friend Millie, who has vanished from a parallel time track. Amusing scenes of life below stairs in the highly stratified servants quarters alternate with the boys strange adventures as they seek through other realities within the castle on their day off, glimpsing Millie but never able to reach her. With Wynne Jones characteristic skill at plotting, the finale is a whirlwind of revealed alter-identities and just desserts for villains, ending with as many satisfying romantic pairings as a Shakespeare comedy. (Ages 10-13) --Patty Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Grade 6-10–Jones is a master of British fantasies that are hilariously droll and totally heartfelt at the same time. This is a new novel in the series that began with Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant (both 1998, HarperCollins), the story of how Christopher, the "nine-lifed enchanter" who regulates the uses of magic throughout 12 sets of alternate worlds, began his career. This book introduces Conrad Tesdinic, a boy who lives in one of the Series Seven worlds and has been told throughout his youth that he has bad luck, an Evil Fate, bad karma. When he graduates from lower school at the age of 12, his magician uncle reveals that Conrad's black Fate has been caused by his failure to kill a depraved evildoer in a previous life. The reincarnated evildoer, he is told, dwells in nearby Stallery Mansion, which generates so much magic that no one living nearby gets any TV reception. Conrad must take a job as a servant at the mansion and kill the villain, whose identity he must discover. Once hired, he meets his roommate and fellow servant, a smug, handsome young man named–aha!–Christopher. Almost all the players–including Conrad–conceal their true identities as they dash from one alternate Stallery Mansion to another, solving several interlocking mysteries. This witty, satisfying story can be read on its own, but is much richer when read as part of the series. It's a must for all Jones fans.–Walter Minkel, New York Public Library
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