Though "Magicians of Caprona" is the weakest of the Chrestomanci books so far, it remains an excellent fantasy with a strong storyline and extremely sympathetic characters. Jones introduces her parallel Italy with depth and skill, with some winks at "Romeo and Juliet."
The spell-making Montanas and Petrocchis have been feuding for two hundred years, over a fight between two of their ancestors. Now they repeat hideous rumors about each other, cast disgusting spells at each other, and remain stubborn about the matter, even though they are now threatened by outside forces. The city-states are in conflict with each other, and the famed song "Angel of Caprona" is mostly forgotten, despite being the thing that can help protect them from harm.
Tonina Montana is apparently the only member of his household who is unable to cast spells. His talents lie in communicating with cats -- but he finds himself an unwilling ally to a Petrocchi girl, Angelina, when they are both captured by the Duchess of Caprona. He, Angelina, and a cat must find the words to the "Angel" song and ally their families before it's too late.
As Jones explains in the foreword, this is an alternate Italy, still divided into city-states with their own Dukes, laws, and conflicts with one another, as they had in the Middle-Ages of our world. Anyone with knowledge of Italian history knows that the city-states offer a great deal of potential conflict, and Jones doesn't waste that potential.
Though the conflict of feuding rival families is a mild cliche by now, Jones handles it with a comic twist that keeps it from becoming stale. The twist of lovers from those feuding families is highly enjoyable, even though it is quite obvious from the beginning of the book. Her dialogue and narrative are as witty and entertaining as ever. The only flaw with the book is that the plotline becomes slightly fragmented toward the middle, and I found it slightly difficult to keep up with. However, the climax is outstandingly written.
Tonino is the hero that Jones does best: a Charlie-Brown type, mild-mannered but courageous when called upon to be brave, and his counterpart Angelica is similarly realistic. They don't like each other, but becomes friends out of necessity, overcoming their pride and preconceptions. Of course, Chrestomanci is in it -- less than in other Chrestomanci books, but he is his usual dapper, delightful self, doing all that he can to alleviate the problems plaguing Caprona.
Except for a period of mild confusion in the middle of this book, Caprona is an enjoyable jaunt into the magic-saturated world of Chrestomanci. A must-read for fans of magic and wizardry.