Conrads Fate Hardcover – Mar 7 2005
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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.
From School Library Journal
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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
In Conrad's fate, we are reintroduced to Millie and Christopher through the eyes of another young boy, Conrad. He is sent up to the local rich family's mysterious castle by his uncle (beware of DWJ's uncles!) to relieve himself of a curse. This, I believe, is the first Chrestomanci book written in the first person, and Conrad narrates the tale.
Although not as exciting and surprising as her other books, this is still a solid good read with lots of humour, exceptional situations, and of course, the classic DWJ whirlwind ending. The time fault concept introduced was a bit difficult to wrap my mind around and wasn't as intriguing as some of her other ideas. Lots of funny side characters and I really loved reading more about Christopher. I can't get enough of him! He, along with Howl (from "Howl's Moving Castle"), are so very charming and charismatic!
In my opinion, this is the funniest book in the series. Christopher Chant as a teenager is something you don't want to miss, he's quite as weirdly adorable (and insufferable) as Howl from "Howl's Moving Castle" (another better-known book from the same author).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Conrad Tesdinic has always been told by his creepy Uncle Alfred that he has bad karma -- apparently he failed to kill someone in a previous life, and will die in a year unless he kills them now. So Conrad finds himself being shipped off to the castle of Stallery, as a servant, to find the person he has to kill. Joining him is Christopher, a smart boy who seems able to work magic, yet doesn't know what a chili pepper is.
Christopher eventually tells Conrad that he is a nine-lived magician, and has run away from his own world to find his friend Millie, who has also run away. She's somewhere in the castle, but he can't find her. Peculiar behavior from the count and his family, a troupe of actors, and strange shifts in reality are plaguing Stallery, and Conrad soon finds that he may have more than bad karma to worry about.
Diana Wynne-Jones' most popular fantasy series is the Chrestomanci one, which predated the Harry Potter series with its organizational magic and twinkly British humor. It's complex, funny and more than a little strange, and fans of "The Lives of Christopher Chant" will enjoy seeing old favorites -- like Millie and Gabriel -- returning to Jones' writing.
Fans of Chrestomanci/Christopher Chant may be slightly disappointed by his secondary role. But then again, the book IS called "Conrad's Fate," so it's hardly surprising that the narrator is Conrad. Conrad himself is a likable kid, with bad luck and a pleasant personality, but who is also plagued by spells and lies from the people around him. And Christopher is showing signs of the dapper, intelligent magician he later becomes.
The last parts of the book become somewhat confusing, with several intertangled plotlines, only to have Jones suddenly snap them taut. It's a credit to her that she is able to have a shifting castle, runaway magicians, a knitting witch, a gold-digger, faux nobility and an assassination plot all come to a head simultaneously. And her dialogue ("You pear-shaped freak!") shows that her sense of humor has not dulled with time.
At the end of "Conrad's Fate," it's hard not to wonder what is going to happen next in the series. Fortunately, in the meantime, this book is a delightful fantasy mystery.
But this is really the story of Conrad Tesdinic, who has grown up in a bookstore with an inattentive mother who spends all her time writing; an uncle who generously allows his sister and her family to live with him after her husband sold his share of the bookstore to her brother, gambled away the money, and then killed himself; and a sister who is intent on her own very sensible agenda of completing her education and getting out of the house before her magician-uncle realizes what she's doing and takes steps to keep her there permanently.
Conrad, who has his own plans to continue his education and move out, is horrified when his uncle tells him he has bad karma from an important deed left undone in a previous life, and if he doesn't take the opportunity to complete the task immediately in this life, he'll soon die and be forced to start over in his next life. And in order to do this, he has to leave school now, take a job as a servant in Stallery Mansion (home of the local Count), find the person he didn't deal with in the last life, and kill him.
Conrad would almost rather die than leave school and take a job as a servant at the Stallery-but not quite, and he reluctantly boards the tram, armed only with a false name-Conrad Grant-and wine cork and a spell to summon a Walker and get "what he needs" when he's identified the villain and is ready to do the job. Almost the first person he meets, of course, is Christopher Chant, who's looking for his missing and possibly trapped friend Millie, and has also come to take a job at the Stallery in order to look for. From there things get delightfully strange, as Conrad and Christopher attempt to sort out who's who, and who's putting what over on who, and not get caught or killed in the process.
However, the tale is funny and unpredictable and shows off Diana Wynne Jones's writing at its best. The story follows Conrad Tesdinic in one of the worlds on Series Seven, where he lives in a town in the English Alps. Conrad's family sends him to work as a servant in Stallery Mansion, the stately home near their village, so he can find out how to prevent his bad Fate from catching up with him. At Stallery, he runs into Christopher Chant, the future Chrestomanci, who has also come to the mansion in the guise of a servant so he can search for his friend Millie.
Life in the mansion is very well described and because Christopher and Conrad are servants, you get a very funny insider's sort of view of how things might have worked Below Stairs in a large mansion home in the Edwardian era. One of my favorite running descriptions through the book is how the boys learn "to act like furniture" so as not to disturb members of the Family that they wait on.
My one quibble with this book is that I don't think all of the characters are as well developed as they could be. I think that Conrad narrates a fine story, but we never find out much about him as a person. I would have liked to have read more about his sister and the other characters in the mansion such as Hugo, Andrew, and Count Robert. And, for readers aching to know more about how Christopher Chant becomes the vague, glib, clothes-loving adult Chrestomanci of later books, you may be a little disappointed since by the time this story starts he has already picked up some of these characteristics but we don't get much insight into how or why it happened.
I liked this book because it was funny and well written, but my favorite Chrestomanci books are still "Charmed Life" and "The Lives of Christopher Chant." If you are looking for good Diana Wynne Jones books, you can't really go wrong with any of them, but some of my favorites are "Fire and Hemlock" and "Howl's Moving Castle."
And finally, like the previous reviewer mentioned, there is a brief part at the end of this book that talks about some events that could be made into an entire story of their own -- and hopefully they will be soon, as the next Chrestomanci book to look forward to!
As usual, one tiny niggle...sometimes in Ms. Jones' books, when she is building up to the climax, a bunch of people come into the story (as with the King's Summoners, police, Gabriel de Witt, etc. near the end of this book) and a lot of things are explained very quickly. I don't consider myself "slow" but I have often felt that Ms. Jones rushes through these explanation scenes a bit too quickly. This book is no exception. The officials all show up, it is quickly announced that some of the people we've been learning about are not what they seem, and then things wind up pretty quickly (people getting taken away, etc.). I always have to go back and carefully reread the parts like that, because they are always a bit sketchy and they seem a bit hastily done. However, that's not going to detract from my 5-star rating, because it only takes a little while to go back and reread that.
"Year of the Griffin" used to be my favorite DWJ book because I laughed so much while reading it, but "Conrad's Fate" now has that honor. I laughed a lot with this one, too, plus...it has Christopher Chant... :-)
In this Chrestomanci tale we get a first person narrative from Conrad; a twelve-year-old who provides an interesting, thoughtful viewpoint and gives us an exciting look into Series Seven. Accompanying this magical plot are plenty of amusing new characters, well-described places, and enjoyable witticisms. Again, one of the few complaints I have is that a teenaged Christopher (who is yet to become the fabulous Chrestomanci we know in a Charmed Life) becomes a secondary character, and thus we are not as able to know his thoughts as much as one might like. My last complaint is that near the end--no spoilers included--when everything is being neatly wrapped up, we get a glimspe of other events that definetly deserve a book of their own!