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Semi-Charmed Kind Of Life Baby, Baby

A review of Diana Wynne Jones' Charmed Life, Book 1 in the Chrestomanci series.

Semi-Charmed Kind Of Life Baby, Baby

BOOK REPORT for Charmed Life (Chrestomanci Book 1) by Diana Wynne Jones

Cover Story: Perf
BFF charm: Yes and No
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Cute and Light
Bonus Factors: Old School Magic, Parallel Worlds
Relationship Status: I Would Totally Adopt This Book

Cover Story: Perf

This book is over 30 years old, so there are many difference covers to chose from. Since I read this on my Kindle, I decided to pick what I thought was the best cover of the bunch I've seen. The above is from a decade ago and is just perfect. It's pretty to look at, colorful and has whimsical typeface. All the illustrations are accurate to the story. I really don't know what more I could ask for.

The Deal:

Cat and his older sister Gwendolyn are orphans. Gwendolyn is an exceptional witch and the pet of all the magical folk in the town where they live. Cat, however, has no magic to speak of. The siblings get themselves invited to live at Chrestomanci Castle, home of the powerful wizard Chrestomanci. So Gwendolyn can't stand it when Chrestomanci bans her from using or learning magic. Frustrated, Gwendolyn sets out to prove to those at Chrestomanci Castle just how powerful a witch she is really is. And poor Cat and everyone at the Castle get caught up in her mess.

BFF Charm: Yes and No

For the most part, I really like Cat. He's very sweet and often puts others before himself. But I do wish that he would be a bit more assertive and less terrified of, well...everything. But I can hardly blame him considering he is an orphan whose only relation is the overbearing and bat-shit-insane Gwendolyn.

And speaking of Gwendolyn, dear god NO. I enjoyed her as a character because her antics were amusing and I loved seeing what kind of trouble she would cause next, but girl is the straight up mayor of crazytown. Gwendolyn is an extremely powerful witch for her age and when you combine that with the fact that she's pretty much a sociopath? Well, it doesn't always turn out well for others.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

There are no important relationships in this book besides family relationships. It wouldn't really fit in the story, but hopefully there is a romance or two in one of the five other books in the Chrestomanci series.

Talky Talk: Cute and Light

Even when the action ramps up or serious business goes on, DWJ's writing stays light throughout the book. It's that lightness that makes the book an enjoyable and breezy read. There are a lot of cute or clever moments in this book, but this scene where Cat is playing his violin gives a good idea of DWJ's style:

Cat started to learn the violin. He thought he was making good progress. He practiced diligently. He never could understand why the new people living upstairs always banged on the floor when he started to play. Mrs. Sharp, being tone-deaf herself, nodded and smiled while he played, and encouraged him greatly.

He was practicing away one evening when Gwendolen stormed in and shrieked a spell in his face. Cat found, to his dismay, that he was holding a large striped cat by the tail. He had its head tucked under his chin, and he was sawing at its back with the violin bow. He dropped it hurriedly. Even so, it bit him under the chin and scratched him painfully.

"What did you do that for?" he said. The cat stood in an arch, glaring at him.

"Because that's just what it sounded like!" said Gwendolen. "I couldn't stand it a moment longer. Here, pussy, pussy!" The cat did not like Gwendolen either. It scratched the hand she held out to it. Gwendolen smacked it. It ran away, with Cat in hot pursuit, shouting, "Stop it! That's my fiddle! Stop it!" But the cat escaped, and that was the end of the violin lessons.

Bonus Factor: Old School Magic

Lots of books have magic, but there is something very charming (pun intended) about the magic in this book. It's very old school, which is to say lots of dragons blood and bugs and people getting turned into toads.

Bonus Factor: Parallel Worlds

Whenever a big event in history happens, different worlds spawn from the different outcomes. I won't reveal too much here, but this set up plays a big role in the plot.

Casting Call:

Zachary has become my go to boy for middle grade casting. And I won't stop using Chloe until someone comes along who is more awesome than she is (which I can't imagine happening anytime soon). And why doesn't David Bowie do more movies? He should get the chance to be a wizard one of these days, as opposed to a goblin king.

Zachary Gordon as Cat

Chloe Moretz as Gwendolen

David Bowie as Chrestomanci

Relationship Status: I Would Totally Adopt This Book

I am about ready to adopt this book so it (and all of its adorableness) can live with me forever. And I'm totally even willing to adopt its many brother and sister books in the Chrestomanci series, who I haven't even met yet. Since this book is a younger read, the feelings I had for it were innocent compared to what I felt for its older brother, Howl's Moving Castle. But that doesn't mean I can't be a good adopted parent to Charmed Life while I shack up with its big bro!

Megan Crane's photo About the Author: Megan is an unabashed fangirl who is often in a state of panic about her inability to watch, read and play all the things.