Number 94: Charmed Life

Just a cat chillin'

Just a cat chillin’

Well, I read book one of the Chrestomanci Chronicles: Charmed Life, written by Diana Wynne Jones.  I was excited for this book as I’m excited to read the other books that she has on this list (Howl’s Moving Castle), and after reading this one I can say that I still am.

This book is written well and I found myself getting lost in the writing and the story.  With that being said I didn’t really like it.  I didn’t like the characters.  They are whiny and cruel, mostly all of them.  Except, the main character whom doesn’t stand up for himself or say anything out of turn.

Another thing that bothered me, and this is one of those plot devices that always bug me, is that a large majority of the plot, I’d say 95% of the plot and tension, is due to characters not telling each other things. This is rarely done well.  I always feel as though there is no reason to keep the secrets that are being kept.  In this book, for instance, Cat, the main character, is kept in the dark the whole book and he in turn keeps his handlers in the dark about what he is doing, and the whole time I’m thinking “why don’t they just tell each other?!” And my curiosity is never quite satiated until the end when everyone explains their motives.  It was wrapped up nicely and I did get the answers I wanted, but it was too little too late.  I just prefer a different type of tension in my narrative.

Chrestomanci and His Dragon by deviantart artist the carli

Chrestomanci and His Dragon by deviantart artist the carli

Also, other complaints have to do with the hokey magic system, but some people like fanciful magic with no rules or real consistency, just not me.

One other problem, and I know you want to read another problem, is the cover, the blurb on the cover, and the synopsis on the back of the book.  They are all terrible.  Number one, the cover is terrible.  It makes me think it is a book about a cat, which it is not.  The main characters name is Cat, but he is not a cat.  If I had to pick a book based on its cover, I would never have chosen this book.

This cat looks angry

This cat looks angry

Now for the blurb…”Mad about Harry? Try Diana.” What does it mean? At first I wasn’t sure what it could mean because the original novel was written in 1977, but this is a reprint from 2001.  So then that made me think that it was talking about Harry Potter, and maybe there hadn’t been a Harry Potter in a couple of years?  Or were people upset with how the last Harry Potter book ended?  It’s a fantasy having to do with wizards so it makes sense.  I guess.  But, why would the blurb reference a fictional character and then say to replace that fictional character with a very real author?  So that makes me think that Harry is an author…but I know zero authors named Harry.  No real footing there.  Then I thought of Princess Diana and Prince Harry, because the author is British, but that doesn’t make since.  What do they have to do with a fantasy novel?   So, not the best blurb…it’s confusing and doesn’t really sell me the book.

Who's Harry?

Who’s Harry?

So, just to cover what I’ve said, terrible cover art and confusing blurb.  So far, I wouldn’t go anywhere near this book.

OK…maybe it is about Harry Potter http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/991129/archive_003252.htm

Now for the synopsis on the back of the book.  It gives away the plot of the story, “schemes that could destroy all the worlds of Chrestomanci.”  You don’t even know that there is a scheme for anything until about ¾ of the way through the book. And you don’t know about the alternate worlds until at least halfway through it.  Also, Christopher is never mentioned in the first book.  So, this is just another case of me waiting through the book for it to get started and when I look up the book is already done and it finally fulfilled what the synopsis read.  I imagine a good synopsis covers the feel or theme of the book, but pretty much just tells the reader the hook of the story.  But, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Well, that's the entire book.  Next!

Well, that’s the entire book. Next!

Well, it’s make or break time.  I think that this was a good book.  I enjoyed the writing and despite everything I disliked about it, the story went along smoothly.  The author allows the reader to get comfortable within the narrative.  But, when it comes down to it, I just didn’t like it much.  I hate to say that, since this is a readable book and those don’t come around too often on this list, but I really didn’t not like it; though, perhaps there is a place for it on this list.

Wife: Nuh uh. I won’t be reading the rest of the series…

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