Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones [Review]

Everybody says that Gwendolyn Chant is a gifted witch with astonishing powers, so it suits her enormously when she is taken to live in Chrestomanci Castle.

Her brother Eric (better known as Cat) is not so keen, for he has no talent for magic at all. However, life with the great enchanter is not what either of them expects and sparks begin to fly!

— Publisher’s Blurb

I quite enjoyed the first two books I read by Diana Wynne Jones. Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy. So I was always intending to read this one during the Once Upon a Time Challenge, but with the sad passing of Diana Wynne Jones recently, I quickly decided to make this one the book start the challenge with.

And, I have to be honest, I didn’t really like it. 🙁 There are just too few sympathetic characters, you have to dislike the bad-guys and their minions, not want to slap them, which is what I wanted to do to Gwendolen for most of the book. 😐

And because the role of Crestomanci is necessarily kept from Cat, Gwendolen and Janet, it is kept from us as well, so we never really get to know him. The things I like about Wynne Jones’ writing in Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiricy, dropping the reader in to the middle of story and trusting them to follow along, annoyed me in this one.

I feel slightly ashamed I didn’t enjoy this one, it almost feels like heresy 😉 I still want to read more of her works thought, and I’d like to give the Crestomanci another chance to work his charms, and I’ve heard good things about Witch Week, and I think I’ll be reading that one later in the challenge.

Buy: Charmed Life from Diana Wynne Jones from The Book Depository.

14 thoughts on “Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones [Review]

  • Pingback: Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones [Review] - Bart's Bookshelf

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  • May 15 at 10:23 am
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    Aww too bad this one didn’t work for you! I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either, I think it was just so-so for me. I remember I picked it up when I first heard that DWJ was sick. My favorite DWJ book is Howl’s Moving Castle and I hope you get to read that for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. 🙂

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  • April 18 at 2:24 am
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    I’ve just reread this in memory of Diana Wynne Jones RIP and posted a review on my blog!
    I’ve come to the conclusion that this book gets better if you reread it after reading the rest of the series.
    However personally I much prefer Magicians of Caprona, Lives of Christopher Chant and Howl’s Moving Castle over Charmed Life 🙂
    Lettie xxx

    • April 19 at 9:06 pm
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      Yeah, from what I’ve seen almost every one has enjoyed it more after a reread…

  • April 14 at 5:03 pm
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    I’m so sorry it didn’t click with you! Some of my reasons for liking it so much are your dislikes-I think Gwendoline is such a fantastically awful character, I’m quite fond of her! Perhaps it’s an older sister thing? Agree completely that she needs a slap 😉

    • April 19 at 9:18 pm
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      Possibly. I think I just struggle with that kind of character anyway, so it may be one of the few things that isn’t Gwendoline’s fault! 🙂

  • April 13 at 2:51 pm
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    I didn’t mind this book, but I liked the Howl’s Moving Castle trilogy and Fire & Hemlock better… I haven’t read on in the series yet…

    • April 19 at 9:20 pm
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      I like the other series I read. And I’d like to give this another chance. So I’ll liet you know when I get the chance to start Witch Week! 🙂

  • April 13 at 2:49 am
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    I inevitably say: Give it another chance another time. :p Memory’s right, the book improves on a reread. I liked it the first time through, but not nearly as much as I’ve liked it going back to it since then. And Conrad’s Fate is also very good; I would suggest reading The Lives of Christopher Chant before you read Conrad’s Fate, though. It will make Conrad’s Fate more interesting.

    • April 19 at 9:22 pm
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      I’ve got the Lives of Christopher Chant and Witch Week to try next, I think it’ll be a buddy read of Witch Week with Kelly next.

  • April 13 at 12:11 am
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    To be honest, I didn’t really like this one either–not the first time, at least. Someone recommended it to me as the very best place to start with Diana Wynne Jones; instead, it kept me from reading her again for many years. Gwendolen’s terrible, but Jones initially sets her up as the person to root for. It really put me off.

    It is a lot of fun the second time through, though (once you know Gwendolen gets hers), and the rest of the series is really good. CONRAD’S FATE recently emerged as my favourite DWJ (at least so far).

    • April 19 at 9:25 pm
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      Yeah, I think that was part of the problem, the initial setting up… Yeah, and knowing she does in the get her comeuppance, would reign in most of my slapping instincts! 😉

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