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Charmed Life por Diana Wynne Jones
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Charmed Life (original 1977; edição 1998)

por Diana Wynne Jones

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
2,653605,259 (4.06)208
Gwendolen Chant and her brother Cat find the Chrestomancie Castle family's magic powers difficult to counter with the inferior powers of the Coven Street witches.
Título:Charmed Life
Autores:Diana Wynne Jones
Informação:HarperTeen (1998), Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Coleções:A sua biblioteca

Informação Sobre a Obra

Charmed Life por Diana Wynne Jones (1977)

  1. 42
    Harry Potter e a Pedra Filosofal por J. K. Rowling (kerravonsen)
    kerravonsen: Children's fantasy, check. Protagonist who doesn't know he's a magician/wizard, check. Schooling in magic, check.
  2. 00
    Under the Mountain por Maurice Gee (Aquila)
  3. 00
    Magic Below Stairs por Caroline Stevermer (foggidawn)
  4. 11
    Sabriel por Garth Nix (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: The roles of Chrestomanci and Abhorsen are similar- magicians who police the use of magic. Both books feature their protagonists growing into these roles.
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The late great DWJ is one of my favourite authors so I approached this re-read, after many years, with anticipation. At first, I found it a good page-turning and interesting story. Eric Chant, known as Cat, and his older sister Gwendolen, are orphaned at the very start, and become the wards of the local authority. They are taken in by the elderly lady who lived downstairs in their house, and who it is soon obvious views the two children as meal tickets, doing her best to get additional money for their upkeep. However, she is also genuinely fond of them, and it is through her efforts that Gwendolen, who appears to be a powerful witch, receives training from the next door hedge-wizard. For this is a world in which magic works and is routinely accepted.

Cat, the main viewpoint character, is a good natured, trusting boy, who - the adult reader at least - can see is being manipulated, especially by his sister whom he idolises. It is obvious that Gwendolen's teacher Mr Nostrum and his brother are both rather shady. Then the two children are taken under the guardianship of Chrestomanci, a figure of importance and power, though Cat does not understand his role, and go to live at Chrestomanci Castle with Chrestomanci, his wife Milly, their two children, and various suppport staff. Gwendolen, who was agog to go there and convinced she would be treated as the important personage she imagines herself to be, is soon incandescent with rage at what she views as snubbing, and when she is told she must concentrate on her other studies and put aside learning further magic, sets out to wreck revenge on Chrestomanci and his family in various unpleasant and inconvenient ways. And with her help, the Nostrum brothers hatch a plot that will put Cat and his new guardian in extreme jeopardy.

The problem I had with this story is that so much depends upon the inability of people to talk to each other. It is just about believable that a self-effacing boy such as Cat would be too scared of Chrestomanci to tell him key things that are going on, or would not want to betray his sister, but it is less forgiveable for an adult character to not even try to talk to him because as we learn at the end of the story, he and the other adults thought Cat might be complicit in his sister's misdeeds. It just wasn't a good enough motive not to talk to him, and if they really thought that might be the case, to persuade him otherwise.

Chrestomanci also lost a lot of any sympathy I had for his character when he "boxed" Cat's ears - basically, hit him around the head - because Cat hadn't stopped Gwendolen from carrying out a rather nasty bit of magic. Surely he should at least have taken Cat away from her, sat him down and asked him what on earth was going on and why he hadn't stopped her - or got Milly, who is much more sympathetic and less intimidating, to talk to him? Instead, he acted out of anger and on a false assumption - at which point, it became completely understandable that Cat was terrified of him and didn't want to tell him what was happening. Because of this fundamental failure to communicate, Cat and another character (avoiding spoilers) become embroiled in deeper and deeper trouble, all stemming from Gwendolen's monstrous behaviour.

Gwendolen is an almost psychopathic villain as becomes increasingly clear, and is certainly confirmed in the climax of the story. There is quite an adult sensibility in the fact that the old lady whom Cat loves and who is fond of him, is at the same time a selfish, grasping character, and he does eventually appreciate this, though she at least shows more decency by her attempt to warn him than his sister. But the dependence of the plot on the willful failure by the adults to alert Cat to the danger he is in weaken the story for me. I like some of the set pieces, love the baby dragon, like some of the interaction with other characters, but the basic meat of the story - that everything happens because of a failure to communicate which is principally the fault of the adults - doesn't really work for me, so I can only rate this 3 stars.
( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Siblings, Cat and Gwendolen Chant are left orphaned when their parents drown. Their village takes care of them, placing them with Mrs Sharp. But Gwendolen has big plans and manipulates a way for them to be invited to live at Chrestomanci Castle - the home of Chrestomanci - a famous enchanter who keeps all the other witches and warlocks in line.

I honestly didn't understand most of this. The plot is all over the place and the motivations the characters have don't really make sense. The world building would be interesting but for the fact none of it's ever explained or discussed - it's just kind of there. Which would be fine except the magic seems to be adhering to some sort of rules that aren't of the generally accepted variety seen in fantasy. Like why the castle seems to have dampening spells? Or what the deal was with the signatures? It was never addressed or explained beyond mentioning that it was so. It's like Jones just came up with a bunch of things that sounded good stuck them in a hat and jumbled them all up and said yep that's it. It was weird and messy.

Cat who is supposedly the hero of this was bland and subservient to everybody. He's rather a nothing character. Gwendolen orders him around and uses him only when convenient for her, otherwise dismissing and ignoring him. Gwendolen is a terrible sister for most of the book but towards the end just drops into evil territory. She was planning all along to kill Cat? Really? I mean sure, she'd treated him badly but she never seemed violent towards him. It felt random. I didn't remotely understand how or why Gwendolen took over Cat's nine lives. What was the purpose? This part of the story just seemed to go nowhere.

As for the other characters, none of them are really distinct. Julia and Roger are interchangeable and Chrestomanci is set up as the bogeyman. The maids were sarcastic and cold and the only character who was slightly likeable was Janet.

My biggest complaint would be the lack of discussion with Cat. Neither Chrestomanci or Millie speak to Cat and Gwendolen when they come to live with them. I mean surely there should be a little discussion about rules, a tour of the house, introductions to the other kids. Who the hell they are and why they're taking the kids in? It annoyed me the adults didn't speak up but it irritated me worse that Cat never bothers to question anything that happens to him. Chrestomanci just waiting to see what happens instead of just talking to him was absolutely ridiculous.

I did like a few of Gwendolen's pranks, the stained glass windows coming to life, the shutters closing twice every half hour. But mostly this book was a miss for me.

3 stars. ( )
  funstm | Oct 29, 2023 |
This was a fun little book.
I love how magic is implemented in Diana Wynne Jones' worlds. The characters were interesting, the plot was quite good and there were a lot of creative elements I liked (the book of matches, for example).
Gwendolen was a fantastic character and such an entertaining brat. Cat was so sweet and I was hoping he would finally see his own worth all the time. The relationship between these two siblings was very interesting to analyse. I also really liked Chrestomanci. The other characters weren't as fleshed out but they served the story and were interesting enough.
The only criticism I have is that some of the decisions made by the characters were a little dumb and seemed to be just for plot convenience.

That said, how could I give less than 4 stars to a book that has this quote?
"That's right, dear. We must all hunt for the pussy." She turned to the crowd with a witch's piercing scream. "Hunt for pussy, everyone!"

Don't tell me the author didn't know what she was doing. ( )
  elderlingfae | Aug 11, 2022 |
Fanciful tale of two orphans, the elder a witch, in a Victorianesque world of magic. It went quite well until Gwendolyn left then dragged until the final action. I'm not a fan of villain driven plots as this turned out to be. ( )
  quondame | Apr 21, 2022 |
I really love this series so I'm rereading it for what's gotta be the 5th time at least. Changing this from 4 to 5 stars because I really do love it and Janet is one of my favorite characters in the series. ( )
  mutantpudding | Dec 26, 2021 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Diana Wynne Jonesautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Doyle, GerardNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
IonicusArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Makkonen, MarikkiTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Newbold, GregArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Slater, PaulArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Stevens, TimIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Cat Chant admired his elder sister Gwendolen. She was a witch. He admired her and he clung to her. Great changes came about in their lives and left him no one else to cling to.
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Gwendolen Chant and her brother Cat find the Chrestomancie Castle family's magic powers difficult to counter with the inferior powers of the Coven Street witches.

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