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Literature: Chrestomanci
aka: The Pinhoe Egg
Chrestomanci has one dressing gown for every day of the year, including leap days. They are all fabulous.

A series of novels by Diana Wynne Jones and arguably her second most famous work(s) after Howls Moving Castle. A set of books set in the Related Worlds about a government official (the "Chrestomanci") who has nine lives and the job of controlling the misuse of magic.

There are six novels and one collection of short stories, although, in some editions, pairs of novels are gathered under the title The Chronicles of Chrestomanci.

The books are, in order of publication:
  • Charmed Life
  • The Magicians of Caprona
  • Witch Week
  • The Lives of Christopher Chant
  • Mixed Magics (the short story collection):
    • "Warlock at the Wheel"
    • "Stealer of Souls"
    • "Carol O'Neir's Hundredth Dream"
    • "The Sage of Theare"
  • Conrad's Fate
  • The Pinhoe Egg

The stories more or less fall into three broad headings: those that focus on a young boy named Eric "Cat" Chant, those that focus on Christopher Chant, or those that merely feature Chrestomanci as a supporting character to an entirely separate main cast.


Tropes featured include:

    open/close all folders 

     Charmed Life 
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Gwendolen turns Euphemia the maid into a frog, having previously claimed that her bulging eyes made her look like one already.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Chrestomanci castle's residents.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Gwendolen.
  • Enfant Terrible: Gwendolen was five when she started hijacking her brother's magic and put his lives into a matchbook, something that killed him once.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Janet. Well, it's an alternate dimension that closely resembles the past, anyway.
  • I Choose to Stay: Janet and all the other alternate versions of Gwendolen.
  • Karma Houdini: Gwendolen receives no comeuppance for her cruelty and malice, and ends up royalty.
  • Kissing Cousins: Cat and Gwendolen's parents were both born Chants and cousins.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Cat has no idea he's an enchanter; Gwendolen doesn't tell him because she's using his magic, and Chrestomanci doesn't tell him because he's unsure of Cat's motives.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Cat sometimes has difficulty interacting with other people, which gets him in trouble the more his sister stirs up. Word of God is that he is autistic.
  • Replacement Sibling: Janet for Gwendolen, to Cat.
  • Screening The Call: Gwendolen's actions had this effect on Cat.
  • Servile Snarker: Mary and Euphemia, the two particular maids who serve the children, grow more and more snarky as Gwendolen shows more and more of her bitchy side.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Cat, when he finally tells Gwendolen where she can shove it.
  • Tranquil Fury: Chrestomanci.
    There was a moment of ice-cold silence. It was a moment such as Cat hoped never to live through again. “Bless my soul!” Chrestomanci said, gently as frost freezes a window. [...] Cat wondered how such a mild voice could send the hair prickling upright at the back of his head.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Gwendolen's behavior runs the gamut from just bratty to downright evil.
  • Two Act Structure: Act I ends with Gwendolen losing her magic, and Act II begins with Janet's arrival.

     The Magicians of Caprona 
  • Adults Are Useless: Let's say played with, as Jones discussed in several lectures how she hated the trope in children's literature, and was very careful to give the characters good reasons. The adult Montanas and Petrochis are fairly unhelpful, yes, but it's because their prejudice against each other blinds them to any other possible explanation, not just because they are adults (the children start off with the same perspective). They don't so much ignore what's happen as go very determinedly in the wrong direction, and only get their act together at the very end. Marco and Rosa meanwhile are rather too aware for the children's comfort, the Duke turns out to be quite canny—despite childish qualities which at first made even the actual children dismiss him—and Chrestomanci was on the right track the whole time, but just too busy to be helpful until the end.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Angelica Petrocchi
  • Feuding Families: Casa Montana and Casa Petrocchi.
  • Inept Mage: Angelica Petrocchi. Being tone-deaf in a family of singing magicians can have... mixed results.
  • Magic Music: The Montanas and Petrocchis prefer to sing their spells, most notably the Angel of Caprona.
  • Puppet Permutation: The Punch and Judy sequence.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Amusingly subverted and parodied. Marco Petrocchi and Rosa Montana successfully marry under both of their warring family's noses and live through the end.
  • Super Empowering: A unique quality of Tonino Montana's magic is that he can greatly enhance any spell he takes part in or, in a pinch, turn it against the caster.

     Witch Week 

     The Lives of Christopher Chant 
  • Affably Evil: Uncle Ralph.
  • Awful Truth:
    • Christopher realizes his uncle Ralph has been killing and selling off the body parts of mythical creatures. Several of them being mermaids who had been Christopher's friends.
    • The Goddess finds out every old Living Asheth gets killed to make way for the new one. Slightly subverted in that Mother Proudfoot secretly saves most of them. Keyword being "most".
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Mordecai and Miss Rosalie. And by watching them, Christopher realizes it's the same case with his forever quarreling parents.
  • Bigger Bad: The Dright.
  • Birds of a Feather: Christopher and the Goddess.
    The Goddess: Thank you for telling me about yourself. I think you've had a rotten life, even worse than mine. People only want either of us for what use we are to them — you for your nine lives and me for my Goddess attributes. And both of us are caught and stuck and trapped in a life with a future all planned out by someone else — like a long, long tunnel with no way out!
  • The Butler Did It: It turns out that Mordecai Roberts was working for the Wraith for years.
  • The Call Put Me On Hold: Although he wasn't bothered by it in the least, destiny didn't catch up with Christopher until that fateful moment when Dr. Pawson took all of his silver away, and Christopher accidentally blew the roof of the house off.
  • Cat Stereotype: Throgmorton is a loveable rogue orange cat (although "loveable" often spills over into "evil-tempered").
  • Corruption of a Minor: Those "experiments" Christopher does for his uncle? Aren't quite legal.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tacroy and Christopher both. Wonder who the latter learned it from?
  • Dimension Lord: The Dright of Series Eleven.
  • Disc One Final Boss: The Wraith.
  • Double Agent: Tacroy is an unwilling triple agent.
  • The Fair Folk: The people of Series Eleven are implied to be the inspiration behind the myths of elves.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Christopher, and probably also Gabriel DeWitt.
  • Freak Out: The Goddess has a very justified one.
    "Christopher," said the Goddess, obviously trying to sound calm, "Bethi's dead. That means I'm going to die when they get a new Living Asheth." Kneeling by the dead cat, she screamed and screamed and screamed.
  • God in Human Form: The Living Asheth, a human girl who is chosen to represent the Living Aspect of the Goddess Asheth and who apparently gains some degree of supernatural ability (or at least an extra set of arms) from the position. The subversion is that Asheth doesn't really share her powers and the Living Asheth is an enchantress who is just that powerful on her own without realizing it.
  • His Name Really Is Barkeep: The Living Asheth/the Goddess.
  • Hostage Situation: Towards the end Gabriel De Witt is captured by the Dright of Series Eleven and Christopher travels there to negotiate for his release.
  • Jerkass: Young Christopher. Somewhat justified by the fact that he's being shunted around and neglected by everyone around him, but still, Flavian and Miss Rosalie did try to get along with him.
  • Meaningful Rename: The Goddess renames herself Millie.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Ralph Argent.
  • No Sympathy: While young Christopher isn't terribly sympathetic himself, he has a point when he complains that he's getting lectured and blamed for dying.
  • Old Retainer: Discussed; Christopher is astonished by the idea, because he grew up in a household where the emotional atmosphere was such that the servants generally handed in their notice after a month or so.
  • Pet Monstrosity: Throgmorten.
  • Properly Paranoid: The Goddess is very concerned about what happened to all the other Living Asheths. Christopher thinks she's being silly. Christopher is wrong.
  • Prophecy Twist: When Christopher is born, his father casts his horoscope and interprets it to say that silver will be a source of danger to him. The source of most of the danger he faces in the novel is Ralph Argent.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Tacroy, aka Mordecai Roberts.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Christopher towards Gabriel De Witt, which lessens considerably when Christopher realizes De Witt had hated becoming Chrestomanci just as much as he does. But that doesn't stop it from rising up whenever they butt heads, like in Conrad's Fate.
  • The Syndicate: The Wraith.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: Christopher discovers he has nine lives this way.

     Mixed Magics 
  • Accidental Kidnapping: The title character in "Warlock at the Wheel" steals a car without realising until too late that there's a small girl and her dog in the back seat.
  • Merlin Sickness: The Sage of Theare, though it's more that his life has been running backwards to catch up with him.
  • Villain Episode: The story "Warlock at the Wheel" focuses on a minor villain from Charmed Life.

     Conrad's Fate 
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Christopher and Millie.
  • Freak Out: Christopher, of all people, has a minor one when he can't find Millie.
  • Jerkass: Christopher has shades of this, but it's his job to be more diplomatic about it, and Millie helps.
  • Only Sane Man: Conrad, especially when he's with Christopher. Gabriel De Witt even lampshades it.
    He also said he was sorry to lose me, because I seemed to be the only person who could make Christopher see sense. I am not sure anyone can do that, but Christopher seems to think so too.
  • Reincarnation: Conrad's uncle tells him he has 'bad karma' because of something he did in a past life. Turns out he's lying, and Conrad is brand new.
  • Ship Tease: Christopher and Millie, by the bucket loads.
  • Straw Feminist: Conrad and Anthea's mother, who writes books about female enslavement that few people buy. A hypocritical version, since she exploits Anthea and later Conrad to do household chores she won't do herself and her reaction to learning that Anthea has secretly gotten herself accepted to a college is to protest that she's not clever enough.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Christopher and Millie get married in the end. Though this should come as no surprise if you've read any of the other books.

     The Pinhoe Egg 
  • Author Tract: The thinly veiled Aesop about Christianity turning the Pinhoes, Farleighs and Cleeves into fanatics.
  • Cassandra Truth: Poor Marianne tries desperately to let people know that Gammer has gone insane and is cursing the Farleighs, but everyone either has been bespelled not to believe her, or just won't listen.
  • Egg McGuffin
  • Evil Matriarch: Gammer Pinhoe.
  • Feuding Families: The Pinhoes and the Farleighs.
  • Last Girl Wins: Marianne, in all likelihood.
  • Magical Land: "The distance," where all of the mythical creatures are sealed.
  • Magitek: Roger and Joe's inventions.
  • The Masquerade: The Pinhoes, Farleighs and Cleeves pretend to not have magic so that Chrestomanci won't police them.
  • Proper Lady: Irene Yeldham, nee Pinhoe.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The Pinhoes, Farleighs and Cleeves think that griffins, unicorns and the various spirits of the woods and households are "abominations".

     Tropes Found In All Series 
  • Achilles' Heel: Each Chrestomanci has their own individual one.
  • Aliens Speaking English: It's stated that the reason the "Related Worlds" are referred to as such is because they all share the same languages, but the people Christopher encounters in his travels often speak English. Particularly glaring in Asheth's city, which is in the desert and has something of an Indo-Arabic culture.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel/Bowties Are Cool: Chrestomanci's dressing gowns.
  • Badass Teacher: Michael Saunders
  • Battle Butler: All of the Castle staff are government employees, meaning they're trained mages who can back Chrestomanci up in a fight.
  • Boarding School:
    • Chrestomanci Castle winds up serving this function for young enchanters at times.
    • Witch Week is set at a pretty dreadful one.
    • Subverted in The Lives Of Christopher Chant where Christopher dreads going to school, but when he gets there loves it. He makes friends, excels at most lessons, and quickly grows into a more healthy person than he had been cooped up in his family home with no company. Unfortunately for him, fate - and more pointedly, the adults in his life - have designs on his future, and he is quite quickly whisked away from the school.
    • In Conrad's Fate Millie ends up running away to stop going to her awful boarding school.
  • Building of Adventure: Chrestomanci Castle in Charmed Life, Stallery Manor in Conrad's Fate.
  • Call On Me: Any Chrestomanci whenever his title is spoken thrice. Several times, Christopher's in a dressing gown because he doesn't always have time to get dressed up.
  • Cats Are Magic
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: Referenced in Charmed Life (the protagonist's nickname is Cat because he has nine lives); used literally in The Lives of Christopher Chant.
  • Continuity Nod: A lot of them are scattered throughout the series.
    • The tan, fair-haired aide of Gabriel De Witt's at the end of Conrad's Fate.
    • Millie's cats in The Pinhoe Egg.
    • Elizabeth, one of the students mentioned at the end of Conrad's Fate, is Paolo and Tonino Montana's mother in The Magicians of Caprona.
    • Jason the boot boy from The Lives of Christopher Chant is featured a lot in The Pinhoe Egg
    • O'Neir, one of Christopher's childhood friends is the father of the girl featured in "Carol O'Neir's Hundredth Dream"
    • Millie's throwaway line in Charmed Life about someone bullying her is central to the plot in Conrad's Fate.
  • Dream Weaver:
    • "Carol O'Neir's Hundredth Dream" is about a girl who can control her dreams (to an extent) and siphon them off for commercial reproduction.
    • As a child Christopher believes that he is some version of this, once he's old enough to know they're a little odd (at first he thinks everyone can visit the Place Between in their sleep). Turns out he's not exactly, or at least, entirely, sleeping.
  • The Edwardian Era: Sort of. It's in another world, there's obviously no King Edward, and the books are set in modern-ish times, but 12-A bears quite a strong resemblance to the era of Edward's reign.
  • Evil Uncle:
    • In The Lives of Christopher Chant.
    • In Conrad's Fate, Conrad has one on each side of the family!
  • Extreme Doormat: Cat, and Marianne, at first.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: By the end of The Pinhoe Egg, you not only have witches, wizards, magicians, sorcerers, and enchanters all in the same world, but now there are griffins, unicorns, and all sorts of hidden mythical beasts in the world. Expanding it to the rest of the Related Worlds includes the Lords of Karma (in Conrad's Fate), mermaids, dragons, The Fair Folk, and the sort-of Indian-ish Goddess Asheth (in The Lives of Christopher Chant), and the Classical Mythology-ish gods and goddesses in The Sage of Theare.
  • First Girl Wins: Millie. You can't win anymore than Happily Married with two kids.
  • Flying Broomstick: In The Pinhoe Egg, women ride broomsticks and men ride bicycles. In Witch Week it's uni.
  • Functional Magic
  • Gentleman Wizard: Chrestomanci. Quite a few other characters too.
  • Good Parents: Millie and Christopher. Cat and Gwendolen's parents were hinted to be this, but they died too quickly to get a good impression.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Cat and Christopher burn through their nine lives at an alarming rate.
  • Happily Married:
    • Christopher and Millie.
    • Cat is confused about Miss Rosalie and Mordecai as they certainly act Happily Married, and she wears a gold wedding ring, but also insists on being called Miss Rosalie.
  • Healing Factor: The nine lives that Chrestomancis have are a form of this.
  • Hidden Depths: In Charmed Life Millie is introduced as Chrestomanci's plain, proper wife. She is perceived as nothing more than a motherly figure until Janet lets Cat know that Millie has magic as well. Cat shrugs this off as paranoia, but by the end of the story it's apparent that Millie is one of the most powerful magic-users in the Castle.
  • Immunity Disability: At birth, it was foretold that Christopher Chant's weakness would be silver, so his father cast his strongest spells against silver affecting him. The result is that being in contact with silver causes him to be Brought Down to Normal; when Christopher isn't touching it, he's the most powerful enchanter in the worlds.
  • In Spite of a Nail
  • Inconvenient Summons
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople: For the Chrestomanci's home world.
  • It Runs in the Family: Magic, particularly enchanter-strength magic, in the Chant family. When two cousins get married, the chance of them having magical kids quadruples.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The Pinhoe Egg is extremely guilty of this. So is The Magicians of Caprona.
  • Magic Mirror:
    • The parlor mirror through which Christopher's mother contacts Uncle Ralph
    • The mirror in Gwendolen/Janet's room has a one-way spell that allows the person who cast it to watch what goes on there.
  • Malicious Misnaming:
    • "Accidentally" getting a person's name wrong, in a way that implies that he just doesn't consider them important enough to remember it properly, is one of Chrestomanci's weapons against people who annoy him.
    • Janet does the same to Mr. Balsam in Charmed Life. At first she's genuinely having trouble remembering his name, but when Cat corrects her she declares that he doesn't deserve to have his name got right, and thereafter makes a point of getting it wrong a different way every time she says it.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Cat" Chant.
    • Dream Weaver Carol O'Neir; "oneiric" means having to do with dreams.
  • Modern Mayincatec Empire: Apparently America is called Atlantis and ruled by the Incas.
  • The Multiverse: The Series of Related Worlds.
  • Nephewism: A year after Cat and Gwendolen's parents die, they're sent to live with their previously-unknown cousin on... both sides of the family. He didn't take them in out of filial obligation, though.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Made most explicit in Charmed Life.
  • Official Couple: Christopher and Millie, Mordecai and Rosalie, Rosa and Marco...
  • Our Dragons Are Different
  • Pals with Jesus:
    • In The Lives of Christopher Chant, a young Christopher Chant (the Chrestomanci of Charmed Life) meets and befriends a young girl who is the Living Aspect of the Goddess Asheth. Fast-forward ten years and they're married.
    • Conrad to Christopher, too, considering Christopher is basically a Reality Warper.
  • Parental Abandonment: Par for the course for a DWJ novel. Christopher's mother is a Control Freak social climber and his father a Workaholic who blew all his money, both of whom, though they do love him, want to dictate his life for personal gain. Cat and Gwendolen's parents are both implied to have been very kind, but they die within the first two pages.
    • On the other hand, Christopher and Millie subvert this, both being very loving and attentive parents to not only their biological children, but to their growing number of adopted children and students.
    • The protagonists of Witch Week are all missing at least one parent, except for Charles, whose parents sent him off to a school he hates so they wouldn't have to deal with him.
    • Conrad Tesdinic's father is dead, and his unbelievably neglectful mother lets him be manipulated by his Evil Uncle who lives with them. She's fully aware that her brother is a Manipulative Bastard, but she simply doesn't care enough to take an active role in his life. It's implied she herself was manipulated, reinforced with just a hint of magic.
  • Parental Substitute: Christopher and Millie for Cat and Janet.
  • Power Limiter/Power Nullifier: Every nine-lived enchanter has some sort of Achilles' Heel. For Christopher, it's silver: being in contact with it in any way renders him completely incapable of using magic. In Cat's case, he's left handed and thus has to use it to cast magic; any magic cast with his right will either be very weak or not work at all.
  • Reality Warper: Enchanters. Before receiving formal training in magic, Christopher and Cat warped reality without even realizing it.
  • The Scottish Trope: Because of what happens when someone says "Chrestomanci", criminals go out of their way to use euphemisms to refer to him, such as "Eminent Personage".
  • Soul Jar: Millie's wedding band for Christopher, the matchbook for Cat.
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: One of Christopher's favorite discussion tactics.
  • True Sight: Witch Sight.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: "Don't Notice" spells deliberately invoke this, and are undetectable by weaker mages.


Black MariaCreator/Diana Wynne JonesThe Dalemark Quartet
Choose Your Own AdventureChildren's LiteratureThe Chronicles of Narnia
BuildingverseThe VerseThe Cosmere
Les Chimères de MirinarFantasy LiteratureChronicle Of The Unhewn Throne
The Chocolate WarLiterature of the 1970sThe Chronicles of Amber

alternative title(s): Chrestomanci; Witch Week; The Lives Of Christopher Chant; The Magicians Of Caprona; The Pinhoe Egg; Charmed Life; Conrads Fate
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