by Diana Wynne Jones
This fifth book in the Chrestomanci Quintet (formerly Quartet)
is finally in paperback, but before I talk about it, I feel a need to mention a movie based on a completely different book by Diana Wynne Jones. It's called Howls Moving Castle, and it was originally made in Japanese. The English-dubbed version features the voice talent of Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Lauren Bacall, and Billy Crystal. It takes some liberties with Jones wonderful book, and at times the animation is a bit pedestrian, but the scenery is gorgeous and it is still a phenomenal love story. Try it and see if you like it.
Now to the book, where we find Christopher Chant (who was a grown-up in the other books except The Lives of Christopher Chant) as a teenager, visiting a strange, not-quite-parallel world where Britain is attached to the continent of Europe, has alps, and is troubled by a Count who keeps pulling the probabilities (i.e., fiddling with reality) to keep his cash flow going. Among those who want to do something about it is a local boy named Conrad, who believes that he has bad karma from a previous life and that he needs to kill someone up at Stallery Mansion (where the Count lives) in order to expiate his evil fate.
Both Conrad and Christopher get taken on as valets-in-training at Stallery, though each of them has his own secret agenda. Nevertheless, the two lads become friendly rivals and try to help each other. Christophers problem has something to do with an interdimensional gateway that leads, at different times, to any one of several parallel worlds and the girl he loves is stuck in one of them. Conrads problem his real one, that is turns out to be closer to home than he thought. But the changes in reality will become more frequent and disruptive, until the servants are all convinced that the mansion is haunted, and a houseful of guests is stunned by the sudden and truly unexpected explanation of the whole, complicated mystery.
Diana Wynne Jones has once again woven a remarkable mix of magic into one engaging and surprising tale. Fraught with supernatural menace, spiritual dread, romantic melodrama, sci-fi weirdness, and class politics, it is above all a quirky, teen-fantasy take on Gosford Park with its above- and below-stairs high-jinks, criminal mischief, and desperate loves above and below ones station.
Recommended Age: 12+
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