CHARMED LIFE by Diana Wynne Jones

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Cat has always been a kind and quiet boy with few special talents—quite unlike his older sister Gwendolyn, the self-centered, bossy, young witch.  In the tragic boating accident that claimed the lives of their parents, Cat survived only by clinging to Gwendolyn.  With nowhere else to go, the two children are sent off to live with their powerful enchanter relative, the Chrestomanci.  Gwendolyn hopes that Chrestomanci will train her in magic, but he seems unimpressed with her talents.  Insulted and greedy for power, Gwendolyn flees to another dimension where she hopes to rule as queen; as a result, her counterpart from that alternate world, Janet, gets stuck at Chrestomanci castle.  As Cat and Janet try to cover up Gwendolyn’s escape by pretending that Janet is Gwendolyn, Cat begins to realize that there is something odd about his sister’s powers—and he may not be as talentless as he seems.

Charmed Life begins a classic fantasy series that is often overlooked in the post-Potter world of children’s literature.  But readers who enjoy Harry Potter, Charlie Bone, Septimus Heap, and other similar fantasy series should definitely check out the Chrestomanci books.  Diana Wynne Jones builds an intricate and fascinating collection of fantasy worlds filled with cool magic and intriguing characters.  I highly recommend this series.

If you liked Charmed Life, you should check out The Secret of Platform 13 and other fantasy novels by Eva Ibbotson, Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Magyk by Angie Sage.

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