The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones

By now, viagra I would guess that, salve to frequent readers of this blog, salve Diana Wynne Jones needs no introduction. This is the most recent of Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci novels, others of which include The Lives of Christopher Chant, Charmed Life, and The Magicians of Caprona, among others. Other books of hers that I have reviewed can be found here, here, here, and here. The Chrestomanci, for those not in the know, is a nine-lived enchanter who is basically the head of all magic-users for the government. More importantly, he owns a different dressing-gown for every single day of the year.

Marianne and Joe Pinhoe have just been summoned to visit their Gammer, their grandmother, who also happens to be the female head of the Pinhoe clan. Most Pinhoes are witches of some fashion. Marianne is to be the next Gammer, and Joe is a Disappointment, because he’d rather work with machines than traditional magic. Anyway, while they are there, a rival clan comes to visit, and Gammer goes mad. Before she goes mad, though, she orders Joe to work as a bootboy at Chrestomanci Castle, to spy on the Chrestomanci. They don’t trust him much. Eventually, Joe meets Cat (Eric) Chant, the Chrestomanci’s ward, and things get complicated, including a baby griffin, the Pinhoes’ deceased Gaffer, flying tables, a ferret, and many, many spells.

In trying to write a short version of the plot, I’ve realized that it’s pretty complicated and not very easily reduced to six lines or fewer. I could, probably, recast the whole thing around the title element, the Egg, but I don’t think that gives a full idea of what the plot is like. It’s a little zany and madcap, and Marianne and Cat Chant share much of the main character duties, which increases the complexity somewhat. I also feel like if I say much more about the plot, I’ll give away something important. Suffice it to say that I had to leave out a lot. An interested reader might either dive right in, or might also check out other plot summaries.

The cast of characters is larger than in most other DWJ books; then again, the novel is about five hundred pages long. Fortunately, it’s a quick read; the pages have large margins and a fair amount of space between the lines. I’d say it’s about the effective length of a 350-page novel. The characters are pure DWJ: the crazy Gammer, a good deal of uncles and aunts, a crazy postmistress, donkeys, unicorns, fourteen-year-old horse-mad girls, and, of course, Christopher Chant, the Chrestomanci. He’s urbane, suave, fashionable, utterly brilliant, and possessed of a good deal of humor and sarcasm. And, of course, the aforementioned dressing-gown collection. The Chrestomanci family we know from previous volumes (mostly Charmed Life, of which Cat Chant is also a main character), but it’s always nice to see them again.

I thought the pacing of this book was a little strange. It was nearly finished before I realized what, exactly, the conflict had been. There were all sorts of side conflicts that came up and added to what turned out to be the primary conflict of the novel, though, and a few of those were even quite important. Those who aren’t so much interested in a straightforward plot might not have any trouble with this element of the book, but those who are expecting something a little bit different might be confused, as I was. I wouldn’t say that one needs to read Charmed Life or any of the other Chrestomanci books to make more sense of this one, but I also wouldn’t dissuade any reader from picking up any volume of DWJ’s work. This wasn’t my favorite of the Chrestomanci books, but she did juggle all the elements remarkably well, and what I felt might have been an odd bit of pacing certainly pales in comparison to how well the rest of the book was handled. 4.5/5 stars.

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