Book 4 of the Chronicles of Chrestomanci, by Diana Wynne Jones.
As a note, I’m numbering the books according to the spine of the editions I have, two books to a bound mass-market paperback. Like the Narnia series, there’s some debate about the order in which to read the books. Hey. I had a craving to read the series again and pulled what I had off my shelf. That’s my reading order.
I read The Pinhoe Egg earlier, but I’m not going to review it here. It’s been too long since I read it. I still have Conrad’s Fate to read, too.
This is my least favorite of the series; I read a few chapters into it the first time and put it down. Then I checked it out on audiobook and listened to it in the car. I kept stopping listening to it, because it was so painful, but eventually I made it through and was glad of it. You know Schindler’s List? It’s brilliant. You just don’t run around on a bad day and say, “You know what I want to watch? Schindler’s List. It’s so comforting.”
Same thing here.
The world is a world that forbids magic, and the story starts out with someone who drops a note to one of the teachers saying, “Someone in this class is a witch.” In all caps. All the kids hate each other. All the adults hate each other. Oh, god, it’s like sixth grade all over again. I want to crawl in a corner and whimper every time I come across this book, let alone when I read it.
So this was the first time I successfully read the book. Don’t think I didn’t feel like putting it down and running away. But I’d just read the first three, so I pushed through. Really, really quickly. This is never going to be a book that I read for fun.
But I wish I’d read it when I was in sixth grade. It might have made things a bit easier to grasp.
So when you run across that kid (you know that kid) who’s having a miserable time in sixth grade, give him this book. He won’t like it.
But, dammit, he’ll know what to do.