Book 3 of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, by Diana Wynne Jones

Romeo and Juliet, with Magic, as told by their younger siblings.

There are two great houses of magic in the world of The Magicians of Caprona.  They don’t like each other and they forbid the kids to have anything to do with each other.

I mean, really, you can see where things are going from here.  It’s hardly a spoiler to say that one member of each of the houses falls in love with each other and are secretly married.  However, that’s not the point of the plot.  (This is a kids’ book, that is, a middle grade book, not really a young adult book.  Falling in love is still something to make yuck faces about, at that point.)  In fact, the couple manages to hoodwink their families quite nicely, thank you, none of that business with the poison or the running away.

Unfortunately, the hate between the families is the least of their problems.  All the magic in town is falling apart, they’re about to be attacked by other Italian city-states, and nobody can find the actual words to the greatest spell they know, the ones that…protects…their city…from being attacked.

Don’t you just hate that?

Once again, the main character of the book is a kid, reknowned as a talentless lump.  However, he makes off better than the main characters in the first to Chrestomanci books, in that the patriarch of his family consults the cat (there are a lot of cats in this series, and not just the character Cat.  I have to wonder what the deal is there.  I suppose DWJ just likes cats.  I don’t recall a lot of dogs in her stories), who tells him that he, the family’s cat-patriarch, will keep an eye on Tonino, because Tonino is his favorite.  There’s a brilliant older brother, Paolo, but he loves his brother like a brother should (really).   A lot of familiar puzzles pieces in a slightly different order, Magicians isn’t the strongest book in the series, but I’m still fond of it.  The scenes are sharper, the action funnier, the images more surreal.  Not quite as masterful, scene-by-scene, as Howl’s Moving Castle, one of my favorite books of all time, but incredibly sharp.

Is this a book about war or a book about the Hatfields and Macoys?

DWJ raises the question:  Is there a difference?