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Chrestomanci series: In what order to read Diana Wynne Jones’ fantasy books?

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“The job Chrestomanci has is to make sure this world isn’t run entirely by witches. Ordinary people have rights too.”

What does ‘Chrestomanci’ mean? The word may be derived from the Ancient Greek khrestos, meaning “useful” and manteía, which means “prophecy or divination“.

It is the name of Diana Wynne Jones’ fantasy series, published from 1977 to 2006. It consists of seven books: six novels and a collection of four stories.

Chrestomanci also refers to a government employee. It’s the title to a nine-life enchanter whose job is to police the use of magic in the Related Worlds (or the multiverse in which the stories take place).

What we called Series Twelve is the main location in the Chrestomanci books, and Twelve A, the main world as it is Chrestomanci’s world. Magic is very common in this world, and a large part of the population can use magic the way we made music in ours. It means it comes in different strengths and varieties, and some people are way more powerful than others.

Chrestomanci Book Series in Order

There are three ways to read the series. You can read them in the order they were written, you can read them in chronological order, or you can read them following Diana Wynne Jones’s recommendations.

Chrestomanci Books Series in Publication Order

Diana Wynne Jones’ Recommended Reading Order

As it happened, like other authors, Diana Wynne Jones offered herself a reading order for her work.

Cover for Charmed Life - Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones Cover for Charmed Life - Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones Cover for Charmed Life - Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones Cover for Charmed Life - Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones

Charmed Life – Everybody says that Gwendolyn Chant is a gifted witch with astonishing powers, so it suits her enormously when she is taken to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Her brother Eric (better known as Cat) is not so keen, for he has no talent for magic at all. However, life with the great enchanter is not what either of them expects and sparks begin to fly.

The Magicians of Caprona – The Dukedom of Caprona is a place where music is enchantment and spells are as slippery as spaghetti. The magical business is run by two families – the Montanas and the Petrocchis – and they are deadly rivals. So when all the spells start going wrong, they naturally blame each other. Chrestomanci suspects an evil enchanter; others say it is a White Devil. Or maybe a different kind of magic is needed to save Caprona…

Witch Week – The law says that all witches must be burned at the stake. So when an anonymous note warns, ‘Someone in this class is a witch,’ the students in 6B are nervous – especially the boy who’s just discovered that he can cast spells and the girl who was named after the most famous witch of all.

The Lives of Christopher Chant – Discovering that he has nine lives and is destined to be the next ‘Chrestomanci’ is not part of Christopher’s plans for the future: he’d much rather play cricket and wander around his secret dream worlds. But he soon finds that destiny is difficult to avoid.

Cover for Mixed Magics - Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones Cover for Conrad’s Fate - Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones Cover for The Pinhoe Egg - Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones

Mixed Magics – Collection of short stories. A warlock tries to escape Chrestomanci’s justice by fleeing to another world-with hilarious results. Cat Chant and Tonino Montana reluctantly join forces when Chrestomanci sends them on a visit that turns suddenly dangerous. The youngest best-selling dreamer needs Chrestomanci’s help when she finds she can’t dream anymore. And as the gods of an ever-so-orderly world try to destroy the young Sage of Dissolution, Chrestomanci lends a hand.

Conrad’s Fate – Someone at the mysterious Stallery Mansion is pulling the possibilities. At first only small details change – the color of the mailboxes, the titles of books – but the changes keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s up to Conrad Tesdinic, a twelve-year-old with truly terrible karma, to find the person behind it all.

The Pinhoe Egg – Spells always have consequences and it’s Chrestomanci’s job to make sure everything is safely under control. Even so, in the village around Chrestomanci Castle, all sorts of secret magical misuse is going on. And when Cat Chant finds the Pinhoe egg, chaos is just the beginning.

Chrestomanci Series Quotes

From Charmed Life

“As Chrestomanci has to be a nine-lifed enchanter, it stands to reason that any creature with the luck, gifts, and abilities of nine lives is going to be far more magical than a creature with just one! Which means that all cats are magical, even though their owners are probably not. Knowing this makes cats extremely confident and self-sufficient, and they put their magic to use all the time. How else could they appear from nowhere whenever the fridge door is opened? Or make a human open a door or window for them when they have a perfectly good cat flap of their own? Or seek out and snuggle up to the one person in the room who hates cats?”

“The best advice for dealing with cats is: Always greet them politely. Don’t make an unnecessary fuss over them. Be on the alert for signs they want to communicate with you. Never, ever laugh at them! If you’re lucky, you might just find that your cat will decide that you are a magical person worthy of attention. Or then again, maybe they’d just like some fish.”

“Chrestomanci smiled and swept out of the room like a very long procession of one person.”

From The Lives of Christopher Chant

“Christopher discovered that you dealt with obnoxious masters and most older boys the way you dealt with governesses: you quite politely told them the truth in the way they wanted to hear it, so that they thought they had won and left you in peace.”

From Conrad’s Fate

“People are wrong when they say things like, “I didn’t have time to think.” If you’re really worried, or really miserable, those feelings come welling up around the edges of the other things you’re doing, so that you are in the feelings even when you’re working hard at something else.”

From Witch Week 

“When you grow up to be an author and write books, you’ll think you’re making the books up, but they’ll all really be true, somewhere.”

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that the Devil, however he appears, is never a perfect gentleman?”

From The Magicians of Caprona

“If it had not been time to get up, he would have gone straight back to the beginning and started reading the book again.”

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