Thursday, 18 April 2019

eBook Review - Charmed Life

  • Title And Author: Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Physical, eBook or Audiobook: eBook
  • Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: Bought
  • Length: 288 Pages

After you guys voted for me to read Red, White and Royal Blue (and me DNFing it at 35-odd%), I needed something light, something fast and something fun. Fun was the important word here. Plus, for some weird reason, I was itching to read Diana Wynne Jones’s Charmed Life

Slight backstory: I’ve got the whole Chrestomanci collection on my kindle in one bindup several years ago and by accident. During its preorder, it was £1.99 or 99p and I snapped it up as I knew I wanted to read this, plus Amazon would have to respect the price I preordered it for (unless they wanted me to cancel my order. I love a good bargain). Also, I want to read Diana Wynne Jones. I think I might have read Witch Week, a later book in the series, but I don’t know for certain plus can’t remember anything about it. My hope is that, once I read this series, will be confident enough to read Howl’s Moving Castle

That was several years ago and I still haven’t done it. I was planning to put this on a poll but, after Red, White and Royal Blue, I wanted fun so I jumped to this. No idea why as my TBR (physical, ebook and NetGalley) is overflowing and I need to do a cull soon! 

Charmed Life is the first in the Chrestomanci series and follows Eric Chant (also known as Cat) and his sister, Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn is a gifted witch in a world where magic is like music or maths in others. Cat is happy living in his sister’s shadow as he has no talent for magic at all. 

But it all changes when they move to live in Chrestomanci Castle. People are ignoring Gwendolyn’s magical powers and spoilt Gwendolyn starts pulling nasty and cruel pranks. Sparks are going to fly and worlds are going to shift and collide if people aren’t carefully…

It’s very rare for book bloggers to read non-recent books. Well, for me it is. This book was first published in 1977 - this book is older than I am by several years! But as title and this series so so beloved, it feels wrong that I haven’t attempted to read this as I do class myself as a fantasy reader (same with Wizard of Earthsea. Less so with Lord of the Rings, though I might consider it one day… but not yet!) 

But I had a blast reading this. I read this within four or five days (which is super fast for me!) and I was very tempted to keep going, power through the next book in my collection, Magicians of Caprona. I didn’t as these next few weeks are my “Pick My Next Read” on social media so I decided against it, but I decided to try and read the whole series and/or a few others of Diana Wynne Jones’s novels in the next 18 months. 

I am going to nitpick slightly as, while I did have a hoot reading this and am planning to read more, this book did raise the question of editing and censorship and it started a fab conversation on Twitter with several smarter bloggers and readers. As this book was first published in 1977, there is language and terms that are used that wouldn’t fully be acceptable now. I only noticed this three times: The first I noticed was when a character was getting smacked and another had their ears “boxed”. The second when a character pulled at her eyes to make them “Chinese” (I cringed so badly when I read that line”. And the third was a character shouting “The pussy! We must chase the pussy!”. Now, I completely understand that this is set in an Edwardian-like time on another world and I get this was acceptable language and attitudes at the time of publication, but it was nice chatting about these and questioning when editing/modernise is acceptable in titles or if it’s a form of censorship. In the end, everyone I chatted to were against editing/modernise but thought maybe a foreword, explaining that attitudes have changed, would be best. 

Back to the book. I liked how the story had pace and treated the reader with respect and didn’t speak down to them. I liked how spoilt Gwendolyn got throughout the book and slowly grew more spiteful and cruel and how Cat kept excusing her behaviour till he couldn’t anymore. I liked the magic worked and the idea of the Chrestomanci.

I might not have liked it when I was younger, but I like it and can’t wait to return to this world! 

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