Thursday, July 1, 2010

Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones

Conrad’s Fate is the only one of the Chrestomanci books that I had never before read and since it includes my favorite character in the series, Christopher Chant, I was really excited to finally read it.

Conrad Tesdinic lives in the mountain village of Stallchester, in the English Alps, along with his mother, uncle and sister. Ever since he was a young child Conrad has been warned by his uncle that he possesses bad karma, from an important deed left undone in a previous life, and this is the reason for any unpleasantness in his life. After graduating from school Conrad is eager to continue his education at Stall High with his friends, but his uncle puts an abrupt halt to Conrad’s plans by insisting that instead his goes to work as a servant at the Stallery Mansion.

According to Conrad’s uncle, the person responsible for his bad karma resides at Stallery and if Conrad does not eliminate them by the end of the year, he will die.
Frightened into compliance, Conrad makes his way to Stallery to apply for a position there. Upon arrival he makes the acquaintance of another boy, Christopher, who arrives at the mansion in a gypsy caravan, impeccably dressed and fully determined to be hired on as a footman at the Mansion.

Thrown together as trainees for the same job position, Conrad and Christopher quickly become friends. And soon they each discover that the other is there under false pretenses. Each of them has a mission to accomplish at Stallery and it’s only with each others help that they may succeed.

Conrad’s Fate is a cute book which includes many of those themes that readers of Jones’s books will recognize, including negligent parents, scheming adults and a boy ignorant of his own magical talent. But even though many of the books by Diana Wynne Jones do have certain reoccurring themes, she somehow manages to make the central character in each of them completely unique and memorable.

Conrad is a very appealing protagonist and the fact this his story is told in the first person makes it particularly easy to empathize with him. Though what I especially enjoyed was getting to know Christopher Chant, the future Chrestomanci, as a fifteen year old boy and viewing him from Conrad’s prospective. Conrad’s irritation at Christopher’s superior manner is amusing, and one of my favorite parts is when he and Millie are gossiping together about how annoying Christopher can be.

He would keep calling me Grant in that superior way, and there were times when I wanted to hit him for it, or shout that it was only my alias, or—anyway, he really annoyed me. Then he would say something that doubled me up with laughter, and I discovered I liked him again. It was truly confusing.

I said... “He’s far too fond of his own way. And the way he makes superior jokes all the time—I want to hit him!”
“Oh, doesn’t he just!” Millie said.
After that…we both tore Christopher’s character to shreds. It was wonderful fun.


And while many of Jones’s fans will probably be picking up this book largely because it features Christopher Chant, they will find that Conrad himself is an interesting, well-drawn character worthy of standing on his own.

I do have to admit though that the story itself didn’t engage me as much as those told in the other books in the series. I just didn’t find it to be as interesting. I also think that if I had read this book when I was younger I would have found all the talk about alternate probabilities to be very confusing. But ultimately I was satisfied with the book since it gave me the chance to spend more time with Christopher Chant and Millie, and also introduced some new interesting characters. And unlike in many of the other books in the series, I felt like the events here were tied up neatly in the end, giving readers the satisfaction of knowing where the characters eventually end up.

If you have already read and enjoyed the other books in the Chrestomanci series then you will most likely want to read Conrad’s Fate as well. But if you are new to these books then this would not be the best place to start reading and I suggest you pick up Charmed Life first.


2 comments:

I like the cover on yours! I like it better than the cover I've got, actually...is yours the paperback?

Yes, it's available at the Book Depository for $6.84. Though to be honest, none the covers of the Chrestomanci books really thrill me.

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