The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones

The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow, 2006, middle grade, 515 pages, but it's the sort with very generous spacing so it's not really that long)

Christopher Chant, the svelte, incredibly powerful nine-lived enchanter, better known by his job title of Chrestomanci, was introduced to the world way back in 1977, with the publication of Charmed Life. He made appearances in a few other books (Witch Week and The Magicians of Caprona), and finally got his own book in 1988--The Lives of Christopher Chant. Then years of silence followed...but in the 2005, Jones revisited Chrestomanci with Conrad's Fate, followed in 2006 by The Pinhoe Egg. The Pinhoe Egg happens to be one of my favorite Diana Wynne Jones-es, so I'm offering it for Diana Wynne Jones week at Jenny's Books. Here goes:

Chrestomanci lives in a castle-type building, with spacious magical grounds. In The Pinhoe Egg, Jones takes us beyond his demesne, exploring the magical secrets that lie just outside his walls. Turns out, there are a lot of these. Two families, the Pinhoes and the Farleighs, full of all sorts of intrigue and secrets and shenanigans, have been practicing their own variety of enchantment for centuries. Young Marianne Pinhoe is the only girl of her generation, and she's expected to eventually become the clan matriarch. But fate has other plans in store for her, involving a mysterious Egg, a plague of frogs, a tangled web of domestic magic, and a strong and (perhaps) deadly network of enchantments that is keeping Something bound...

And Chrestomanci has no clue what's going on. Nope, so powerful are the Do Not Notice spells of the village families that he's been living in happy oblivion. Until, that is, Marianne becomes friends with his ward, young Cat (of Charmed Life fame). Both Cat and Marianne are strong magic users in their own rights, and together they began to unravel the mysteries of the Pinhoe and Farleigh families...

And in the process, they (and a host of other characters, old friends and new) are submerged in the sort of hugely entertaining magical mayhem that characterizes Jones' writing.

I like this one awfully much, but, as is often the case with DWJ, more so the second time reading it. Her plots are so tangly and her details so detailed and there is so much going on, that she repays re-reading more than just about any author I can think of. I'm still not entirely clear about every one of the motivations and machinations in The Pinhoe Egg, but I do know that Marianne is one of my favorite DWJ heroines (not because she is so very extraordinary; more the opposite in fact), it was wonderful to see so much more of Cat, and the magic is utterly fascinating.

Added bonus for animal lovers: baby griffin, and a horse who, although not magical per se, is a very fine horse indeed.
Added bonus for plant lovers: lots of gardening and other botanizing
Added bonus for people who like machines: machines (mixed with magic in a very strange way. Never underestimate the power of a dead ferret.)


  1. I should reread all of these, or The Dalemark Quartet or something, in honor of Lady Wynne Jones. I ADORE Chrestomani, and it saddens me greatly to think there could be no more... fortunately, books last forever.

  2. Interesting to hear you say the book is better on the second reading! I thought so too. That's been the case with a few of her more recent books. for me. 'House of Many Ways'I am still not sure about (possibly because I can't BEAR the monster-insecty thing)- but you are right about her characters, who are always sharply drawn and spot on.

  3. Oh how I loath the inscety think too Katherine!

  4. Oh no I love the 'House of Many Ways'. That's my favorite of all her books.

    It her recent one, 'Enchanted Glass', that is my least favorite. I didn't like the girl-fight and thought it in poor taste. I'll re-read it though and hope for the best the second time round.

  5. And I will re-read House of Many Ways, Misty, hoping for the same happy outcome!

  6. It pleases me so much to see other people say that DWJ's books are better on a reread. I completely agree, and I'm really glad I'm not the only one who's found this to be the case. Also, I love that you used the word "svelte". That word should be used more often.

  7. Although I think I could re-read Fire and Hemlock a dozen more times, and still not understand...I finally felt, after the fourth time, that I grasped what was happening in Hexwood.

    And I like svelte too--perhaps because it is something that I cannot aspire to myself!

  8. I have the three volumes of the Chrestomanci books but I've only read the first one, which contains The Lives of Christopher Chant and Charmed Life. DWJ's books are so much fun, I wish I found out about them when I was younger. I have a feeling I would've loved them as a child.

  9. Very nice up-summing of the Chrestomanci books history. Conrad's Fate was a hard act to follow in the latter set. I think I will be due for a Pinhoe reread too pretty soon.

  10. I am thinking I need to re-read Conrad's Fate asap--I had almost forgotten about it!

  11. Oooh, loved these! Wished for more and more! Alas, according to her official site, she has cancer ... so won't be writing in the near future.


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