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.)