Charmed Life (novel)

Charmed Life (novel)
Charmed Life  
Charmed Life.jpg
Cover of Charmed Life
Author(s) Diana Wynne Jones
Country Great Britain
Language English
Series The Chrestomanci Series
Genre(s) Children's, Fantasy novel
Publisher Macmillan
Publication date 1977
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 261 pp
ISBN 0333214269
OCLC Number 3433640
LC Classification PZ7.J684 Ch 1977

Charmed Life is a 1977 novel by British children's author Diana Wynne Jones. It was the first book in the Chrestomanci series of novels to be published. The series name comes from the way the plots involve a series of powerful nine-lived enchanters who carry the title Chrestomanci. Carriers of the title are essentially government administrators who supervise the use of magic on Earth.


The character of Christopher Chant (the Chrestomanci in this novel) appears as a young boy in The Lives of Christopher Chant and as a teenager in Conrad's Fate.

Eric Emelius "Cat" Chant
The protagonist of the novel.

Cat is a young boy, who is sent to live at Chrestomanci Castle after a steamboat accident causes his parents to drown. He originally appears to have no magic and indeed holds this notion himself. As Charmed Life progresses it is revealed that Cat is actually an immensely powerful enchanter with nine lives. Unbeknownst to Cat, his sister Gwendolen constantly uses and abuses Cat's magic. He only has three lives remaining, having lost his first life when he only just survived being born, his second when Gwendolen had put his lives into a book of matches (to make them easier for her to use), the third when he drowned in the boating accident that killed his parents, the fourth when Gwendolen used it to turn his fiddle into a cat (which he kept as a pet and named Fiddle), the fifth when Gwendolen used it to take her into her new world where she reigned as queen, and the sixth when he burned a match from his 'life book' of matches in an attempt to prove that he didn't have nine lives and the matches weren't connected to him. This matchbox is his main weakness. He is a kind boy, but he follows others a bit more than he should. His sister, Gwendolen, technically rules him, though he doesn't mind. He loves playing the violin, despite being quite terrible at it and also suffers from chronic car-sickness. Cat is training to be the next Chrestomanci.

Gwendolen Chant
The main antagonist of the novel. Like Cat, she survived the boating accident which killed their parents (Francis and Caroline Chant); Cat believed that Gwendolen could not drown because she was a witch, and that he had only survived by clinging to her (he did not realise that he had in fact drowned). She appears to be a gifted witch (although one whom uses magic for selfish and dark purposes), although it is eventually revealed that she did not have powerful witchcraft of her own, but borrowed substantial amounts of magic from Cat[her brother]. Although she was very motherly to Cat in the past, she becomes nastier and bossier to him as the story progresses. Gwendolen is extremely ambitious and has master plans to be Queen or to rule the world. Gwendolen greatly dislikes the current Chrestomanci (Christopher Chant), because he refused to acknowledge her powers and also denied her further witchcraft education.
Janet Chant
Gwendolen's counterpart from another world. Before being pulled into World Twelve A, she had lived in a nice, ordinary home in a world similar to ours. While Gwendolen was bossy and bold, Janet was quite shy and jolly. No one was to know that Gwendolen had spirited away to another world, so Cat and Janet had to pretend Janet was Gwendolen. When they were trying to keep it a secret, it is later revealed that Chrestomanci had known about it all along. She later decides to stay in Cat's world and becomes Chrestomanci's ward.

Chrestomanci- Christopher Chant

Chrestomanci is very unpredictable and random. He is a nine-lifed enchanter like Cat, but only has two lives left after a series of accidents took place when he was younger. Chrestomanci has very strong magic and must appear whenever summoned; he works for the government, controlling magic and keeping hold on wayward witches and wizards.

Julia Chant

Julia is one of Chrestomanci's two children. She is quite fat and normally nice, but proves to have a vengeful streak when Gwendolen provokes her. Julia's magic seems to center on a handkerchief. However, her magic is lesser than Cat's, and she often finds her attempts at revenge disrupted by him.

Roger Chant

Roger is Julia's brother and the other child of Chrestomanci. He tends to be laid back and not as hot-tempered as his sister. Roger is more inclined to cooperate with Cat and to entertain him. He usually ignores Gwendolen, unless things get too out of hand.


The novel won the Guardian Award in 1978 and was commended for the 1977 Carnegie Medal. It also won the German Preis der Leseratten.

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