Wooh, welcome to the second installment of Chrestomanci month*!
So if you follow us on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram (we are so modern and down with it), you may have noticed that this post came with its own personal drama. Don’t worry though, the creative juices are flowing, and the book is still fresh in my mind!
Also if you’re not following us, please do!
Anyways, on to the review.
This is The Magicians of Caprona, a story completely unrelated to the first book (as they all are), and set in the Italian city-state of Caprona. In this alternate universe Italy never united as a state, and the city-states are often in a state of war. Caprona is protected by the spells created by two families: the Montanas and the Petrocchis. These families have a feud that has been ongoing for generations, and their mutual hatred is putting the city in danger and is this sounding like Romeo and Juliet yet? The city is losing its virtue, and the only way to restore it is to find the true words to The Angel of Caprona, an ancient song gifted to the city to protect it. When 1 child of each family gets abducted, and the city comes under attack by three other cities, and the families are threatened not to create any spells anymore, things look very bad indeed..and it is up to the kids to save the day.
One of the fun things of Diana Wynne Jones’ worlds is that each is very different from the other, and the way magic works is also different. In this world spells are written down and have to be sung. The better your voice, lyrics, and melody, the stronger the spell. That’s pretty cool! Also this is yet another Jones story that focuses on sibling relations, but these are positive. The protagonists, Tonino and Paolo Montana, love each other very much and read like actual children. Their relationship is natural, and wonderful. That said, there’s not a whole lot of creativity in this story. It’s pretty predictable, although there are some surprises which I will talk about in the spoiler section. Also, confession time, I am not a fan of Romeo and Juliet at all. So when the two feuding families were set up I got a bit fearful for the rest of the plot – but it’s not about lovers and the two that are in the side plot are a lot smarter than Romeo and Juliet were, and actually get stuff done. And final also, before I move on to the spoiler section, this Chrestomanci book has a distinct lack of Chrestomanci! He only makes a glamorous cameo, that you could really leave out and not lose anything of the plot. His visit to this world is more like a teaser for the rest of the books, which are more about his character. So that made me a little bid sad. But hey, it’s a fine read.
And here were are again, we’re entering spoiler territory! If you don’t want to read any spoilers I will meet you again at the picture – which without its context may be quite confusing to you. See you there!
So the decline of Caprona, the war, the abduction of the children? All a part of the Duchess’ evil plans. She turns out to be a power hungry evil enchantress, who manipulated and bewitched everybody and is out to destroy the two families and the town to…get richer and more powerful?
Also, if you’ve read this blog before you may have picked up on the fact that I am actually not British. So I am not familiar with things like Punch and Judy. What is that? A puppet theatre thing? Cute! OH WAIT, it isn’t! This stuff is really messed up! The reason I bring this up? The Duchess totally transforms the two abducted children into Punch and Judy and makes them act out the plays in front of an audience – and makes one of them club the other to seeming death. This woman is evil!
Now of course the kids escape, learn the true words to The Angel of Caprona, find out that they are more powerful than they thought, stop the war, end the feud, and save the day in very way imaginable. As I said, this book is a bit predictable. The story is quite small, which is nice every now and then, and the Duchess is cool villain, even if she doesn’t get a whole lot of …”screen time”. The stakes are not very high, up until the point that the children are abducted and locked up. The stakes get very stakey, and the tension does run high.
Spoilers – done!
Oh hi non spoiler people! Confused yet?
I’m sorry (no I’m not).
So final thoughts on this novel. As I mentioned above, this is not my favourite Chrestomanci novel. It suffered from a severe lack of my sweet, sweet Chrestomanci, and just was not as imaginative and crazy creative as the other novels are. Does that mean that this is a bad read? No, don’t worry. I am yet to discover a legitimately bad Diana Wynne Jones novel, and I expect it won’t happen! None of the Chrestomanci novels are directly linked to one another, which means that you can read it in any order you wish. I would suggest to have this be your first Chrestomanci read, as he only has a small cameo which may just be a nice teaser for what sexy mystery is yet to come (parents, please don’t worry – this is all very child friendly, I’m just a sucker for mysterious magical men). It’s also a gentle introduction into the magical madness of Diana Wynne Jones’ body of work, which is really imaginative and refreshing.
Dear reader, if you feel like I’m getting sad with Chrestomanci month (which will really take longer than a month, whoopsy!), worry ye not. It’s all uphill from here, and we’re still above sea level!
Okay, so at first I really didn’t know what tea I could combine with this book. It’s set in Italy, but I don’t know of any Mediteranian flavoured teas (pizza?), it’s not romantic, floral, or overly sweet… The Montana’s sure love cooking, but it’s not sweets or confectionaries. I also figured a smokey tea would be out of place, and I wanted something more than just your “basic” tea, something with a kick.
So that’s why I did something very dangerous for me: I went to our local Whittard. The lady there was very helpful (even though I guess she hadn’t had a book matching request before), and I left with my bag heavy, heart happy, and wallet full of silent tears. The tea we decided on is Coconut Truffle, a white tea infusion. Now don’t worry, it’s not a weird combination of coconut and those truffles we have expensive pigs dig up – this is a white chocolate truffle. The infusion is made up of a mixture of white tea leaves, blackberry leaves, cocoa and coconut – find more info here. The scent is kind of like a snowball (those coconut marshmallow things that I always disappoint), but the flavour is more like a white chocolate-coconut-green tea…mochi? Even though it does have coconut, it doesn’t have that piña colada tropical effect, probably because of the yummy hint of white chocolate. Tea&Tales Tip Time: don’t let this infuse for more than 5 minutes, or the coconut becomes too dominant and the tea a bit bitter.
Is it Italian? No, not at all. But people love chocolate everywhere, I guess in Italy they do too! It’s light and sweet, like the story, and the fruitiness of the coconut combined with the chocolate reminds me of childhood. And hey, this is a children’s book!
So when you read this book, and you feel a bit lost on the medieval streets of Caprona, just take a sip of your beautiful, fresh and sweet tea, and get transported back home to your child self – and simply have a wonderful time.