I think I’ve already extolled the virtues of this series at length here before, so I’ll just say that this is one of my favorites of all time and I am completely biased in favor of these books. I am a lifelong Chrestomanci fan and re-read a couple of these about once a year. This year I took on The Magicians of Caprona and Witch Week, which I was less obsessed with as a kid so I don’t remember the plots quite as well, which adds to their re-readability as an adult. They’re the perfect comfort reads for me.
The Magicians of Caprona is clearly slightly inspired by Romeo and Juliet in that it’s set in Italy and stars two feuding families with children who are secretly in love. However, it doesn’t primarily follow the star-crossed lovers. Instead, it follows two younger children in the families who have to discover what is causing the magic in their families to weaken and to solve the plot against Caprona. It has great character growth as the two children have to overcome their hatred of each other that they’ve been taught since birth. It’s made clear that their hatred of each other is idiotic and based in stereotypes, so this book also serves as a good introduction to the mistakes of prejudice and learning to overcome ingrained hatred. Chrestomanci has a smaller role in this book, but it’s still a fun read. The scene where the kids are turned into puppets is legitimately scary.
Witch Week is an interesting one because it’s not set on Chrestomanci’s world but instead on an alternate world where magic has been banned and any witches are burned. The book takes place in a boarding school where most of the children are witch orphans and opens with a note being given to the teacher that “SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH.” The teacher tries to ignore it but then magical things do start happening and events spiral out of control. I especially enjoy Chrestomanci’s appearance here and his portrayal through the eyes of the children. I think this book is one of the most grim in the series, although it still has that lighthearted touch that keeps it from being fully dark. Charles, the main character, saw a witch being burned when he was younger and they are all living under a murderous authoritarian government, so there’s a real threat of mortal danger here. It has an Orwellian vibe that’s very well conveyed.
These are both wonderful reads, very satisfying and comforting, and I’m happily putting them back on my shelf to re-read in a year or two. I’d recommend them to anyone, just some warnings for the aforementioned witch burning, self-injury (Charles burns his hand on purpose to try to remind himself not to be a witch), bullying, war, scary puppet scene with children in mortal peril.