by Diana Wynne Jones
Greenwillow, 2005, ISBN 0-06-074743-9
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
This is a new Chrestomanci novel, this time set in a Series Seven world where Christopher Chant has, for various good and sufficient reasons of his own, gone in defiance of his guardian and teacher, Gabriel de Witt.
But this is really the story of Conrad Tesdinic, who has grown up in a bookstore with an inattentive mother who spends all her time writing; an uncle who generously allows his sister and her family to live with him after her husband sold his share of the bookstore to her brother, gambled away the money, and then killed himself; and a sister who is intent on her own very sensible agenda of completing her education and getting out of the house before her magician-uncle realizes what she's doing and takes steps to keep her there permanently.
Conrad, who has his own plans to continue his education and move out, is horrified when his uncle tells him he has bad karma from an important deed left undone in a previous life, and if he doesn't take the opportunity to complete the task immediately in this life, he'll soon die and be forced to start over in his next life. And in order to do this, he has to leave school now, take a job as a servant in Stallery Mansion (home of the local Count), find the person he didn't deal with in the last life, and kill him.
Conrad would almost rather die than leave school and take a job as a servant at the Stallerybut not quite, and he reluctantly boards the tram, armed only with a false nameConrad Grantand wine cork and a spell to summon a Walker and get "what he needs" when he's identified the villain and is ready to do the job. Almost the first person he meets, of course, is Christopher Chant, who's looking for his missing and possibly trapped friend Millie, and has also come to take a job at the Stallery in order to look for. From there things get delightfully strange, as Conrad and Christopher attempt to sort out who's who, and who's putting what over on who, and not get caught or killed in the process.