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Chronicles of Chrestomanci The Magicians of Caprona (#01: Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 2)by Diana Wynne Jones
Synopses & Reviews
SPELLS ARE THE HARDEST THING in the world to get right. This was one of the first things the Montana children learned. Anyone can hang up a charm, but when it comes to making that charm, whether it is written or spoken or sung, everything has to be just right, or the most impossible things happen.
An example of this is young Angelica Petrocchi, who turned her father bright green by singing a wrong note. It was the talk of all Caprona-indeed of all Italy-for weeks.
The best spells still come from Caprona, in spite of the recent troubles, from the Casa Montana or the Casa Petrocchi. If you are using words that really work, to improve reception on your radio or to grow tomatoes, then the chances are that someone in your family has been on a holiday to Caprona and brought the spell back. The Old Bridge in Caprona is lined with little stone booths, where long colored envelopes, scrips and scrolls hang from strings like bunting. You can get spells there from every spellhouse in Italy. Each spell is labeled as to its use and stamped with the sign of the house which made it. If you want to find out who made your spell, look among your family papers. If you find a long cherry-colored scrip stamped with a black leopard, then it came from the Casa Petrocchi. If you find a leaf-green envelope bearing a winged horse, then the House of Montana made it. The spells of both houses are so good that ignorant people think that even the envelopes can work magic. This, of course, is nonsense. For, as Paolo and Tonino Montana were told over and over again, a spell is the right words delivered in the right way.
The great houses of Petrocchi and Montana go back to the first founding of theState of Caprona, seven hundred years or more ago. And they are bitter rivals. They are not even on speaking terms. If a Petrocchi and a Montana meet in one of Caprona's narrow golden-stone streets, they turn their eyes aside and edge past as if they were both walking past a pig-sty. Their children are sent to different schools and warned never, ever to exchange a word with a child from the other house.
Sometimes, however, parties of young men and women of the Montanas and the Petrocchis happen to meet when they are strolling on the wide street called the Corso in the evenings. When that happens, other citizens take shelter at once. If they fight with fists and stones, that is bad enough, but if they fight with spells, it can be appalling.
An example of this is when the dashing Rinaldo Montana caused the sky to rain cowpats on the Corso for three days. It created great distress among the tourists.
"A Petrocchi insulted me," Rinaldo explained, with his most flashing smile. "And I happened to have a new spell in my pocket."
The Petrocchis unkindly claimed that Rinaldo had misquoted his spell in the heat of the battle. Everyone knew that all Rinaldo's spells were lovecharms.
The grown-ups of both houses never explained to the children just what had made the Montanas and the Petrocchis hate one another so. That was a task traditionally left to the older brothers, sisters and cousins. Paolo and Toninc, were told the story repeatedly, by their sisters Rosa, Corinna and Lucia, by their cousins Luigi, Carlo, Domenico and Anna, and again by their second-cousins Piero, Luca, Giovanni, Paula, Teresa, Bella, Angelo and Francesco. They told it themselves to six smaller cousins as they grewup. The Montanas were a large family.
Two hundred years ago, the story went, old Ricardo Petrocchi took it into his head that the Duke of Caprona was ordering more spells from the Montanas than from the Petrocchis, and he wrote old Francesco Montana a very insulting letter about it. Old Francesco was so angry that he promptly invited all the Petrocchis to a feast. He had, he said, a new dish he wanted them to try. Then he rolled Ricardo Petrocchi's letter up into long spills and cast one of his strongest spells over it. And it turned into spaghetti. The Petrocchis ate it greedily and were all taken ill, particularly old Ricardo-for nothing disagrees with a person so much as having to eat his own words. He never forgave Francesco Montana, and the two families had been enemies ever since.
"And that," said Lucia, who told the story oftenest, being only a year older than Paolo, "was the origin of spaghetti."
It was Lucia who whispered to them all the terrible heathen customs the Petrocchis had: how they never went to Mass or confessed; how they never had baths or changed their clothes; how none of them ever got married but just-in an even lower whisper-had babies like kittens; how they were apt to drown their unwanted babies, again like kittens, and had even been known to eat unwanted uncles and aunts; and how they were so dirty that you could smell the Casa Petrocchi and hear the flies buzzing right down the Via Sant'Angelo.
There were many other things besides, some of them far worse than these, for Lucia had a vivid imagination. Paolo and Tonino believed every one, and they hated the Petrocchis heartily, though it was years before either of them set eyes on a Petrocchi. When theywere both quite small, they did sneak off one morning, down the Via Sant' Angelo almost as far as the New Bridge, to look at the Casa Petrocchi. But there was no smell and no flies buzzing to guide them, and their sister Rosa found them before they found it. Rosa, who was eight years older than Paolo and quite grown-up even then, laughed when they explained their difficulty, and good-naturedly took them to the Casa Petrocchi. It was in the Via Cantello, not the Via Sant' Angelo at all.
THERE IS A WORLD in which the peaceful city-state of Caprona is threatened by the malevolent machinations of a mysterious enchanter ... and another in which magic is outlawed and witches are still burned at the stake.
In two worlds where the practice of magic has gone dangerously awry, there is only one solution — call upon the Chrestomanci.
In this multiple parallel universes of the Twelve Related Worlds, only an enchanter with nine lives is powerful enough to control the rampant misuse of magic — and to hold the title Chrestomanci...
There is a world in which the peaceful city-state of Caprona is threatened by the malevolent machinations of a mysterious enchanter...and another in which magic is outlawed and witches are still burned at the stake.
In two worlds the practice of magic has gone dangerously awry, there is only one solution — call upon the Chrestomanci.
About the Author
Diana Wynne Jones was raised in the village of Thaxted, in Essex, England. She has been a compulsive storyteller for as long as she can remember enjoying most ardently those tales dealing with witches, hobgoblins, and the like. Ms. Jones lives in Bristol, England, with her husband, a professor of English at Bristol University. They have three sons and two granddaughters.
In Her Own Words...
"I decided to be a writer at the age of eight, but I did not receive any encouragement in this ambition until thirty years later. I think this ambition was fired-or perhaps exacerbated is a better word-by early marginal contacts with the Great, when we were evacuated to the English Lakes during the war. The house we were in had belonged to Ruskin's secretary and had also been the home of the children in the books of Arthur Ransome. One day, finding I had no paper to draw on, I stole from the attic a stack of exquisite flower-drawings, almost certainly by Ruskin himself, and proceeded to rub them out. I was punished for this. Soon after, we children offended Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat. He complained. So likewise did Beatrix Potter, who lived nearby. It struck me then that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant (even if, in Ruskin's case, it was posthumous), and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness.
"I started writing children's books when we moved to a village in Essex where there were almost no books. The main activities there were hand-weaving, hand-making pottery, and singing madrigals, for none of which I had either taste or talent. So, in intervals between trying to haunt the church and sitting on roofs hoping to learn to fly, I wrote enormous epic adventure stories which I read to my sisters instead of the real books we did not have. This writing was stopped, though, when it was decided I must be coached to go to University. A local philosopher was engaged to teach me Greek and philosophy in exchange for a dollhouse (my family never did things normally), and I eventually got a place at Oxford.
"At this stage, despite attending lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, I did not expect to be writing fantasy. But that was what I started to write when I was married and had children of my own. It was what they liked best. But small children do not allow you the use of your brain. They used to jump on my feet to stop me thinking. And I had not realized how much I needed to teach myself about writing. I took years to learn, and it was not until my youngest child began school that I was able to produce a book which a publisher did not send straight back.
"As soon as my books began to be published, they started coming true. Fantastic things that I thought I had made up keep happening to me. The most spectacular was Drowned Ammet. The first time I went on a boat after writing that book, an island grew up out of the sea and stranded us. This sort of thing, combined with the fact that I have a travel jinx, means that my life is never dull."
Diana Wynne Jones is the author of many highly praised books for young readers, as well as three plays for children and a novel for adults. She lives in Bristol, England, with her husband, a professor of English at Bristol University. They have three sons.
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