Diana Wynne Jones Wiki
The Lives of Christopher Chant
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Artist
Publication information
UK Release Date 1988
US Release Date
Series Chrestomanci
Preceded by Charmed Life
Followed by The Magicians of Caprona

Christopher Chant comes from a family rich in magic, but he's never been able to work any. Then he starts dying -- multiple times.


The most interesting fact about this book is that it was published 11 years after its sequel, Charmed Life.  The two books are so cleverly intertwined that it leaves no sense that they were not written together -- story elements that are critical to one book are explained or given more substance in the other, and characters who appear in both are true to their personalities as presented in the other book.

This book tells the story of Christopher Chant before he becomes the new Chrestomanci.  His origins are very Victorian -- his father wears a frock coat, a tall silk hat, and luxuriant black whiskers, with his black hair parted carefully in the middle.   His mother wears wide silk skirts, full of frills and draperies, and her hair is very elaborately styled.  However, Christopher himself is left to the care of a long succession of first nurserymaids, each of whom leaves in a huff after a very short time in the household, and then governesses, who leave equally soon and usually in tears.

As an only child, Christopher therefore has no one to tell his troubles or triumphs to.  His parents are so absorbed in their prickly relationship that they have no time for him, and the nurserymaids have no patience.  As a result, when Christopher starts having very interesting dreams, in which he gets out of his bed, walks around a corner near the fireplace, and into an endlessly fascinating landscape full of exotic places which he calls Almost Anywheres, he has no one to tell about it.

At first, he doesn't even realise that these dreams are anything out of the ordinary. Not until the Last Governess finds the toys he has steadily been bringing back from the Anywheres, and decides that he must have stolen them. Then he meets his Uncle Ralph to explain about his dreams, and soon realises that they are not normal at all. The Almost Anywheres are in fact other worlds!

Uncle Ralph sets up a series of experiments for Christopher in the dreams - starting with meeting Tacroy there. He soon realises that most of the things he is doing there - even seeing the worlds clearly - are supposed to be impossible, and most people find it very hard even to visit the other worlds.

One night though, the experiment goes wrong. Christopher already knows he can bring back solid objects from the other worlds, and Uncle Ralph wants him to try and bring back a live animal - specifically, one of the cats from the Temple of Asheth. He manages to catch a cat called Throgmorten - with help from the girl whom the goddess Asheth is said to inhabit - but as he tries to escape from the Temple, a guard hits him in the chest with a silver spear.

He wakes up the next morning in bed, with no sign of where the spear hit him. Throgmorten is in a basket under his bed - complaining loudly. Christopher unhooks the curtain rail to protect himself from the cat, then carefully opens the basket. Throgmorten promptly goes to sleep. Christopher replaces the rail and goes back to sleep himself. When he wakes again, Throgmorten is exploring the room. As he makes his way on to the curtain rail, it falls and hits Christopher in the chest, exactly where the spear hit him.