Diana Wynne Jones, Conrad’s Fate, 2005.
My mom asked me to review this one for her, because I was a big Jones fan when I was younger. Charmed Life and Witch Week and The Lives of Christopher Chant were books I loved, and still reread when I need a good grin. Like the other books, this one is aimed roughly at those in grade five and up.
Jones’ latest, Conrad’s Fate, is entirely in that vein: funny, clean fantasy about a young boy, pulled and manipulated by people he feels he should trust. Born into a seemingly impoverished family, Conrad is forced to leave school and take a job before he wants to. Sent to work as a footman at the mysterious Stallery Mansion by his uncle, Conrad tries to escape the bad karma he’s been struggling with for many years. With the help of his new friend Christopher, who is far from being who he seems, Conrad tries to untangle the mysteries of Stallery Mansion and the weird changes that threaten the fate of the whole world—and of the worlds connected to it.
The book isn’t as good as her earlier novels in the Chrestomanci series: it feels formulaic, and is perhaps too predictable at times, particularly for those people who know the recurring characters. The ending wraps things up far too quickly, and feels far from satisfying. Fans of Harry Potter will feel that this is inferior—-and will feel that unfairly, given that the earlier books are much more enjoyable and clever. This book, though, has an irrepressible sense of humour that, combined with the fact that all readers will empathize with Conrad, will let the reader get lost in the English Alps with Conrad and Christopher for an enjoyable space of time.