Diana Wynne Jones might be touching on an interesting idea – that if you spend your time doing a lot of ‘evil’ things, even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing – it spills over into the rest of your life and you develop a toxic attitude that ruins your happiness elsewhere. I suspect, however, it’s more a case of “if you are determined to be miserable, you will be”, independent of whether or not you’re involved in criminal activity in your spare time, which is an easier idea to fit into a children’s story.
The Lives of Christopher Chant is about a cat named Throgmorten, who is the much more interesting literary predecessor of Hermione’s cat Crookshanks, and has the personality of the goose Saracen* in feline form. He is kidnapped from his home and forced into another world by an entitled little boy whose uncle wants to dissect Throgmorten for his magical powers. He kills the boy and escapes, only to be captured by wizards and held prisoner in a castle by people who treat him like a monster and abuse him horribly. Only when the boy arrives in the castle does Throgmorten find a friend, despite the boy’s irritating habit of dying. The two of them contrive a plan to capture the evil uncle, and Throgmorten finally has his revenge.
Some people may dispute that this is the plot of the book. Some people might think it is about the wonderful human characters, including children who will grow up to be adults in Charmed Life alongside a rich and interesting adult cast, despite an unfortunate comment about the only character of color and ‘property,’ which I forgive because he is the greatest human character in the book.
Some people may think that Throgmorten is not the hero, and argue that this is why he’s not in the title of the book.
Those people, in my opinion, would be wrong.
* If you haven’t read Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge, you are missing out on a treat. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookseller!