The Italian city state of Caprona is home to two great magical families, but torn apart by the intense animosity between the two households, so great that members of the two households cannot meet in the street without violence erupting.
Can the love between two children of these families unite them and bring peace to the city?
More importantly, can some completely different children do some awesome magic and save the city from the White Devil?
Diana Wynne Jones apparently agrees with me – the concept and setting of a certain Shakespearenan tragedy is much more interesting than teenagers acting like idiots, so she relegates that plot to the background and instead tells a story of magic and enchantments and good vs evil and also of Chrestomanci sticking his nose in unhelpfully. It’s more about the setting than about Chrestomanci, who is just a side character, but it works.
It’s also the setting for one of the most horrific scenes I’ve read in children’s literature in recent years.
Here are some things that horrify me:
– mind control / loss of autonomy
So you can imagine my horror when I ran into a scene involving the magicking of two children into puppets and forcing one to beat the other to death.
All told in that like ‘this is a children’s book!’ style that assures you there’s nothing weird or harmful about what you’re reading, except for, you know, the actual contents.
So yeah. There was that. But it worked, because at least it was genuinely terrifying in the middle of a tense story. But next time I read it, at least I’m warned!