Diana Wynne Jones: The Pinhoe Egg

I take back what I said after Conrad’s Fate – I didn’t have Chrestomanci fatigue. At least, not that would get in the way of me thoroughly enjoying the final book in the series.

There are two viewpoint characters in The Pinhoe Egg – Cat Chant from Charmed Life, and new protagonist Marianne Pinhoe, who comes from a large family of witches who try to keep their craft secret  and hidden from the prying eyes and interfering noses of Government as represented by Chrestomanci. Wynne Jones constructs a really interesting story about rural witchcraft and being at one with nature, and it reminded me very much of Pratchett’s witches. Marianne is one of my favorite protagonists so far, because she’s bright and talented and is frustrated by the adults who don’t listen to her. Are we surprised this spoke to me?

The problem with this book, I feel, is that it is a Chrestomanci book, and therefore two things have to happen to fit it into the continuity: one, the big formal Government the witches are so scared of, turns out to Know What’s Best for everyone and is shown to be in the right when lecturing folks on how their folk ways are bad and wrong. Because Chrestomanci the hero is a government agent, the books as a whole follow the theme of Authority Figures do everything For the Greater Good, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The other problem with putting the Pinhoes into Chrestomanci ‘verse is that they have this special, interesting, folkish nature-based magic, which is interesting in a book but in the wider context of the series becomes just another type of magic she can stick in a book for the protagonist to be excitingly good at. Like when Conrad turned out at the end of Conrad’s Fate to have this convenient magic power that justified his Happy Ending, so The Pinhoe Egg introduces “Dwimmer” not just as something that the Pinhoes do, but that Cat has for no reason, a plot-convenient out of nowhere aptitude for.

I enjoyed the book very very much. I just think I’d probably enjoy it better without the Chants.

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