The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Vol. 1, by Diana Wynne Jones, contains the first two in her Chrestomanci series, Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant. These novels for young adults are about a world (or, rather, worlds) similar to ours but in which some people can perform magic and others can’t. Both of the books in this volume are about a boy who discovers his powerful ability to perform magic. Sound sort of familiar? Yes, there are similarities to Harry Potter, which is unfortunate because of course I can’t help comparing them (however, it is perhaps important to note that the Chrestomanci books were written long before Harry Potter).
I mildly enjoyed the two books in this volume, but I did not feel wholly engaged and captivated by them. I think that if I had read them as a child I would have really liked them, but reading them for the first time as an adult I felt that they fell slightly flat. In particular, while the world was interesting, there was no sense of a larger story arc or significant continuity between the two books (the second tells the story of how an adult in the first book came into his magical abilities). And here is where I unfortunately start comparing to Harry Potter: one of the great draws of the Harry Potter books is the way in which you follow the same characters from book to book as the grow, and the huge overarching storyline. Additionally, I just did not feel as if I were in the world of the Chrestomanci books the way I do with the Harry Potter ones.