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Chrestomanci #4

The Magicians of Caprona

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Tonino is the only person in the famous Montana household who wasn't born with an instinct for creating spells, but he has other gifts. His ability to communicate with cats just might help defend the city of Caprona against a mysterious enchanter -- but only if Tonino can learn to cooperate with a girl from the hated Petrocchi family of spell-makers.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1980

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About the author

Diana Wynne Jones

164 books10.1k followers
Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an educational conference centre. There, Jones and her two younger sisters Isobel (later Professor Isobel Armstrong, the literary critic) and Ursula (later an actress and a children's writer) spent a childhood left chiefly to their own devices. After attending the Friends School Saffron Walden, she studied English at St Anne's College in Oxford, where she attended lectures by both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien before graduating in 1956. In the same year she married John Burrow, a scholar of medieval literature, with whom she had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin. After a brief period in London, in 1957 the couple returned to Oxford, where they stayed until moving to Bristol in 1976.

According to her autobiography, Jones decided she was an atheist when she was a child.

Jones started writing during the mid-1960s "mostly to keep my sanity", when the youngest of her three children was about two years old and the family lived in a house owned by an Oxford college. Beside the children, she felt harried by the crises of adults in the household: a sick husband, a mother-in-law, a sister, and a friend with daughter. Her first book was a novel for adults published by Macmillan in 1970, entitled Changeover. It originated as the British Empire was divesting colonies; she recalled in 2004 that it had "seemed like every month, we would hear that yet another small island or tiny country had been granted independence."Changeover is set in a fictional African colony during transition, and begins as a memo about the problem of how to "mark changeover" ceremonially is misunderstood to be about the threat of a terrorist named Mark Changeover. It is a farce with a large cast of characters, featuring government, police, and army bureaucracies; sex, politics, and news. In 1965, when Rhodesia declared independence unilaterally (one of the last colonies and not tiny), "I felt as if the book were coming true as I wrote it."

Jones' books range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation (Changeover is both), to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless (though not unaffectionate) critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.

The Harry Potter books are frequently compared to the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Many of her earlier children's books were out of print in recent years, but have now been re-issued for the young audience whose interest in fantasy and reading was spurred by Harry Potter.

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She was friends with both McKinley and Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman are fans of each other's work; she dedicated her 1993 novel Hexwood to him after something he said in conversation inspired a key part of the plot. Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.

For Charmed Life, the first Chrestomanci novel, Jones won the 1978 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime award by The Guardian newspaper that is judged by a panel of children's writers. Three times she was a commended runner-up[a] for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book: for Dogsbody (1975), Charmed Life (1977), and the fourth Chrestomanci book The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988). She won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, children's section, in 1996 for The Crown of Dalemark.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 544 reviews
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 53 books50.7k followers
March 13, 2022
EDIT: Of all the reviews I've done this is the least liked! There are even books I have got more likes for rating than I got for reviewing this one :)

This is the second Chrestomanci book I've read to my daughter Celyn - there seems to be some confusion about the order of the books, but they appear to be self-contained and the order is perhaps unimportant.

It's a good book, not a great book. It's the first of the 5 DWJ's books I've read to Celyn not to get a 4 or 5*.

It retains many of the excellent things I've come to expect from Diana Wynne Jones - imagination, quality writing, a lively sense of humour.

It loses other of the excellent things I've come to expect from DWJ. The book gives us a huge Italian family (feuding with another huge Italian family) and there are just way too many characters to allow the story to settle. The dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters bustle into almost every scene and dilute the connect we're trying to forge with the main character/s. And that's another dilution factor - we bounce around heads more than in other books with less clear delineation. The hero is Tonio (not to be confused with father Antonio) but we also look out of his brother Paolo's eyes and this seems to serve little purpose much of the time.

So the weaknesses for me were focus and character.

The spells are fun, the spell-singing interesting, the role of the families in the city imaginative.

The later scenes are exciting and there's a baddie to rail against, a twist that slowly unravels. It's a good book.

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Profile Image for mark monday.
1,633 reviews5,002 followers
March 19, 2013
another splendid entry in the Chrestomanci cycle! this wonderful little series about multiple dimensions, magic, and the trans-dimensional authority on magic known as the "Chrestomanci" has been a real light in my life whenever i open up a new book. what a lovely and pleasing breath of fresh air.

The Magicians of Caprona takes place in an alternate dimension in which magic is openly practiced and where the various city-states of Italy never united. Caprona is a fairly powerful city that appears to be on the decline, for obscure and possibly sinister and magical reasons. perhaps the city's archnemesis "The White Devil" is to blame; perhaps the long, long rivalry between the two major magical houses of Casa Montana and Casa Petrocchi is only making matters worse. we see this absorbing little world through the eyes of two of the youngest of the Montanas, Tonino and Paolo. the two boys manage to be entirely charming without being even slighly cloying. there is not of whiff of preciousness to be found in the novel.

although Magicians of Caprona is a part of a series, it is completely standalone. its subject matter and scene change (from England to Italy) set it quite apart from prior entries i've read. Chrestomanci himself only appears in an extended and rather bland cameo - which makes sense because Chrestomanci himself has been portrayed as a nice and rather bland man who prefers not to be at the center of things.

so the novel features a Romeo and Juliet-ish love affair, formidable cats that are key members of their respective casas, griffins coming alive (sorta), a magical street battle between the houses, a shifty Duchess, a childlike Duke, lots of loud "Italian" style (i suppose) communication and combativeness and warmth, children being shrunk to the size of puppets, and war on the horizon. it is pretty jam-packed with incident but the novel feels pleasantly small and personal. child-sized. it has the necessary life lessons of a children's novel - in this case, the key lesson being do not judge or demonize others because they are probably just like you. Diana Wynne Jones cleverly literalizes this by presenting parallels to each of the major characters in Casa Montana and Casa Petrocchi. and then there was a lesson that came out of the blue for me, that really took me aback. early in the novel i was struck by the bloodthirstiness of the Punch & Judy show that Tonino witnessed - featuring Punch beating his child and then his wife Judy to death as a crowd roars with laughter at the zany puppet shenanigans. i wondered what the purpose was and why that dark bit had to be included. well - a bit of a spoiler here - i stopped wondering after a couple of the characters are transformed into Punch & Judy puppets and are forced to enact the same scene. i really appreciated the clear and almost undramatic way that the author set that up, made a very hard point, and then let it go and moved on. i did not expect such a tough lesson to be featured in such an amiable book. good job, author. and great book!
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
527 reviews117 followers
August 24, 2020
A smooth and enjoyable read. I read this while I was sick, and it was perfect.

The Italian setting of two prestigious magical families who absolutely hate each other makes for great fun. I wish Italy here had been a little more developed, since at times it feels a little weakly stereotypical (mostly, we find out that they really value their families and eat a lot of spaghetti). But overall, once again, Diana Wynne Jones shows how amazing she was at building these complicated little stories piece by piece and then having all the pieces come neatly together at the end.
Profile Image for Rachel.
44 reviews6 followers
April 7, 2008
This was the first book by DWJ that I ever read. I stumbled on it by accident in the library when I was a kid, and it was the kind of book I would stay up all night reading and then feel sad when I got to the last page. (I still read like that sometimes, but it's pretty rare to find books I can be that excited about).

Really, instead of going on and on about this writer, I will say that these are the books JK Rowling WISHES she could have written. well, I'm sure she's quite fine with things as they are, but I have to admit that I feel personally insulted by the fact that Harry Potter--a johnny-come-lately collection of hackneyed fantasy tropes and one-dimensional characters cobbled together with cheap plot twists and a transparent Christ appropriation--is the series that gets all the glory when Jones's books are wittier, more original, more plausible in their internal logic, and vastly more interesting. [I'm ducking to avoid the rotten eggs and vegetables being launched my way, but I refuse to yield on this point.]
Profile Image for J. Aleksandr Wootton.
Author 5 books130 followers
October 19, 2020
Loads of fun, but the weakest of the Chrestomanci series for me. Jones leaned a bit too heavily on tropes (e.g., feuding Italian families; stock characters) which made the plot predictable, though perhaps less so for younger readers. There was also a bit of worldbuilding which wasn't well-developed or integrated into the overall Chrestomanci setting, which raises questions about the underlying metaphysics that Jones never answers.

Despite these quibbles, Magicians of Caprona is well-told and well-paced, with plenty of Jones' knack for lifelike details and humanized characters. It could have been longer: I think four or five more chapters, strategically placed, would have brought this installment on par with the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,707 followers
March 30, 2020
I thoroughly enjoyed this – great fun, with a lovely magic system and strong characterisation.
Profile Image for beatricks.
195 reviews20 followers
October 8, 2021
This was cute but hard to connect with. Where some of DWJ's other books employ a tight POV, this one has such a broad lens -- beginning with the entire city of Caprona and the Montana family, and then switching off vaguely between Tonino and Paolo -- that I never felt terribly invested in anyone's fates, nor did I have any doubts about them and their fates, since the plot is so formulaic and involves a literal angel vs. a literal devil*.

As I read I first kept thinking of Zen Cho and how her Sorcerer to the Crown world must have been influenced by Chrestomanci; then for some reason -- I suppose the transformation into tininess -- I kept thinking of Roald Dahl and in particular The Witches. Then the evil witch* turned into a giant rat. LOL.

* Confession time, here's what I got: I think everything is sexist. I'm just bein' honest. I had a hard time with Gwendolen in Charmed Life, because she was a paragon of bratty ambition and abuse of power. "Self," I counseled myself, "female charactersare allowed to be brattily ambitious and abuse power too." It still felt like a gendered stereotype to me, but then Janet showed up and was Gwendolen's good doppleganger. Of course, she had no power, but I convinced myself it was okay. Except now -- in what apparently is the book written right after that one -- we have a fake evil enchantress duchess who hoodwinked a good man, views everyone as her puppets, and caused a war for no particular reason. And is really a rat devil. Ohhhkay. Ohhhhkay. DWJ, I know you're dead and wrote this 30 years ago, but be advised: im watching u.
Profile Image for nastya .
410 reviews231 followers
January 9, 2021
So much fun! I've read other adult reviewers had problems with a big cast of characters but I had no problem differentiating them at all. I'm curious if children are even confused :) Also Gerard Doyle's narration was so good.
Profile Image for Bibliothecat.
561 reviews54 followers
August 20, 2022

“Without the proper words, any spell is only at half force, even if it is of divine origin.”

The Dukedom of Caprona is kept safe under the protection of the Golden Angel and its strongest magical families; the Casa Montana and Casa Petrocchi. Unfortunately, the families have been feuding for generations and with that, the true spell of the Golden Angel lost. Now a war threatens on all sides of Caprona and while the families throw blame at each other, young Tonino Montana decides to take action with the help of the family cat Benvenuto.

The Magicians of Caprona was a pleasant and fun read through and through! I quite liked the Italian setting and once again, Diana Wynne Jones delivers a wonderful cat character in Benvenuto. The only problem I had with this Chrestomanci instalment was getting into it initially. Both the Montana and Petrocchi families are huge and you get so many names thrown your way that it's hard to keep up. That being said, as I read on, I noticed that you only really needed to know the key characters. Many of the family members were only mentioned once or twice and only seemed to exist to underline the sheer size of these families.

This book focused on quite a few characters equally but I still felt that Tonino was our main character. He was pretty likeable and relatable in that he was unhappy about being a slow spell learner but eventually finds delight in being one of the few who can understand cats - hence his friendship with the ever so loyal Benvenuto! He is also quite the bookworm and it was fun how his world's fantasy books were the opposite of ours; a world where magic does not exist - and he envied that world!

The point of view switches between Tonino and his older brother Paolo. That being said, the plot only seemed to shift to Paolo when Tonino's narrative was removed from the family and could thus not keep us informed of what was going on. That kind of let Paolo seem like a less important character but I liked him nonetheless. With the feuding families, there's a sprinkle of Romeo and Juliette which was quite a nice touch; we get to know some of the Petrocchi members through Tonino and Paolo and, of course, even some friendships, partnerships and love stars to develop among the younger members of the families.

Although I found The Magician's of Capronoa to be more predictable than previous ones (I'm reading in the author's suggested reading-order in which this is the fifth volume), it was still gripping and I found myself fevering with the characters. The villain felt more of a threat than previous ones and at times surprised me with their brutality. As war is also a subject, it seemed to put things at a higher stake and I was surprised by how far Diana Wynne Jones took it; war does indeed break out and a daunting atmosphere spreads through Caprona as men from all families are called to fight and the rest of the families hide in their barricaded homes.

The magic system also struck me as interesting and unique; spells are cast through singing and so, to be a good magician, you needed both magic and some form of musical talent. It gave quite the awe-inspiring picture when the family members gathered to performed tunes and song in unison to create their magic spells.

I could have wished for a little more of Chrestomanci himself who only has a few brief appearances. But the cast of The Magicians of Caprona is a solid one and kept me thoroughly engaged. Definitely another wonderful addition to the series!
Profile Image for James.
131 reviews9 followers
March 5, 2018
I felt a bit weird when reading this. Jones isn't Italian, is she? but when reading many of the scenes involving the families, the heavily-sprinkled Italian dialogue and the operatic dramatics, I found myself wondering again and again if it straddles the line between "Parody of large passionate Italian family" and "foreigner writing a racist, one-dimensional depiction of Italian culture".
She gets us dizzy with lists of names, describes all aunts as "fat" and "massive", switches point of view multiple times--in one instance putting us in the eyes of the brother of the main character, which wouldn't be much of an issue except that she has also listed about 15 other brothers, cousins, sisters, aunts, uncles, great-aunts, and grandparents-- and then repeats it with the 'enemy family', and forces us to sit through repetitive feuding dialogue.
"He started it!"
"No he did!"
"You're an idiot!"
"Well YOU'RE an idiot!"
"We never cast that spell!"
"Well we know WE didn't cast that spell!"
okay. Tedious.

The most gripping part of the book was the strangely underused communication between the main character and the family cat. Perhaps the book was too short to contain two gigantic feuding families, a civil war, war plans, a goofy Duke, a mysterious sorceress, a literal christian angel and a literal christian devil, depictions of christian church, two cats that communicate psychically with humans, cooking, babies, running away, reading books, Chrestomanci, keeping up appearances, the great Bridge issue, school, and a somewhat fussy complaint about the violence of Punch and Judy. But the book just felt too long. I give it a solid "eh".
Profile Image for Roslyn.
340 reviews17 followers
January 29, 2020
(2020 re-read)

Again, everything I've said in my other re-read reviews applies. Something that struck me this time round: this novel seems to contain one of the few examples of effective parenting and nurturing families in DWJ's books: two families, in this case. Which brings us to the disfunction that is very present: the two families behave appallingly with each other (and in doing so, create deep bigotry in their children, as well as threaten the wellbeing of their city). However, within those families themselves, there is love, laughter, community, and everything else good that most of the parents and families in DWJ's novels lack. It struck me as interesting that these are not British families, but Italian: perhaps it was harder for DWJ to imagine a nurturing British family? In any case, it did strike me strongly this time that these two families, while far from perfect, are able to provide the kind of positive environment (apart from the horrific bigotry between the two families, of course) that is shockingly and deliberately absent in most of her books.
Profile Image for Sanaa.
411 reviews2,562 followers
August 18, 2015
[4 Stars] When I started this book I didn't really think I would like it. It was slow and it took me some time to get sucked into the writing, but as I read on I just got more and more excited. This story grows on you, the characters do, the worlds do, and now that I'm finished I want to go back to them!

My favorite parts of this book have to be the ridiculous magical bits like the cardboard horses and the cardboard coach, and of course the silly rivalry between the Petrocchis and the Montanas. Thia book was definitely inspired by Romeo and Juliet, but I really enjoyed Jones's spin on it.

If I had any issues they would be that the writing is a bit slow and impersonal if that makes any sense. It takes time to get into the story. These characters are also quite similar to those in other Chrestomanci books so that is something to note. They also don't have too much development throughout, but honestly that didn't bug me much.

Overall I really loved this and I think it is perfect for people who like slower, dryer, sillier, middle grade fantasy books with a lot of whimsy!
Profile Image for Tijana.
732 reviews190 followers
April 14, 2017
Istina je da moja ljubav prema Dajani Vin Džouns ne zna za granice. Takođe je istina da to nije zasnovano na ovoj knjizi :) Nemojte me pogrešno shvatiti, u pitanju je zaista ljubak roman sa divnim metatekstualnim poigravanjem sa Šekspirom i smislenim konceptom magije i razumno visokim ulozima (možda čak previsokim za dečji roman) i lukavo provučenim ozbiljnim temama, ali nije genijalno uvrnuto remekdelo kao neke njene druge knjige. Ok, to je stvarno nefer kritika, znam.
Profile Image for Deborah O'Carroll.
462 reviews94 followers
December 21, 2017
Read February 2015

Re-read January 2017



Profile Image for Joel.
553 reviews1,600 followers
August 26, 2020
This might be the least confusing Diana Wynne Jones novel I’ve read! I must’ve understood like 90 percent of it.
Profile Image for James Kibirige.
80 reviews18 followers
June 30, 2021
Fun magical caper set in an alternate Italian town with two feuding families. Another cozy comfort read from Diana Wynne Jones, a diverse caste of characters and a great sense of humour ground this story. My second Chrestomanci novel; I definitely got everything that I needed from this one, now on to the next!
Profile Image for Shawn Thrasher.
1,795 reviews40 followers
January 23, 2018
I listened to Gerard Doyle's narration; I think Gerard Doyle could read license plate numbers and I'd be happy. He's marvelous.

Diana Wynne Jones is marvelous too. I've only met a few of her books that I haven't been head over heels in love with - and this is NOT one of those. Magicians of Caprona is classic Jones: intricate, quirky, complicated (in a really great way), packed with complex characters - most of whom never act like they are "supposed to." I kept wondering - as I often do when reading her books - where these magical, marvelous ideas of hers come from. At some point, I suppose she either saw or read Romeo and Juliet, and particularly that famous beginning glowed bright in her mind: "two houses, both alike in dignity... from ancient grudge break to new mutiny" and thought "There is a Chrestomanci story in the world next door to this." And so her pen (or typewriter or word processor) starts churning the cream of her imagination into this rich, satisfying short novel. For children. Not a novel for stuffy old grown ups like me - Jones worshipper that I am - but for nine and ten and eleven year olds. That is what is particularly amazing about Jones: she always understood what children - especially children who love to read - wanted to read about, and never underestimated them. No dumbing down here: which is what makes her such a delight to read as a grown up.
Profile Image for mirnatius.
720 reviews36 followers
September 20, 2020
“savage” slur, ableism and ableist slurs.

I really like the cleverness of this series, but damn, are the plots so hard to follow. This is no exception, there’s so many characters and a complicated family rivalry that make it impossible to enjoy this book as a fun story. It might be DWJ’s writing style for this particular series though, her Howl book was more of a breeze to listen to.
Profile Image for Chris.
731 reviews99 followers
December 23, 2011
First things first: I wondered why Diana Wynne Jones had chosen the name Caprona to use in the title of this children’s book. Was it from the Latin caprona ‘forelock’? Or from a type of butterfly? Or perhaps in homage to an island featuring in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land that Time Forgot? None of these notions really convinced.

It seems most likely that she borrowed the name from a village in the Arno valley in Tuscany, upriver from Pisa and to the west of Florence. While relatively insignificant now, in the Middle Ages Caprona was of enough importance to feature in Dante’s Inferno when its castle was squabbled over by the opposing armies of Pisa and Florence. In this book the town is besieged by the 20th-century armies of Pisa, Florence and Sienna, city-states all bordering the unfortunate Dukedom of Caprona which, in this alternate world fantasy, retains a mix of medieval and early 20th-century customs and technology, not to mention magic. So we perhaps have to imagine an anachronistically prosperous Caprona in the valley of the Voltava (a witty conflation of words derived from the Italian voltare ‘to turn’ and the Czech river Vltava, ‘wild water’) based on the grander ground plans of Florence and other Tuscan cities.

I’d forgotten how well Jones can sometimes draw you into a story before you're aware of it, even on a second reading. Borrowing from the familiar trope in Romeo and Juliet, with its two noble but feuding families alike in dignity, The Magicians of Caprona is narrated from the viewpoints of young Tonino and Paolo in the Montana family, which suspects arch-rivals the Petrocchi family of plotting the downfall of their state. Needless to say, the Petrocchi clan believe the same of the Montanas. The whole is complicated by the secret romance between two members of the opposing families.

Interweaving this trope are other strands: the White Devil, Punch and Judy, and the Angel of Camprona. The first obviously draws its inspiration from Webster’s revenge tragedy The White Devil, itself based on a Jacobean proverb which declared that "the white devil is worse than the black," the White Devil of Jones’ story dissembling in just such a way. The second thread concerns the Punch and Judy puppet theatre. Originally the show was based on Italian Commedia dell’Arte marionettes, but in England evolved into the glove puppet version; in Jones’ alternate world fiction the glove puppets have become familiar in Italy, and the Duke of Caprona’s childish obsession with this miniature world is employed to great effect, both in the plot and in its metaphorical guises.

Another thing I loved about the book's plot was the concept of the song ‘The Angel of Caprona’ which, true to the root of the word ‘enchant’, had the power to effect magic. The Latin text was concocted by Diana’s husband John (to whom the book is dedicated), helped by another academic the late Basil Cottle (one of whose lectures I remember attending when I lived in Bristol, Diana's home). The words conveniently fit to the Medieval Latin hymn Tantum Ergo Sacramentum (which I used to sing when I was an angelic Catholic schoolboy; alas now I am neither angelic, Catholic, nor a schoolboy). Even the English 'translation' earlier in the book fits to the tune. (It would be interesting to know if the words of I maghi di Caprona, the 2002 Italian translation, also scanned the words to fit.)

Like the appearance of the figure of Chrestomanci, the Angel of Caprona itself functions as an expected deus ex machine (though its existence sits uncomfortably with Jones’ professed atheism) in the climax of the story. On one visit to Tuscany I remember being impressed by the giant angel at the top of Lucca’s cathedral facade, and that may have been an inspiration for Caprona's angel. Or it could have been the gilded angel on the spire of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. Or, closer to home, the massive bronze angel on the facade of Coventry Cathedral in the West Midlands.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression, however, that, wonderfully rich though the book is in its diverse cultural references, that these were essential for its appreciation as a work of fiction. Especially for its young target audience The Magicians of Caprona has to work on its own merits, drawing the reader in with its sympathetic characters, its narrative power and its language. On the basis of these alone I’m confident that it does succeed for young readers of all ages.

My edition has a cover illustration which is inaccurate and misleading. It presumably shows the duel between the heads of the two magical households, Casa Montana and Casa Petrocchi but in such a way that displays the influence of the Harry Potter books: the duellists wear hoods and use wands, familiar from Rowling's wizarding world but entirely inappropriate for the Chrestomanci tales where wands are significantly absent. Earlier and later British editions don't make the same mistake, revealing that the cover artists had actually read the book carefully.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 54 books738 followers
March 12, 2013
So The Magicians of Caprona is not my favorite Diana Wynne Jones book, but I'm not sure why. Her eleventh book has all the trademarks we've come to expect, at this point in her career: an unusual magic system, important family dynamics (with two families this time, both larger than any of the previous ones), an alternate version of Earth, and kids who end up saving the day, but not in a twee way. Add to this some intelligent cats (Benvenuto!) and you have all the ingredients of another classic by DWJ.

My problems with this book, I think, are all personal, and they start with the plain fact that The Lives of Christopher Chant aside, I'm not fond of the Chrestomanci books. I also feel that this story is a little on the light side, not because of its tone (which is light and breezy, very nice) but because of the content. DWJ dresses it up beautifully, but this is a very basic story that boils down to two feuding families that have to work together to save their city. The thing is, the dressing-up is indeed beautiful, and there's nothing wrong with the story; I just want something different. And that's unfair to the book, to criticize it for not being something other than it is, so I have to repeat that all of this is really my personal desire and not anything wrong with the book. And--Benvenuto! I'm glad he's fictional, because I can love him without having to have a cat like him, which I think would be very difficult.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books264 followers
January 10, 2021
The good thing about not rereading for several years is that I'd forgotten the surprises so was able to enjoy it as if for the first time. Original review below.


I have been enjoying this book tremendously since the first page. Tonino is born into a famous spell-making family in the Italian kingdom of Caprona (although there is no unified Italy in this story). Although he can't do spells well he does have his own special talent which his large, loving family appreciates very much. They have many other things to bother them though, such as their ancient rivals (the Petrocchi family), the war that threatens their kingdom, and a hostile enchanter who is said to hate both families. And more.

This is an engaging adventure which I absolutely couldn't predict the path of ... other than the identity of Rosa's fiance and the identity of the evil enchanter. In typical Diana Wynne Jones style, this book is both enchanting and completely imaginative. I hesitate to say more other than any review can do no more than touch the tip of this rich iceberg.

Don't let the age limit put on it by library groups make you hesitate. Any age who enjoys a good story will enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Roswitha.
44 reviews6 followers
October 27, 2022
I loved this book. Even though I could predict a number of the plot points, I enjoyed the family setting of the Castle Montana. I loved how even though Tonino struggled with the family practice of magic, he wasn't an outcast. I loved how his family all doted on each other, and were united and loyal. It was a refreshing change to have a young hero who wasn't desperate to get away from his family, who wasn't treated like a necessary evil, who was loved and cherished and treated like a normal kid.

The Montague-and-Capulets style feud between the two warring families was laughable in it's absurdity, but treated with the author's usual whimsical charm, it just added flavor to the setting and was useful to the plot without being too convenient.
Profile Image for Lizzy.
107 reviews5 followers
February 28, 2021
Phenomenally inventive and magical, as usual. Sad to see this one got some lower reviews from you guys! I always loved this one. It has one of my favorite scenes ("I'm Paolo Andretti," he said wickedly).

I have the first four Chrestomanci books in volumes. Charmed Life and Lives of Christopher Chant are Volume 1 and Magicians of Caprona and Witch Week are volume 2. I always approach volume 2 with a little disappointment that I won't be seeing Cat & co, but I always end up enjoying it just as much (I do appreciate it when Tonino shows up in one of the short stories to hang out with Cat though).
Profile Image for Beth.
1,138 reviews110 followers
July 24, 2016
My least favorite Chrestomanci book. The best part is easily the what-if-Romeo-and-Juliet-weren't-idiots subplot, where they deceive their families easily. And the part where each family is really proud of even the less-talented younger child.
Profile Image for Anthony Buck.
Author 3 books8 followers
July 6, 2020
I've never quite fallen in love with Diane Wynne jones' books. There's lots to admire here... Some good ideas, a rich setting, some nice characters. But I found the whole thing a bit.. unsatisfying somehow.
Profile Image for Sashko  Liutyj.
330 reviews26 followers
March 16, 2021
Спочатку було зовсім плохо, під кінець стало трохи краще.
Але.. дві італійські родини, що ворогують, а їхні діти починають дружити, і навіть зустрічатися?
Дуже оригінально.
Profile Image for yelenska.
547 reviews104 followers
July 5, 2022
What an imaginative book, i loved every moment spent reading this book :) Also really glad I happened to start reading this while on a plane to Italy.
Profile Image for Dominika.
79 reviews10 followers
July 26, 2022
It's like Encanto meets Romeo and Juliet except with DWJ razzle-dazzle like the inclusion a magical food fight. Lots of fun!

My only disappointment with these books is that I didn't discover them as a kid. They would have knocked my socks right off.
Profile Image for Gus.
558 reviews51 followers
November 8, 2017
--- The Magicians of Caprona ~ Penyihir-Penyihir Caprona ---
Plot: Mudah tertebak sekaligus tidak mudah tertebak.
Penokohan: Hubungan antar-tokohnya paling bagus ^^.
Gaya bercerita: Ok.

Novel fantasi ini akan membawa pembacanya terjun ke dunia dimana sihir adalah sesuatu yang umum.
Seumum pertikaian mendarah daging antara Casa Montana dan Casa Petrocchi di Caprona. Belum berhenti sampai disana, api pertikaian mereka seakan disulut dengan minyak saat seorang anggota keluarga mereka diculik!

Mereka saling tuduh, melupakan perang yang akan berlangsung sebentar lagi.

Buku ketiga dari lima seri Chrestomanci yang telah diterbitkan di Indonesia.
Ini kebetulan buku pertama dari dunia Chrestomanci yang saya baca^^. Kabar baiknya, ceritanya tidak begitu berhubungan dengan seri manapun. Kau tidak perlu membaca Charmed Life atau Christopher Chant itu sebelum membaca itu. Ah tunggu. Ini bisa disebut... standalone kan? ^^
Sisanya? Bagus kok.

Banyak hal yang terjadi di novel ini. Plotnya mengalir begitu saja, kadang terasa lambat dan kadang terasa biasa-biasa. Tapi penceritaannya mudah dimengerti, sebagaimana hubungan antar tokoh yang dibangun dari awal, melekat erat dengan kokoh. Saya memiliki beberapa dugaan awal mengenai jalannya plot, dan diantara itu ternyata saya cuma bisa menebak tepat mengenai antagonisnya XD (yang sebenarnya bisa makin misterius kalau kovernya tidak begitu sih haha).

Sejujurnya, poin utama kesukaan saya di buku ini terletak di hubungan antar tokohnya. Contohnya hubungan antara Tonino dan kucingnya, pandangan sabar, sayang, dan menjaga kakaknya terhadap Tonino, dan hubungan mereka berdua dengan karakter lain. Deskripsi dan percakapan mengenai hal itu adalah poin utama yang paling menggirangkan.

Ngomong-ngomong soal dua Casa ini... mereka itu sebuah keluarga besar dimana seluruh anggota keluarganya tinggal di rumah yang sama. Bahkan bisa dibilang, kedua keluarga meski bertentangan lahir-batin, mereka sebenarnya sangat mirip dalam banyak artian. Ini mengingatkan saya dengan keadaan keluarga sebuah komik yang... susunan manusianya seakan tercetak kembar.

Penjelasan adegannya yang berhubungan dengan sihir perlu saya baca sampai dua kali karena bingung. Tapi ada juga yang langsung saya mengerti sih... kurasa ini karena saya agak jarang membaca kisah novel fantasi. Paling tidak, berbeda dengan Harry Potter yang ketebalannya membuat saya mundur, kurasa saya memang lebih suka cerita fantasi yang bisa dibaca secara lepas seperti ini^^.
1,533 reviews6 followers
January 19, 2015
The Magicians of Caprona is basically Romeo & Juliet, except better because it doesn’t end in death. I liked the fact that it was three pairs that ended up uniting together against the Big Bad, rather than just the obvious one. I also enjoyed the fact that it was children who overcame the barriers first, rather than the adults, since children usually do in situations like the one in the book (adults are more bitter and are liable to hold onto past grudges for a longer amount of time).

I felt kind of sorry for the Duke, but he was also pathetic, and he knew it. He knew what was happening the entire time, essentially, and yet did nothing to stop it. I suppose he couldn’t, but still. At least he helped out at the end.

I wonder if Benvenuto is in any way, shape or form related to Throgmorten? They have very similar personalities. Perhaps Jones is trying to hint that there’s a Temple cat connection. Or maybe not.

I liked how the magic came through singing. Jones’ magic is always very hands-on; spells have to be made. This way, it’s easier to see who the powerful ones are—-they don’t have to make spells or write them down on slips of paper to be able to use them. Although, maybe they’re written down so non-magic people can use them? In any case, the aspect of magic explored here was very neat.

The Punch & Judy scene is magnificent. I don’t know why. It just is.

But the ending was a little anticlimactic in regards to the “evil enchanter.” It came very abruptly and ended just as abruptly. I expected a bigger scene, I guess, although the Angel was the important part, I suppose.

I wish there had been a bit more elucidation on Tonino’s skill. Jones doesn’t mince words, and she explains things very briefly. But, perhaps there wasn’t more detail because Chrestomanci didn’t quite know what Tonino could do, himself.

Overall,The Magicians of Caprona uses a different aspect of magic that we haven’t seen yet from the world of Chrestomanci. The Punch & Judy scene is creepy and terrifying (and wonderful), but is also a big moment for Tonino. I liked this quite a bit better than Witch Week, character-wise, but the ending left a little to desire.
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