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There are good witches and bad witches, but the law says that all witches must be burned at the stake. So when an anonymous note warns, "Someone in this class is a witch," the students in 6B are nervous -- especially the boy who's just discovered that he can cast spells and the girl who was named after the most famous witch of all.

Witch Week features the debonair enchanter Chrestomanci, who also appears in Charmed Life, The Magicians of Caprona, and The Lives of Christopher Chant.

Someone in the class is a witch. At least so the anonymous note says. Everyone is only too eager to prove it is someone else -- because in this society, witches are burned at the stake.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1982

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About the author

Diana Wynne Jones

126 books10.5k 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 694 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
783 reviews12.5k followers
August 16, 2023
This book does not want to make its life easy. For a kids’ book, it’s decidedly unpleasant. For a kids’ fantasy book, it’s very much grounded in an unpleasant reality, and that’s not easy to make peace with.
“It never ceases to amaze me,” he said, “the way people always manage to worry about the wrong things. My dear sir, do you realize that you, your son, and four of your pupils are all likely to be burned unless we do something? And here you are worrying about schedules.”
We tend to like characters with whom we can identify or at least whom we can easily root for. That’s why we tend to be drawn to plucky underdogs, lovable rogues, mysterious loners with top-notch skills, charming villains — or at the very least, good persons. But Jones here pulls the rug from under you by making her characters - kid characters at that! — not as much the now-loved “shades of grey” but very “normal”: petty, timid, vindictive, selfish, full of grudges and resentments, and overall strikingly ordinary. You don’t as much want to root for them as put them in time-out, pronto, or at least send to their rooms without dinner and phone privileges. And the adults are even more awful — as they are really just grown-up versions of unpleasant children they once were.

By letting go of their likability, Jones takes away the easy connection readers tend to make with kid lit. But then she still manages to make us care about what happens to these selfish unpleasant little brats. Because if they are forced to navigate the awful world of middle school as misfits, they deserve some compassion. Middle school is harsh and brutal.
“What makes you a real girl or boy is that no one laughs at you. If you are imitation or unreal, the rules give you a right to exist provided you do what the real ones or brutes say. What makes you into me or Charles Morgan is that the rules allow all the girls to be better than me and all the boys better than Charles Morgan.”

The story takes us to what seems to be a typical 1980s British boarding school, with one exception — being accused of witchcraft may get you burned alive, since not only is witchcraft very common here, but it’s also outlawed. And it doesn’t make matters simpler when a few of the misfits in this boarding school may be manifesting some witching powers. When added to the nightmare that middle school already is with its cliques and bullies and groupthink, it certainly can make life very complicated.

It’s quite tense and a bit unsettling, and makes it clear that Jones does not view the world through rose-tinted glasses even in her kid lit. Until the end, when the arrival of a delightfully quirky adult infuses this unpleasant reality with charm I no longer expected and changes the mood from unpleasant to pointedly endearing, and for that I’m thankful as it was the equivalent of a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day.

So overall I’m both impressed and annoyed by Jones daring to make this book harsh and unpleasant on purpose. I think I connected to the idea more intellectually than emotionally, which is a bit of a problem. I respect it and know I want to love it, but instead I just merely like it.

But I’d certainly be interested in seeing more of these Chrestomanci worlds.

3.5 stars.

Buddy read with Nastya who loved it much more than I did , and she has a better literary taste than me, so I’d go with her opinion instead.

Also posted on my blog.

Recommended by: Nastya
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
557 reviews141 followers
August 26, 2020
This book starts slow and then just builds and builds with magic and antics, getting better with every page.

It's set in a horrid little British boarding school, in the best of ways, that's full of rough kids just trying to get through the day. And also one of them might be a witch.

Absolutely my new favorite of the Chrestomanci series.
Profile Image for nastya .
449 reviews288 followers
March 21, 2022
This story takes place in an English boarding school, and one day somebody writes a note to the teacher that says that one student is a witch! But you see, this is a nasty cruel world, where all witches are persecuted and burned alive. And suddenly quite a lot of kids discover they are witches. Crazy shenanigans ensue, and in the end we have Chrestomanci himself coming to the rescue.

I enjoyed this book so much, and once again, applaud Diana Wynne Jones' creativity. I've noticed that even though her books are about children, they often feature realistic cruelties like bullies, outsiders, that are not always perfect victims, but can behave nasty, as real kids sometime do. There're plenty of messy adults in the positions of authority. But then, there's also kindness and friendships. But DWJ is not a cuddly type of writer. Life is messy, adults are messy, you, kids, are resilient and will survive.

What can I say, this might be my favorite Chrestomanci book still.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,253 followers
September 10, 2016
Jones continues her delightfully nonchalant Chrestomanci series with Witch Week, set in a boarding school in a dimension very much like our own - except one with magic galore. magic that can get you burned alive. hide, little witches, hide! no one wants to see a child on a pyre.

for a children's book, this is surprisingly grim and tense. the tone is still light, dry, and rather deadpan, but the potential outcome for many of the young characters - and the flashbacks to a particular witch dying by fire - made the novel interestingly intense and unpleasant. and unfortunately, therein lies my issue: this is an unpleasant book. simple as that. and not only is the central situation depressingly unpleasant, nearly all of the characters are repulsively selfish and unpleasant as well. with the potential of inquisitors visiting the school, the kids - and adults - scramble and blame and plot like vicious little human rodents. quite unpleasant.

but 3 stars means I Liked It and overall I did like this book. its bleak subject matter and dour perspective on life combined with the author's nonchalance and that lightness of tone made for a unique experience. Jones is an unsentimental writer (quite obviously, given this scenario) and she is a highly intelligent writer as well. she does not let fantasy get in the way of her understanding of reality. most kids are not heroic, and the same goes for most adults - and that is certainly the case presented here. people turn on each other and people sell each other out and people are petty and vindictive and unkind. and in a malevolent, small-minded world... kids are mainly malevolent and small-minded. but all of that in a children's book? oh boy. not one that I'd give my nephews and nieces.

I was quite relieved when trans-dimensional supercop and enchanter Chrestomanci finally appears on the scene to save the day. the tension may have disappeared but suddenly the whole experience became a lot more pleasant and endearing. the fun came back along with Chrestomanci.
Profile Image for Jade Ratley.
197 reviews3,000 followers
June 9, 2023
3.86 on CAWPILE.

I am GUTTED that I didn't enjoy this one as much as the prior Chrestomanci books. But just found too much of it to be too boring, despite the chaotic magic going on.
Profile Image for Natalie.
437 reviews
March 2, 2018
This is the best of the Chrestomanci books. Anyone who says different can FIGHT ME.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 60 books764 followers
July 23, 2013
Witch Week, while not my favorite Chrestomanci novel (I think I've said before that I don't like them as much as other books by Diana Wynne Jones), still charms me in its depiction of a boarding school in alternate-universe England, an England in which witchcraft is illegal and punished by being burned at the stake.

DWJ's fourteenth published novel begins with a typical classroom and a note to the teacher that reads "Someone in this class is a witch." Somewhat atypically, DWJ introduces many characters in this first chapter, and while some are clearly going to be our villains, it's not obvious at first who the hero will be. As time passes, the answer is--all of them. DWJ passes the narrative between these POV characters so smoothly that it's easy to lose track--and I mean this in a good way--of whose head we're in at the time. It turns out that some of the members of class 6B are, in fact, witches, and in the end it takes Chrestomanci to sort out the biggest problem, which is that this reality shouldn't even exist.

My favorite parts of this book are the set pieces, the brilliant little scenes such as all the shoes disappearing and reappearing in a great heap, or Nan's adventures on an overeager broomstick, or (this one really is my favorite) the Simon Says spell which causes everything Simon says to come true. Everything. Even the part where he calls himself stupid. It's magnificent.

As always, DWJ's characterization is perfect, and I noticed in this reading that her description of places tends to be minimal where her description of people is detailed. There's never any difficulty picturing what her characters are doing, or how they look. I think this is where Witch Week, for me, edges out the two earlier Chrestomanci books (Charmed Life and The Magicians of Caprona) because there are more characters who are fleshed out, even the ancillary ones, than in the other two books. It's an enjoyable read, though I look forward to the next books in my reading project, all of which are in my top five DWJ books of all time.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,434 followers
February 16, 2019
3.5 stars. I think younger me was better able to understand what was going on in the kids' minds, and as an adult I couldn't help but be horrified by the bullying and threat of burning witches. There are some great hilarious moments though.
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews561 followers
July 6, 2015
This is the book that made me suspect that English boarding schools are secretly terrible and horrible! Even if they don’t (always) have people doing malicious magic in them. But then Year of the Griffin always dissuades me of this opinion.
Profile Image for Micha.
576 reviews7 followers
November 29, 2015
This was my first DWJ book. I read it because I really liked Harry Potter and was searching for something in a similar vein. I had to be younger than ten at the time. My sister Erin pointed it out to me in the library because the cover of this book had kids riding brooms (or mops, etc.) and I immediately became invested in it. This one is compared to the Potter series the most, because hey, witches in boarding school? But there are a few notable differences.

1) All the kids hate each other. There is no Golden Trio bullshit. They're all unhappy and annoyed by everyone else, and it is hilarious.

2) This predates Harry by at least a decade.

3) Larwood House (likely a spin-off of Jane Eyre's Lowood) is an unhappy place to be. No Great Hall, no cheerful Headmaster.

4) Witchcraft is a bad thing here. However, almost all of the students are witches. Isn't THAT a dilemma.

On top of that the plot is just so much more complex, particularly around the end, which is sort of Diana's trademark. Endings you aren't expecting that have more than one level to them, and, I've noticed, she tends to culminate things with very large groups present all talking at once, with this book as no exception.

Oh yes, and Christopher Chant/Chrestomanci? Is still the best ever.
919 reviews255 followers
April 23, 2020
Somehow, of all the Chrestomanci books, this is the one I "never read" (meaning I didn't own a copy, and therefore only read maybe three times instead of 20, when I was much younger, so the story never stuck). Finding this excellent, albeit abridged audiobook edition was very fun indeed.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 2 books2,953 followers
May 11, 2020
This was great fun - an enjoyable and thoroughly charming read.
1,579 reviews6 followers
January 5, 2015
Witch Week is perhaps my least favorite book in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci. That being said, I love Chrestomanci’s appearance in this book. His reprimands to the students who sought him out, and in fact, his entire dealings with them were spot-on and satisfying, if only because here, at last, is someone who can handle them. I love this passage: “[Chrestomanci] seemed astounded, and not vague at all. The room seemed to go very quiet and sinister and unloving” (Jones 480). When Chrestomanci is not vague, that is the time to pay attention to what he is saying or doing.

I also like how the problem was resolved. It was essentially turning a bad, destructive thing into a good thing. What previously could have torn apart the world fixed it, instead. And everything leading up to it was great, as well, especially Charles’s turn-around. And the last few sentences of the book were a great parallel to the beginning. I also found it hilarious that . Essentially, I liked everything in the book after Chrestomanci showed up. I also liked seeing the school life, and Nan was probably my favorite, if I had to pick, although Nirupam is up there, too.

“The note said: SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH” is the best way to start a book ever.

But...ugh, the students. Especially Charles and Brian. Charles is okay, at first, but towards the end he’s just mean, and arrogant, and really, really stubborn. He’s ornery for the sake of being ornery. Brian is whiny and a bit arrogant, as well. I got sick of Charles, towards the end, and once Brian started playing a bigger role, I got sick of him, too.

The book has a good start, and a great end, but the middle really just drags a bit, and Charles gets more and more irritating with every viewpoint (and his attitude towards “Simon Says” is just awful). I started disliking him when Simon says “Drop dead” to Theresa and Charles thinks it’s a pity that the truth spell doesn’t work anymore. Really? Chrestomanci was right, you weren’t thinking, Charles.

Witch Week also lacks some of the humor and charm that I love about Jones’s works.
Profile Image for J. Aleksandr Wootton.
Author 8 books147 followers
October 20, 2020
Another page-turner in the Chrestomanci series! Difficult to put down when the plot complications for our characters come piling on almost as fast as the moral quandaries, in a world where the one thing you must not do, on penalty of death, is magic... and yet you keep doing it accidentally because you're under stress and have tremendous needs and you don't actually know how to do it or, indeed, how not do it.

Thematically excellent as well, exploring whether our abilities or our choices make us who we are.

Much like The Magicians of Caprona, the grand finale doesn't work perfectly, owing to slight under-development of local back-stories, forcing a bit too much "tell" and not enough "show" in the resolution. Adding in two or three more chapters might have served the story better. Still - really fun.
Profile Image for Roslyn.
355 reviews17 followers
January 29, 2020
(2020 re-read)

Everything I wrote in my reviews of my re-reads of i>Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant applies again here, in spades. Again I see DWJ being unflinching about people: of course a British boarding school is a good setting to show teenagers showing their best and their worst sides. There isn't really a villain as such in this novel, unless you count the Inquisitor at the end, but he's nasty because (again) he can't or won't doesn't see people as people but as things. What I was reminded of most strongly in this particular novel was the masterful way DWJ creates chaotic plots and gives you an ending you would never have guessed - the plots feel like they've been organically grown in some garden and end up blooming in the most unexpected way towards the end.

Not to mention those wonderful descriptions of British boarding school food (shudder) ....
Profile Image for Elana.
Author 8 books109 followers
December 10, 2018
Having re-read this (I picked up a volume of all four Chrestomanci books at Cupboard Maker Books recently, and now feel compelled to read all of them), I actually like it better now. Despite there being NO dragons in this book, the premise is fun -- and the pacing is a lot better than Charmed Life, in my opinion.

I've always liked Jones' wit, and I even found myself laughing aloud in the section where Simon is struck dumb by his own words after he falls under an ill-placed spell. The writing was cute and clever, and the children's voices and actions were spot-on. Four stars.
Profile Image for Bryan Summers.
125 reviews5 followers
June 12, 2018
My friends, you should have been much more evangelical about Diana Wynne Jones. I could have been reading her for the past thirty years. Shame on all of you. I feel like I've wasted half my life.
Profile Image for mirnatius.
894 reviews44 followers
September 20, 2020
Rep: Indian MC


This one is among my least favorite in the series, I get the purpose but I found it uninteresting.
Profile Image for Uudenkuun Emilia.
452 reviews5 followers
February 17, 2020
I don't know how many times I've read this book. It's one of my favourite DWJ books, and I reread it a lot even as a child. Have kept rereading it as an adult because it's an amazing book. Hilariously, this latest reread was prompted by me getting a burn blister on my finger...

Witch Week is funny even while the threats are very real, the prose is effortlessly good, the world where witches are persecuted is terrifying, and the characters all feel authentic. Also, Chrestomanci is great.

The older I get, the more satisfying I find the ending. Nan Pilgrim is such a great character.

Also: DWJ was using singular they back in 1982. Plus there's a character of Indian descent - sure, he's token representation, but it's still pretty good for a book this old.

I think I'll love this book forever. One of my ultimate faves.
Profile Image for Sheila Beaumont.
1,102 reviews148 followers
August 7, 2016
I had a wonderful time rereading this old favorite. This tale is set in one of Diana Wynne Jones' alternate worlds, an anomalous modern-day one in which witchcraft is real and witches are burned at the stake, though the world is otherwise civilized. It seems that at least one of the children in a government boarding school for the orphans of witches is secretly a witch. It will be up to the enchanter Chrestomanci, with the help of some of the students, to put things to rights. Great fun, like all the books in this series. (April 13, 2011)

This time I decided to revisit this delightful fantasy via this excellent audiobook, beautifully narrated by Gerard Doyle. I'm looking forward to enjoying more audiobook rereads of Diana Wynne Jones' wonderful tales. (Aug. 7, 2016)
Profile Image for Yehudit.
294 reviews37 followers
November 3, 2017
This book was quite an adventure, in the most positive sense of the word. It had quite a number of moments that had me outright giggling, and an eclectic cast of characters that you alternated between rooting for one moment and cursing the next. Which I greatly appreciated. Also, I found Chrestomanci to be at his absolute best. So, really liked this one.
Profile Image for Sashko  Liutyj.
334 reviews31 followers
March 8, 2021
Було цікаво, кілька разів я навіть сміявся.
І і цій частині діти злі, а тому - живі.
Profile Image for Shawn Thrasher.
1,841 reviews43 followers
October 21, 2017
Witch Week is probably one of my favorite books of all time - I think it's perfectly written. The characters are really, really well drawn and fleshed out. And there is many of them, so that makes DWJ's writing skills even more amazing. She doesn't ever mince words; adults are always bumblers or fools (except for the good ones, and even they are often oblivious). Which, maybe, is how children really see adults to some extent. Characters have layers, even the evil ones (although their layers aren't usually as thick). The mean girls and bully boys in Witch Week seem so real. Theresa and Simon and the rest are all pulled right out of Blubber, but in a much more funny, less frightening way. Simon and Theresa are as evil as those awful mean girls in Blubber, but for some reason they seem less threatening. It probably helps that Charles and Nan had both their own magical powers and Chrestomanci to help them; poor old Blubber had no one (similarly, with the exception of Chrestomanci, who essentially made them solve the problem on their own, both books are full of bullies and the oblivious teachers who don't seem to notice or do notice but don't care).

10/19/17 I haven't re-read Witch Week in almost exactly seven years, far too long to have gone without reading it. I listened to Gerard Doyle's excellently narrated audio version; his voice was perfect (I particularly liked his elegant, deep-voiced Chrestomanci). I haven't changed my mind about Witch Week or DWJ. I wondered if Nan Pilgrim was a stand-in for DWJ herself?
Profile Image for Juushika.
1,561 reviews166 followers
August 7, 2018
A boarding school class falls into chaos when a student is accused of being a witch. Wynne has a great eye for small details and large consequences. The characterization is humane, critical, and innately humorous; the interaction between magics and the mundane is creative and, again, quite funny--a necessary balance against the darker setting and social dynamics. It's the end with which I argue. The meta-narrative concept remains compelling, and the climax has good logic and scale, but the trend away from magic isn't emotionally satisfying to an audience that 1) is probably here for the magic and 2) may be of the age or mindframe to project onto characters who are discovering and forgiving their own magical tendencies. I liked this a lot; I still didn't love it as much as Charmed Life, but it came closer. I think I'd enjoy it more upon reread.
Profile Image for Sean.
297 reviews104 followers
November 9, 2010
This was the first Diana Wynne Jones book I read, borrowed on impulse from a friend's house when I was ten. There was no indication on the cover that it was part of a series. And I loved it, loved it, loved it—right up until the moment halfway through when Chrestomanci appeared, and the story suddenly didn't make any sense to me whatever.

I've now read most of the other Chrestomanci books, and while I still prefer the first half the second half now makes sense to me as well and is much more enjoyable.

Still not a huge fan of the ending, but there has to be something about every Wynne Jones story that rubs me the wrong way.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 13 books31 followers
May 8, 2021
I loved the unflinching exactness of how kids this age behave toward one another. It seems too brutal, but it's not. That's really how they are, and if you aren't the popular kid, it's a nightmare. Now, imagine suddenly having forbidden magic! Yes, it is just as tremendously bad and brilliant as you'd guess.

And like many of Jones's work, I appreciate her showing the gray areas of morality and characters. Everyone is on a spectrum of good/bad, including the adults. It really lends the books a feel of reality despite the fantasy.
Profile Image for Lizzy.
119 reviews5 followers
March 4, 2021
I agree with Rosalee's review that this book is a little depressing. The clearly toxic school situation always reminded me (and continues to remind me) of middle school. But the ending is so perfect.
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books74 followers
February 6, 2014
I think it is too harsh for its intended readers - middle grade. And too didactic for the adults. The usual author's charm is missing from this book as well. Definitely not my favorite.
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