Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: HarperCollins, London
The Lives of Christopher Chant is a children's/young adult novel, and part of the popular Chrestomanci series. It is a prequel to Charmed Life, making it the first book in the series by internal chronology, although by publication date it is the third in the series, after Charmed Life and Witch Week. These books can be read in any order without spoiling the experience, but according to the ordering of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Charmed Life should be read first, and Lives of C.C. second.
Diana Wynne Jones is well known for Children's light fantasy, including Howl's Moving Castle and Archer's Goon. The Chrestomanci series is one of her better ones, and in my opinion this is one of the best Chrestomanci books.
Christopher Chant is the primary Chrestomanci of the series (Chrestomanci is a title, like Prime Minister or Dogcatcher), and appears in all Chrestomanci books. This is the story of his early life, including how he came to be discovered (only enchanters with nine lives can be Chrestomanci, and they can be hard to find), and his coming to terms with the post. It is worth noting that this book also makes a point of painting Gabriel de Witt, the Chrestomanci proceeding Cristopher Chant, an an interesting character who might be worthy of his own prequel one day.
As the story begins, Christopher is a very young boy (we don't know how old, but six to eight seems like a good guess to me), living with his wealthy but alienated parents. Due to his parents' general disinterest in him, no-one notices that he has an odd ability to magically bring items out of his dreams into the real world. At least, not until the day his father looses the family fortune, and his uncle is called in to sort out the family affairs. Uncle Ralph notices that Christopher has an odd collection of toys in his cupboard, and soon has Christopher preforming 'experiments' in his travels to test the limits of his abilities.
It comes out that Christopher isn't dreaming, but is actually travelling to other worlds, worlds with slightly different levels of magical, godly, and scientific development. Soon his uncle has him bringing packages back from these worlds on a regular basis, and experimenting with bringing larger and larger loads of magical goods. But as this is going on Christopher's father has also noticed that he has magical abilities, and he wants them developed more formally. Soon Christopher is noticed by the Powers That Be, and before long the Chrestomanci takes notice of him. Oh, and while all this is going on, Christopher starts dying -- over and over again, at an ever-increasing rate. And he only has nine lives...
A wonderful book, which I highly recommend. I just finished rereading it for the sixth time, and I like it just as much, if not more, than I did as a kid.