Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: 1982 UK, 1988 US
ISBN: 0-06-029879-0

Witch Week is a children's fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones. It is technically a Chrestomanci story, although it is centered in a world much like our own, and Chrestomanci only shows up towards the end to sort out the magic bits. It also works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, and is not a bad introduction to Diana Wynne Jones' works.

The story is set in an England much like our own, with the one difference that witches are real, and they are still hunted and burned at the stake. Larwood House is a boarding school for problem children, particularly witch orphans -- children who have lost at least one of their parents in a witch burning. And it appears that class 6B has at least one student who is witch him- or herself. Of course, no one would ever admit to such a thing, and only the most obnoxious person would accuse another of being a witch. But as it happens, Larwood House does have some pretty obnoxious students. And to make things somewhat more complicated, no one is quite sure how you know if you are a witch, or what one could do about it (other than being burned, of course). As magical events become more and more common, it looks inevitable that the Inquisitors will be called into the school, something that no one wants. So the children decide to take matters into their own hands...

This is an excellent book, and I recommend it for any young reader who likes magic mixed into real-world settings. It is a bit slow at first, perhaps in part due to the author trying to introduce a rather large cast of characters in a short space of time, but it builds nicely and it is a very pleasing way to become addicted to Dianna Wynne Jones' books. I would expect children from 10-14 to get the most enjoyment from this book (although I still enjoy it just fine, thank you). A background in stories set in the UK will help kids understand the vocabulary and setting better, but is not necessary.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a Chrestomanci novel, with a late (but important) appearance of Mr. Chant, who was first introduced in The Lives of Christopher Chant. He is now fully grown, but no mention is made of his wife or children. Originally published in 1982, it should theoretically come just after The Magicians of Caprona; by internal chronology (although not publication date) The Pinhoe Egg would be the next in the series. Witch Week can also be found in The Chronicles of Chrestomanci: Volume II, along with The Magicians of Caprona. Having said all that, I would actually compare this book more to Dianna Wynne Jones' stand-alone books such as The Ogre Downstairs or Archer's Goon, stories of ordinary people in the everyday world who are forced to deal with extraordinary magic.

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