The Pinhoe Egg
Diana Wynne Jones
Greenwillow Books, 2006

This is the last book in Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci series. This is a good book, but it is not a very good entry point into the series, so if you have not read the other Chrestomanci books you should probably go read about Charmed Life or The Lives of Christopher Chant, either of which will provide a good introduction to the world of Chrestomanci.

The Pinhoe Egg picks up about a year after Charmed Life leaves off, and is in part the further adventures of Cat and Chrestomanci and the other castle folk. However it starts by introducing a new cast, the townsfolk in the nearby town of Ulverscote, which is full of illegal witchcraft. It is controlled by the Pinhoe clan, which is ruled by the Gammer, an inherited post passed down through the female line. The next Gammer will be Marianne Pinhoe, a young girl about Cat's age. The story starts with with a visit from the witches from the neighboring village, who have an unexplained but quite violent spat with Gammer, leaving the house a mess, and Gammer speaking in riddles. No one is quite sure what is going on, but Merianne's younger brother Joe is sent to serve as a boot-boy/spy in Chrestomanci castle (if Chrestomanci finds about the witches, there will be no end of trouble), and Merianne seems fated to spend summer vacation running around trying to follow the Grammar's cryptic utterances and keep control of her cat -- who is surprisingly magical.

The primary plot of the book circles around the village witches trying (with limited success) to keep Cat and the others at the castle from discovering their magic, but the main focus of the book is actually the adventures of Cat and Merianne; while these adventures are all tied into the witch's plots, the author's goal appears to to be to remind us of how much fun the magic of the Chrestomanci stories is; and it is, so this is a fun story.

This book is the final Chrestomanci book both by internal chronology and by publication date (we know this because Diana Wynne Jones died in early 2011). There is, however, a bit of confusion as to which should be the second to last. The new collection The Chronicles of Chrestomanci: Volume III suggests that The Pinhoe Egg should be read right after Conrad's Fate, which breaks with the internal chronology; a strict following of book order would suggest that The Magicians of Caprona would precede The Pinhoe Egg, and narratively speaking it is probably most satisfying to read it right after Charmed Life, leaving The Magicians of Caprona for later.

For obvious reasons, I would not recommend this book to anyone who is not already a fan of the series. However, it is a good read once you've met the characters in earlier books, and it is easy to become fully engaged in the story. The book ends not with the completion of the plot, but with a run down of where the characters are and how they are settled into their lives, giving the feeling of finality, and making this a good end to the Chrestomanci series.

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