Witch Week caught my eye as I was browsing the mobile library shelves. The GMGR and other book of the month choices eluded me, so I hunted for something else that fell into the categories MG and suitable for Halloween month. This is it.
Witch Week (Chrestomanci #3)
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 2Y 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.
Larwood House is a seriously dysfunctional boarding school filled with seriously nasty kids. So it seems to me, anyway. Yet they each show characteristics that I recognise. Maybe it’s extremist rather than nasty. But the main problem for them is that magic is all around them; witches are banned, and there is an inquisitorial regime to find and burn them in bone-fires. I spotted this bone-fire rather than bonfire early, but didn’t connect it properly till much later.
Diana Wynne Jones writes an excellent story, teasing you with very subtle clues until you are really quite unsure of who’s who, who’s good and who’s not, and whether there is in fact any solution to their problems. Most of the characters are just funny enough, or laughable enough, to be enjoyable. It’s very cleverly judged, and I’m sure kids of the right age adore it. Add in that it’s a school story with midnight feasts and weird happenings in it, and I know that the pace and intrigue will gather readers in.
I did get to over halfway until I started wondering what the ‘Chrestomanci’ element of the series is. The solution starts to present itself once the Chrestomanci bit arrives. This needs to involve all the key kids and some don’t want to play. The tension builds, and my inklings were right, but in no way answered all the questions Ms Wynne Jones cleverly posed.
A really interesting, enjoyable and slightly wacky book for middle grade kids to enjoy, especially in Witch Week. Some non-Commonwealth kids might be at a loss about the solution though, since their history may not cover Guy Fawkes.
I simply don’t understand why so many readers class it as Fantasy or Young Adult. Unless, of course, they would class Wind in the Willows as fantasy.