Friday, April 1, 2011

The Lives of Clistoffer Chant

So far the only good depiction of parents have been christopher and Millie. Is this following the rule of ya/mg that says you can't have parents around? It's also relatively traditionally middle-upper class english to have distant parents.

I'd forgotten the mermaids who thought he was a strange animal called a clistoffer! The anywheres are so rich and brilliant a creation. I would love to have lots of stories set in them.

Something I'm noticing on this read is that I'm trying to notice when he loses a life - knowing he has them and knowing he doesn't know that I'm trying to find them - like a puzzle. I did it in the last book too but I'm not sure if I was actually being clever or if I just remembered as I was going along.

As I get to the beginning of the plot, and we meet Christopher's Evil Uncle Ralph, I find it hard to imagine that I ever actually thought he was a good guy. Did I? Was I suspicious the very first time I read through this? I don't know, because I clearly remember being devastated that Tacroy was involved in shenanigans of the evil sort (even if it was kind of against his will, a bit) but never Uncle Ralph. Also I want to shout-out the part where Christopher is confused that Ralph is pronounced Rafe. Did all Ralph's used to be pronounced Rafe? Because it still confuses me!
I also really love the governess with the "hidden prettiness". It is such a brilliant way of showing both the scheming and plotting that's going on and the charm and force of Uncle Ralph's personality without having to do overblown descriptions. One of the many ways DWJ is a genius.

And then, on only his second journey, we meet Millie! And all her cats. Both books have had cats in them so far. And there's a brilliant moment where Christopher thinks the unpleasant, vicious cat reminds him of his uncle and it confuses him because he thinks he adores his uncle. So it "must be the gingerness". Ah subconscious thoughts done perfectly! Although, OI, not all gingers are evil!

Aha! One life gone when the Arm of Asheth kills him with a spear! Well and then Throgmorten accidentally kills him with a curtain pole, since it needs to happen in this world to stick. Poor cat. 
I do find it interesting that while Christopher doesn't really want Throgmorten to be cut up for spells - and in fact helps him escape to avoid that fate - he doesn't seem to make the connection that Uncle Ralph is possibly evil, because surely - especially in children's books - someone who would cut up an animal (even a quite vicious one) can't possibly be good. 

When the governess made a comment about how it would be boring and he didn't want to go, I got bristly and thought that she was goading him into it. But when Tacroy says that hopefully they'll be able to do it without Christopher and seems reluctant to involve him more, it makes me love Tacroy all the more. And I'd forgotten about his young-music-playing-lady woes. They are hilarious.

When Millie gives him a bracelet (would I have remembered the silver allergy if it hadn't been for Charmed Life?) does he lose a life? It seems like such a wasteful way to lose one. I don't think so though, because then he'd have lost another one the second time Millie "does the bracelet trick" as it were. 

OH there's the moment when the parcel smells like fish and I'm pretty sure it's dead mermaids!

Uhoh, and here actually comes the second lost life. The crane in series 10! What is it about series 10 that seems so unfriendly to Christopher's life?

I love Dr Pawson. "Don't do some magic and let me see!" "Don't do it again!" It's brilliant and entirely sensible, but I can also see why it would be entirely confusing for poor Christopher. Why aren't there really any adults who are nice to children in these books? And particularly why doesn't anyone ever tell them what's going on? People are shoving him places and putting scarves on him and then stealing the scarves away and it's all very confusing and all he wants to do is play cricket.

I do love Throgmorten and I am so happy to see him back at the castle. I don't know why DWJ has a thing for bad-tempered cats, but they have hilarious personalities. WONG. What kind of cat says wong?

Breaking his neck - first by falling from the tower and then by falling when he tried to get to series 11 - is the third life. But here's the thing, the first death normally seems accidental and then related death seems inevitable to balance the scores, but I'm not quite sure why he fell from the tower in Chrestomanci castle. That seems more like an inevitable second death rather than an accidental one, even though apparently it was. Not just because I'm unused to the death happening in his world first but because it seems so random. Ah, and then he breaks his neck again which means that the breakage in series 11 wasn't the parallel of the tower death, but instead tripping over Throgmorten is the parallel death. So when he dies in his home world, he doesn't need to die somewhere else? It's all very confusing! And people should be teaching him to die less often! This is getting ludicrous. Even if I think two of his deaths (maybe one) were engineered by Chrestomanci's team to stop the smugglers.

I do love the way Tacroy tries to save Christopher, even if half-heartedly. He really is a good boy. Plus I love his curly hair. Considering he's Mordecai and he has tight, curly hair, I'm pretty sure he's Jewish. Though if he's a foundling, how would they know to call him Mordecai? Unless he was left outside a synagogue. CONFUSED.And there goes another life with Tacroy and the dragon. Is that four or five now? Five. I'm so glad that Christopher finally figures out the parallel deaths and stops thinking that the Anywheres are safe. But really, that took a while!

When did he lose the sixth though? This is the one that confuses me. Could it have been with Asheth?

I love that Millie makes her own way into Christopher's world. Much as I'd like Christopher to be a nice, helpful kind of boy (and I think he does become one - at least more so - after Flavian's outburst) he's not really very considerate. He doesn't think of things unless they are under his nose - just like the older version of him in Charmed Life actually! And I really like Millie having sufficient agency to do her own thing.

Ah, Tacroy/Mordecai has coffee-coloured skin. How did I miss that before? I guess he's not Jewish.

Lobster pot and cat weapon for the major win. And Gabriel had been at least trying to get other kids Christopher's age. He's not all fusty.

AHA. Millie STOLED his sixth life. At least I wasn't intentionally confused! :)

The whole ending was very fuzzy in my mind and I'm very impressed with the way they tied everything together, though I was beginning to wince everytime Christopher lost another life. Gabriel still had 8! Why couldn't he have given one to the Dright/to be burnt? I guess because they couldn't communicate effectively, but still. Frustrating.

Annnd to cap it all off, Mother Proudfoot is awesome in the face. I think the lesson of the first two books is that the women are way more awesome. Sometimes quite evil (Gwendolyn), but with the possible exception of Christopher's Mama, all very powerful. Now I just want to see a Chrestomanci book where it's a nine-lived female enchantress. Well I suppose this is what fanfiction is for?

Interestingly, I don't think I've ever read Conrad's Fate, which is up next! Onwards and upwards Horatio!

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