Conrad's Fate

Conrad's Fate was new to me (published in 2005) and it was heaps of fun. It started a little slowly but as usual, when Chrestomanci appeared, the story immediately took off. Actually Chrestomanci is not yet Chrestomanci in this book, he is still plain Christopher Chant, aged fifteen, but he is as self-possessed, charming and inventive as ever. Searching for a runaway Millie, he finds himself in the same world, and vying for the same job, as hapless Conrad (a rare first person narrator), both serving as trainee footmen at a huge castle which is plagued by periodic shifts in reality. This might result in all the postboxes turning from red to blue, or different books appearing on a shelf, and is known as 'pulling the probabilities.' Inevitably, money is revealed to be the reason behind all this -- in some ways, all the worlds of Chrestomanci can be depressingly similar.

Weirdly, just as I was reading Conrad's Fate, I started watching a TV series (based on a novel) called Shining Girls, where reality undergoes unexpected sideways shifts in an almost identical way. It's really quite spooky.

I do find it slightly odd that Diana Wynne Jones so rarely creates female central protagonists; though she often has interesting female characters, they're not often in the hero's role. Not a complaint, just an observation.


  1. I presume you've read Howl's Moving Castle in which Sophie Hatter is the main protagonist? And in one of the sequels - Enchanted Glass - the main character is a girl. But I'd never really thought before how often the books lead with a boy - though it's also true that the girl characters are usually strong and active within the story. But I guess it's also true that the biggest percentage of heroes in childrens' books generally are boys (even today, but definitely in the seventies and eighties) so maybe DWJ was consciously or unconsciously following publishing convention.

  2. Oh, of course, how could I forget Sophie? And it looks like The Pinhoe Egg has a female protagonist as well, so I humbly withdraw everything.
    I forgot to mention the fact that Conrad reads 'Peter Jenkins' books, which I'm sure is a little dig at Harry Potter. Made me smile.