Charmed Life

Book 1 of the Chrestomanci Series

Diana Wynne Jones

Illustrated by Alison Bryant

Introduced by Katherine Rundell

Foreword by Neil Gaiman

The first volume of the bewitching ‘Chrestomanci’ series by Diana Wynne Jones. Charmed Life arrives in an explosion of magic in this edition illustrated by Alison Bryant and introduced by Katherine Rundell.

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‘If you have not encountered the many worlds of Diana Wynne Jones, I envy you. You have so much to look forward to.’
  1. Neil Gaiman

A magical school, parallel universes and nine lives hidden in the most unlikely of places. Welcome to the many worlds of 'Chrestomanci', where nothing is quite as it seems. Charmed Life is an anarchic, hilarious tale of magic and mayhem from the fairy godmother of children’s literature, Diana Wynne Jones. For this special edition of a British fantasy classic, artist Alison Bryant has created six exuberant and witty illustrations that bring the magic of Jones’s most celebrated series to life. Every image is awash with colour and character, from freshly summoned giant frogs to Gwendoline’s delightfully disdainful face – and of course Chrestomanci himself, resplendent in a variety of unlikely dressing gowns. This edition also includes two delightful short stories from the world of ‘Chrestomanci’, ‘Warlock at the Wheel’ and ‘The Sage of Theare’. Katherine Rundell, the award-winning author of the modern children’s adventure classic Rooftoppers, has written a new introduction exclusively for this Folio edition, in which she calls Charmed Life ‘one of the finest children’s books ever written’. 

Bound in printed and blocked paper 

Set in Legacy Serif with Wonder Night as display

272 pages

6 colour illustrations

Black & white illustrated title page and chapter heads

Endpapers and slipcase printed in silver ink

9˝ x 6¼˝

Printed in the UK

Gwendoline Chant is a wildly talented and particularly single-minded young witch, so when she is invited to go and study at the castle of Chrestomanci, she is thrilled to finally be recognised for her achievements. Her brother Cat – shy, obliging, and thoroughly un-magical – is somewhat alarmed to be invited too. What does a boy who can’t even turn buttons into gold pieces to do in a castle stuffed with witches and warlocks? But life in the great enchanter’s castle isn’t what either of the Chants are expecting, with dragons, heists and increasingly chaotic magical pranks around every corner. When Gwendoline herself vanishes, Cat begins to realise that his life has been tied up with secrets since the very beginning, and perhaps only Chrestomanci himself has the answers…

‘Diana Wynne Jones stands out from the crowd, for her humour, her originality and her touching, clever, rollickingly good stories.’
  1. The Guardian

Charmed Life
won the Guardian Book award in 1977 and kicked off a series that was to become one of the best loved in children’s fiction, enchanting children and adults alike with its boisterous, chaotic and deeply British approach to fantasy. In her introduction, author Katherine Rundell describes Jones as ‘a true original’ and it is this vibrant originality that raises the 'Chrestomanci' books above your average wizarding world. Charmed Life is full of surprises, from the nature of Cat’s nickname to the terrible apparitions that Gwendoline summons to disrupt an elegant dinner. With its lush binding design and a slipcase rich with delightfully witchy details, the Folio edition of Charmed Life is glorious to behold – a treat for witches and warlocks of any age.

About Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones had an unsettled childhood against the background of the Second World War. Her family moved frequently, finally settling in rural Essex. She and her two sisters were deprived of books but, armed with a vivid imagination and an insatiable appetite for stories, Jones wrote them herself to read to her sisters. She never ceased writing, and from 1973 onwards published many titles, which have been released worldwide in 30 languages. Her magical adventures have enthralled children and adults ever since. Among Jones’s best-loved books are the Chrestomanci series and Howl’s Moving Castle (1986; Folio 2019) and its two sequels. In 2004 Howl’s Moving Castle was made into an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli, Japan. It broke all box-office records in Japan at the time and was nominated for an Oscar. Jones’s numerous awards include the Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction, two Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards and a Life Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention 2007. Neil Gaiman called her ‘the best writer of Magic there is’. 

About Alison Bryant

Alison Bryant is a Devon-based illustrator who studied at Harrow Art School before completing a postgraduate course in publishing. After graduating she spent two years in Zambia, teaching drawing at the Africa Literature Centre. She works with a range of media and uses digital techniques to combine her drawings and prints. Her clients include Notion, Hodder Wayland, Macmillan and Barefoot Books.

About Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell is a children’s novelist and a Fellow in English literature at All Souls College, Oxford. Her first book, The Girl Savage was published in 2011, and her second novel, Rooftoppers (2014), was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, and won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Her recent books include The Good Thieves (2019), and Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne (2022), which won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. Katherine has written the introductions to the Folio editions of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (2015) and Charmed Life (2023).

About Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a critically acclaimed writer of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. His many notable works include the groundbreaking series Sandman (the first comic book to win a literary award, the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story), and the novels Good Omens (1990, in collaboration with Terry Pratchett), Stardust (1999), American Gods (2001, The Folio Society 2017; winner of the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for Best Novella, and a Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers),  Anansi Boys (2005, The Folio Society 2019) and Neverwhere (1996, The Folio Society 2022). Gaiman also wrote introductions to Folio editions of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun (1980, The Folio Society 2020) and Mervyn Peake’s The Gormenghast Trilogy (1950, The Folio Society 2024). Credited with being one of the creators of modern comics, Gaiman is an author whose work crosses many genres and reaches audiences of all ages. His most recent publication is What You Need To Be Warm (2020).


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