The Magicians of Caprona is the fourth book (fifth chronologically) in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 1980 by Greenwillow.
“Tonino is the only person in the famous Montana household who wasn’t born with an instinct for creating spells, but he has other gifts. His ability to communicate with cats just might help defend the city of Caprona against a mysterious enchanter — but only if Tonino can learn to cooperate with a girl from the hated Petrocchi family of spell-makers.”
What I Liked:
It’s Romeo & Juliet! Except better, because it doesn’t end in death! I liked the fact that it was three pairs that ended up uniting together against the Big Bad, rather than just the obvious one. Tonino and Angelica, obviously, and then Rosa and Marco, and then, finally, Renata and Paolo. I also enjoyed the fact that it was children who overcame the barriers first, rather than the adults, since children usually do in situations like this (adults are more bitter and are liable to hold onto past grudges for a longer amount of time).
I felt kind of sorry for the Duke, but he was also pathetic, and he knew it. He knew what was happening the entire time, essentially, and yet did nothing to stop it. I suppose he couldn’t, but still. At least he helped out at the end.
I wonder if Benvenuto is in any way, shape or form related to Throgmorten? They have very similar personalities. Perhaps Jones is trying to hint that there’s a Temple cat connection. Or maybe not.
I liked how the magic came through singing. Jones’ magic is always very hands-on; spells have to be made. This way, it’s easier to see who the powerful ones are—they don’t have to make spells or write them down on slips of paper to be able to use them. Although, maybe they’re written down so non-magic people can use them? In any case, the aspect of magic explored here was very neat.
The Punch & Judy scene is magnificent. I don’t know why. It just is.
What I Didn’t Like:
The ending was a little anticlimactic in regards to the “evil enchanter.” It came very abruptly and ended just as abruptly. I expected a bigger scene, I guess, although the Angel was the important part, I suppose.
I wish there had been a bit more elucidation on Tonino’s skill. Jones doesn’t mince words, and she explains things very briefly. But, perhaps there wasn’t more detail because Chrestomanci didn’t quite know what Tonino could do, himself.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“No, boys, the Angel has not got the right words. The words you sing are a makeshift. Some people say that the glorious Angel took the words back to Heaven after the White Devil was vanquished, leaving only the tune. Or the words have been lost since. But everyone knows that Caprona cannot be truly great until the words are found.”
“In other words,” Uncle Umberto said irritably, “the Angel of Caprona is a spell like any other spell. And without the proper words, any spell is only at half force, even if it is of divine origin.”
“And I haven’t got any filthy habits!” snapped Angelica.
“Yes you have. All the Petrocchis have,” said Tonino. “But I expect you don’t realize because they’re normal to you.”
“I like that!” Angelica picked up the broken tap, as if she had half a mind to throw it.
“You eat babies.”
“How dare you!” said Angelica. “You eat cowpats for pizzas, and you can smell the Casa Montana right on the Corso.”
“The Casa Petrocchi smells all down the Via Sant’ Angelo,” said Tonino, “and you can hear the flies buzzing from the New Bridge. You have babies like kittens and—”
“That’s a lie!” shrieked Angelica. “You just put that about because you don’t want people to know that the Montanas never get married properly!”
“Yes we do!” bawled Tonino. “It’s you who don’t!”
“I like that!” yelled Angelica. “I’ll have you know, my brother got married, in church, just after Christmas. So there!”
“I don’t believe you,” said Tonino. “And my sister’s going to get married in Spring, so—”
“I was a bridesmaid!” screamed Angelica.
~Jones 141-142, 149
The Magicians of Caprona uses a different aspect of magic that we haven’t seen yet from the world of Chrestomanci. The Punch & Judy scene is creepy and terrifying (and wonderful), but is also a big moment for Tonino. I liked this quite a bit better than Witch Week, character-wise, but the ending left a little to desire.
You can buy this book here: The Magicians of Caprona
Coming Up Next: Conrad’s Fate