Conrad’s Fate is the fifth book (second chronologically) in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 2005 by Greenwillow.
“Someone at Stallery Mansion is changing the world. At first, only small details, but the changes get bigger and bigger. It’s up to Conrad, a twelve-year-old with terrible karma who’s just joined the mansion’s staff, to find out who is behind it. But he’s not the only one snooping around. His fellow servant-in-training, Christopher Chant, is charming, confident, and from another world, with a mission of his own — rescuing his friend, lost in an alternate Stallery Mansion. Can they save the day before Conrad’s awful fate catches up with them?”
What I Liked:
I absolutely love the domestic servant aspect of this book. I kept thinking of Downton Abbey as I was reading it. This book isn’t so much about magic as it is about running a household. It’s wonderful.
Also, Christopher-before-he-is-Chrestomanci is back! And now he’s got the fancy clothes. Millie’s back, too, and the ending is especially wonderful if you like them together. I thought it was hilarious when Millie was grousing about Christopher, since I as the reader knows what goes on with them. Also, he doesn’t seem to have adopted the vague look yet, since he doesn’t use it at all here. Perhaps he was too busy looking for Millie. Or perhaps it’s something he perfects as he gets older.
I found Conrad’s mother hilarious. I think Jones was poking fun at feminism a little bit through her character, but in a very kind, same-side type of way. Or perhaps a parody type of way.
I think it’s interesting how there was no clear “good guy” in this book, not counting the Chrestomanci Team™. Sure, Mr. Amos is the primary antagonist, I guess, as well as Uncle Alfred, but Conrad’s mother and the fake Count are also not that great, either. Sure, Conrad’s mother was forced out, but she didn’t treat Conrad and Anthea very well, so she’s not an antagonist, but she’s not really a protagonist, either. The only clear protagonist is Conrad, and maybe Anthea. And Lady Mary was just random.
What I Didn’t Like:
Jones always tends to wrap up things very quickly, with as little explanation as possible. The ending is a bit fast, and I had to reread the revelations a couple of times before I completely understood everything.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“So neither of you have the sort of experience I mentioned,” Mr. Amos said. “Good. I like my trainees ignorant. It means they don’t come to Stallery with all the wrong habits. Next big question. How do you both feel about serving as a valet, a gentleman’s gentleman? This means dressing your gentleman, caring for his clothes, looking to his comfort, running errands if he asks it, even cooking for him in certain cases, and generally knowing the gentleman’s secrets—but never, ever breathing a word of those secrets to another soul. Can you do all that?”
Christopher looked a little stunned by this. I remembered how Christopher, so oddly, had not seemed to know why he was here, and I realized that this was my best chance ever of making sure I got this job. “I’d like doing that a lot,” I said.
“Me, too,” Christopher said promptly. “Looking after clothes and keeping secrets are the two things I do best, Mr. Amos.” I began to think I hated him.
The door led out onto a small wooden balcony thing with a low, flimsy-looking rail around it. Almost at our feet, a square hole led into a crazy old wooden stairway down the side of what seemed to be a tall wooden tower. Our heads both bent to look through the hole. And we could see the stairway zigzagging giddily away, down and down, getting smaller and smaller, outside what was definitely the tallest and most unsafe-looking wooden building I had ever seen. It could have been a lighthouse—except that it had slants of roof sticking out every so often, like a pagoda. It swayed and creaked and thrummed in the wind. Far, far below, something seemed to be channeling the gale into a melancholy howling.
Conrad’s Fate is a book about domestic servitude, and only marginally about magic. Christopher is still a little annoying, but he’s more grown up and is a much better character (and person) because of it. Conrad is clueless, but a good character point-of-view despite that. The ending epilogue is especially sweet. One of my favorites from the Chronicles.
You can buy this book here: Conrad’s Fate
Coming Up Next: The Pinhoe Egg