Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones

A re-read. I love DWJ books so much. They are always a fun, weird time. This is installment five, I think, of the Chrestomanci books, but chronologically second. Twelve-year-old Conrad Tesdinic has an evil fate, according to his uncle. In order to put it right, he must kill whoever it is at Stallery Castle that keeps manipulating the possibilities. When Conrad goes undercover as a footman, he meets an intriguing young magician named Christopher.

So, I probably shouldn't have been surprised by the neglectful and abusive family situation Conrad comes from  (this is DWJ, after all), but I hadn't remembered how bad it was or how much Conrad blames himself. Ugh, Uncle Albert is the worst. And I'm a little uncomfortable with the presentation of his mom as a stereotypical man-hating feminist, who can't be bothered to care for her children because that's giving in to the tyranny of gender roles. I'm not saying that someone like that can't exist, but that's not what the vast majority of feminists think in any way, and people who neglect their families for their careers or hobbies apply to both genders and every subject.

The Downton Abbey feel of Stallery Castle made me think of a much earlier time period, and then I would get tripped up by mentions of televisions and computers. Of course,  this is a different world,  so who knows how that works. Maybe being a servant is a highly prestigious and well paid job there.

Reading this time, I noticed the description of Mr. Amos has having a wide nose, large lips, and purplish tinge to his complexion,  and decided that in my headcanon he is black, with Hugo being mixed race, since he has "fairish" hair. This would mean


that Conrad and Anthea are black or mixed race too, since they are his nephew and niece. Hmmm...and since he and Robert's father switched places because they resembled each other, then Robert and Felice are black or mixed race too. That would make a YA fantasy novel where almost all the major characters are characters of color. (Milly definitely is.) Unfortunately this isn't exactly spelled out in the text.


Overall this was a fun reread for me and made me wish we had more time with Conrad and teenage Christopher and Milly. 4 out of 5 stars.

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