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Conrad's Fate

Conrad's Fate

4.1 11
by Diana Wynne Jones

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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,


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?

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Wynne Jones returns to her Chrestomanci saga for the fifth time in this tongue-in-cheek foray into the care and maintenance of the upper classes. The story may be set in the England of her Seventh Series alternate universe, but it reads at times like 1920s Wodehouse, with a touch of planet-bending magic to keep the stock market behaving properly. (Bertie Wooster would be green with envy.) Twelve-year-old Conrad is thrust into palatial aristocratic life as an apprentice lackey to save his Fate—and make his Uncle Alfred's fortune. Fortuitously, he is teamed up with fifteen-year-old Christopher Chant, freshly arrived from his planet series in search of his runaway friend, Millie. There's many an adventurous slip before the satisfying conclusion, but the real fun lies in watching the young men learn to shape up under the tutelage of the pear-shaped butler, Mr. Amos. Watching them become, in Amos's inimitable words, "Living. Pieces. Of furniture." The quirks of the noble family they actually serve are just icing on the cake. Although he is not the main character, it is good to have another piece of the dapper Christopher's background. 2005, Greenwillow, Ages 10 up.
—Kathleen Karr
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2005: Stallery Mansion looms high in the English Alps above the town of Stallchester, where a 12-year-old boy named Conrad lives with his mother and his uncle. He wants to go to Upper School, but instead his uncle sends him off to Stallery to become a page boy, insisting that he must work off his bad karma by putting an end to some bad person in power up at the mansion?—?who, exactly, the uncle doesn't know, but it's Conrad's job to find out. On the way to Stallery, Conrad meets mysterious, cocky Christopher, who also becomes a page boy. Christopher, who discloses that he is a nine-lived enchanter from another universe, is really there in search of a runaway enchantress. The two boys discover that Stallery Mansion is built on a probability fault, where a lot of possible universes come together, and unnerving small changes take place constantly; their uniforms change color unexpectedly, for example. Even more ominously, some nasty people are trying to seize power, and it's up to Conrad and Christopher to try to stop them. This "Upstairs, Downstairs" tale features Jones' trademark humor and inventiveness; it continues the much-loved Chrestomanci series that began with Charmed Life. Fans will be delighted to see Christopher again, though this amusing fantasy novel can stand alone for those new to his universe(s). (A Chrestomanci Book). KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, HarperCollins, 375p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Jones is a master of British fantasies that are hilariously droll and totally heartfelt at the same time. This is a new novel in the series that began with Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant (both 1998, HarperCollins), the story of how Christopher, the "nine-lifed enchanter" who regulates the uses of magic throughout 12 sets of alternate worlds, began his career. This book introduces Conrad Tesdinic, a boy who lives in one of the Series Seven worlds and has been told throughout his youth that he has bad luck, an Evil Fate, bad karma. When he graduates from lower school at the age of 12, his magician uncle reveals that Conrad's black Fate has been caused by his failure to kill a depraved evildoer in a previous life. The reincarnated evildoer, he is told, dwells in nearby Stallery Mansion, which generates so much magic that no one living nearby gets any TV reception. Conrad must take a job as a servant at the mansion and kill the villain, whose identity he must discover. Once hired, he meets his roommate and fellow servant, a smug, handsome young man named-aha!-Christopher. Almost all the players-including Conrad-conceal their true identities as they dash from one alternate Stallery Mansion to another, solving several interlocking mysteries. This witty, satisfying story can be read on its own, but is much richer when read as part of the series. It's a must for all Jones fans.-Walter Minkel, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Conrad Tesdinic has an Evil Fate in this entertaining Chrestomanci tale that begins a few years after The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988) leaves off. Conrad detests working in his Uncle Alfred's bookshop in the shadow of magical Stallery Mansion, and yearns for the day he can leave for high school. Alas, his dark Fate intervenes; Uncle Alfred explains that Conrad's Karma, earned with wicked deeds in a previous life, will lead to an agonizing death unless he kills a man in Stallery Mansion. Luckily for Conrad, Uncle Alfred has gotten him a job at Stallery. Conrad dislikes Stallery Mansion, and somebody keeps shifting reality, turning eggs into bacon and sundials into statues. He befriends fellow trainee Christopher, a charming and secretive boy who is searching for a magically stuck friend. As Conrad and Christopher explore multiple realities, Conrad's long-lost sister appears, involved in Stallery's dangerous intrigues. A wild romp with a fast-paced and satisfying conclusion, Conrad's humorous adventures will appeal to Christopher's existing fans and Jones neophytes alike. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Chrestomanci Series , #3
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File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Conrad's Fate

Chapter One

When I was small, I always thought Stallery Mansion was some kind of fairy-tale castle. I could see it from my bedroom window, high in the mountains above Stallchester, flashing with glass and gold when the sun struck it. When I got to the place at last, it wasn't exactly like a fairy tale.

Stallchester, where we had our shop, is quite high in the mountains, too. There are a lot of mountains here in Series Seven, and Stallchester is in the English Alps. Most people thought this was the reason why you could only receive television at one end of the town, but my uncle told me it was Stallery doing it.

"It's the protections they put round the place to stop anyone investigating them," he said. "The magic blanks out the signal."

My Uncle Alfred was a magician in his spare time, so he knew this sort of thing. Most of the time he made a living for us all by keeping the bookshop at the cathedral end of town. He was a skinny, worrity little man with a bald patch under his curls, and he was my mother's half brother. It always seemed a great burden to him, having to look after me and my mother and my sister, Anthea. He rushed about muttering, "And how do I find the money, Conrad, with the book trade so slow!"

The bookshop was in our name, too -- it said grant and tesdinic in faded gold letters over the bow windows and the dark green door -- but Uncle Alfred explained that it belonged to him now. He and my father had started the shop together. Then, just after I was born and a little before he died, my father had needed a lot of money suddenly, Uncle Alfred told me, and he sold his half of the bookshop to Uncle Alfred. Then my father died, and Uncle Alfred had to support us.

"And so he should do," my mother said in her vague way. "We're the only family he's got."

My sister, Anthea, said she wanted to know what my father had needed the money for, but she never could find out. Uncle Alfred said he didn't know. "And you never get any sense out of Mother," Anthea said to me. "She just says things like 'Life is always a lottery' and 'Your father was usually hard up,' so all I can think is that it must have been gambling debts. The casino's only just up the road after all."

I rather liked the idea of my father gambling half a bookshop away. I used to like taking risks myself. When I was eight, I borrowed some skis and went down all the steepest and iciest ski runs, and in the summer I went rock climbing. I felt I was really following in my father's footsteps. Unfortunately, someone saw me halfway up Stall Crag and told my uncle.

"Ah, no, Conrad," he said, wagging a worried, wrinkled finger at me. "I can't have you taking these risks."

"My dad did," I said, "betting all that money."

"He lost it," said my uncle, "and that's a different matter. I never knew much about his affairs, but I have an idea -- a very shrewd idea -- that he was robbed by those crooked aristocrats up at Stallery."

"What?" I said. "You mean Count Rudolf came with a gun and held him up?"

My uncle laughed and rubbed my head. "Nothing so dramatic, Con. They do things quietly and mannerly up at Stallery. They pull the possibilities like gentlemen."

"How do you mean?" I said.

"I'll explain when you're old enough to understand the magic of high finance," my uncle replied. "Meanwhile ... " His face went all withered and serious. "Meanwhile, you can't afford to go risking your neck on Stall Crag, you really can't, Con, not with the bad karma you carry."

"What's karma?" I asked.

"That's another thing I'll explain when you're older," my uncle said. "Just don't let me catch you going rock climbing again, that's all."

I sighed. Karma was obviously something very heavy, I thought, if it stopped you climbing rocks. I went to ask my sister, Anthea, about it. Anthea is nearly ten years older than me, and she was very learned even then. She was sitting over a line of open books on the kitchen table, with her long black hair trailing over the page she was writing notes on. "Don't bother me now, Con," she said without looking up.

She's growing up just like Mum! I thought. "But I need to know what karma is."

"Karma?" Anthea looked up. She has huge dark eyes. She opened them wide to stare at me, wonderingly. "Karma's sort of like Fate, except it's to do with what you did in a former life. Suppose that in a life you had before this one you did something bad, or didn't do something good, then Fate is supposed to catch up with you in this life, unless you put it right by being extra good, of course. Understand?"

"Yes," I said, though I didn't really. "Do people live more than once then?"

"The magicians say you do," Anthea answered. "I'm not sure I believe it myself. I mean, how can you check that you had a life before this one? Where did you hear about karma?"

Not wanting to tell her about Stall Crag, I said vaguely, "Oh, I read it somewhere. And what's pulling the possibilities? That's another thing I read."

"It's something that would take ages to explain, and I haven't time," Anthea said, bending over her notes again. "You don't seem to understand that I'm working for an exam that could change my entire life!"

"When are you going to get lunch then?" I asked.

"Isn't that just my life in a nutshell!" Anthea burst out. "I do all the work round here and help in the shop twice a week, and nobody even considers that I might want to do something different! Go away!"

Conrad's Fate. Copyright © by Diana Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones (1934‒2011) wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards—and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter—her books are filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy.

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Conrad's Fate (Chrestomanci Series #5) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the last Chrestomanci book I had to read. When I started it, I didn't know it had Christopher (the Chrestomanci who is in most of the other books) as a teenager in it. I loved every Chrestomanci book I read, and this one was no exeption. All about Conrad Grant/Tesdinic, his very twisted family, and his 'Evil Fate,' this book kept me interested from the 1st page to the last. This book has magic, alternate realities, changing probabilities, and secret identities. The ending was quite a surprise to me when the reader discovers who else is related to Conrad. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and highly recommend this book.
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No, this was a reference point. But we could use it from now on as a conversation book. No, we're meeting with Ghoststar at Entropy by Leonard Allen.