Last of the Chrestomanci books.
Marianne Pinhoe comes from one of several “dwimmer” families, who practice a kind of magic that they keep hidden from Chrestomanci and his establishment. Doing that gets harder, though, when Gammer — the old woman who rules the Pinhoes — loses her wits, and a war ensues between the Pinhoes and the neighboring Farleighs. Marianne also gives Cat Chant a strange egg from Gammer’s attic, which leads to further trouble.
I quite like this one, though not to the degree that I like the ones I read as a kid. It’s . . . pleasantly comfortable, if that makes sense. I enjoy seeing Cat now that he’s found his feet, and Marianne is fun, too, especially since she’s got the “large, boisterous family” thing going on that we saw in The Magicians of Caprona.
As for the spoilers . . . .
My biggest gripe, I think, is that the underpinnings of the plot — the exiling of the hidden folk, the reason why the dwimmer families keep secret — comes a bit too abruptly at the end. It’s a fine idea, but it’s surprising in the context of the Chrestomanci setting, and I would have found it more compelling if it had been threaded in sooner. On a related note, we never really got an answer about Jed Farleigh living for two hundred years, which I would have liked.
I also have to amend what I said above, about the family. Large and boisterous — and also goddamned sociopathic, as it turns out. What they did to Gaffer is simply unconscionable. That, too, comes a bit too abruptly; there are earlier hints about it, of course, but the motivation behind it (linked as it is to the backstory issue of the hidden folk) isn’t quite strong enough to make me see them as people doing something they genuinely thought was necessary and right; they just come across as horrible.
The whole thing with Gammer, though, works pretty well for me — the weird, frustrating, heart-breaking experience of seeing the mind of a loved one go, and the realization that an old matriarch has been manipulating everybody around her, are both dynamics that I can understand and sympathize with. That isn’t easy to cope with, whether there’s magic involved or not.
Finally, I just have to say that the whole “Performative Speech” thing makes my academic self grin, even if the way it’s used isn’t quite what it means in reality.
I think after this I’ll tackle a bunch of the stand-alone novels — but that will have to wait until after I get back from Japan.