Conrad’s Fate is the second book in Diana Wynne Jones’s Christomanci series.
I was quite surprised when I started reading it, directly after finishing the first book The Lives of Christopher Chant, to find that it was written in the first person. It is in fact the first first person narrated book of Jones’s that I’ve read and I found it rather jarring to be honest.
Conrad, like Christopher in the first book, is a young boy taken for a ride by his ambitious uncle. He is made to believe that he has bad karma from another life because he didn’t kill someone he was supposed to. The only way to set things right is to kill that person in this life. He is sent up to the huge mansion overlooking his town to work as a servant until he discovers who is causing his fate and does away with them. While there, he meets Christopher who is on a secret mission of his own…
I enjoyed the story, and I enjoyed the fact that I was able to get an outsider’s view of the main character in the series, but I found that the narrator seemed to be positioned outside of the action. In a way it is similar to House of Many Ways in this respect – the reader is aware of what is going on even though the reader is never there when important things happen. The result, though, was that it was not nearly as engrossing as the other books I’ve read by the author.
That is not to say that the book wasn’t enjoyable. I still found it highly amusing and reading it so soon after reading the previous book I was able to identify, not only with the narrator (and main character in this book), but with Christopher – the main character from the series, who must have seen a kind of kindred spirit in Conrad.
Still, I felt as though I was watching the action from a distance, the end was tied up far too neatly and I didn’t feel the sense of loss that I have felt with the rest of her books when the story ended and I had to say goodbye to characters. I think I prefer the third person narrative of the other books and hope the next book in the series, Charmed Life, returns to that.