The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones – I assume The Chronicles of Chrestomanci includes the books about Chrestomanci in the order in which they were written, rather than chronological order. The mention of Christopher Chant helping an Italian boy implies that this one takes place shortly after The Magicians of Caprona. Not sure when it occurs relative to Witch Week, however. That one has to take place after Charmed Life, but otherwise I don’t think it’s too clear. Not that it really matters, but I’m curious about that kind of thing.
The story itself involves the Pinhoes, a family that uses magic and tries to keep it secret from Chrestomanci, despite the fact that their town is quite close to his castle. Part of the tale is told from the point of view of the young Marianne Pinhoe, the only one who seems to realize that the clan’s Gammer is carrying on a war of witchcraft with the neighboring Farleighs. The rest of it focuses on Eric “Cat” Chant, the protagonist of Charmed Life. Marianne gives Cat an egg that turns out to be that of a griffin, and the resulting hatchling ends up threatening the status quo for the Pinhoes and Farleighs. It’s a quite good story, and features griffins and unicorns, which gives it points in my book. There’s also a lesson about sticking to traditions that you don’t really understand, just because they’re what you’ve always done.
One thing I wondered about after finishing this book was the nature of religion in Chrestomanci’s world. We know that he and his family are regular churchgoers, but I don’t think they’re ever specifically identified as Christians. In The Pinhoe Egg, Millie mentions the coming of a religion “full of zeal and righteousness” that “hated witches and hated the hidden folk even more.” This sounds like Christianity, but Millie goes on to say that the adherents of this religion “were conquered themselves, probably by the Romans,” which suggests otherwise. Then again, we ARE looking at an alternate world here, so who knows what order things happened in there, and whether some other religion took on the trappings that we consider Christian in our own world. Millie would certainly know something about bloodthirsty religion, though, being a former living incarnation of the goddess Asheth.