Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Synopsis: two households, both alike in dignity... Half-joking but the Romeo and Juliet allusions are undoubtedly intentional. Caprona is a fictional Tuscan dukedom where two magician families feud. Furthermore, someone is playing the Montanas and the Petrocchis against each other in an effort to distract both from looming external threats. Just as with R&J, the story is told from the perspective of the children, drawn together by narrative if not always romantic forces. Perspective jumps around but if the story has a main character, it is Tonino Montana who is abducted along with his Petrocchi counterpart, Angelica. As we learn over time, Tonino is a more powerful magician than he or anyone else realizes - a frequent theme in Jones's stories.
Our daughter still claims this series as her favorite and this book as her preference among the bunch. As a result, the real-world Tuscany was high on her wish list for our family trip to Europe last summer. While that didn't pan out, her interest hasn't waned. I enjoyed the story but don't think I would choose it as my favorite. Jones has a wonderful gift for drawing likeable heroes and detestable villains. I also appreciate the prominence of cats this time. She usually favors dogs. However, there are way too many characters to keep track of - so many uncles and aunts! Plus, there's a Punch and Judy motif. That story always creeps me out.
I accidentally read this book out of series order. I realize that might not seem a big deal to most people but it's the sort of thing that drives me crazy! In terms of narrative, the order matters little. Each book is a stand-alone story. The author, though, did have a recommended order. Unfortunately, not every publisher has respected her wishes. The author suggested The Magicians of Caprona as #4, whereas in the edition my daughter owns, it is #3. In my own compulsive brain, reading a series out of order is a far greater sin than leaving it unfinished. I'll need to rectify the situation at some point.