There is really no reason why this book should work. The main character, Conrad, is not only clueless throughout almost the entire story, he's also an extremely passive character. Christopher Chant, a familiar character from many other Chrestomanci stories, appears to have matured and changed in many ways - but we never really have a chance to settle down with him and get an in-depth look at how he's grown up. There's complicated magic that's never really explained, villains that suddenly appear and disappear, and a giant, traditional, complex organization...that suddenly turns out not to exist.
But it's Diana Wynne Jones and so it works. The reader falls into the story, completely identifying with Conrad's plight and confusion, desperately wondering if he's going to make it. We revel in the glimpses of Christopher's new independence and enjoy looking at his character midway between the confused and unhappy boy of The Lives of Christopher Chant and the elegant, suave Chrestomanci we've seen in so many other stories. The ending is breathtaking in its fell swoops of fate and grand unmasking and the reader still has the enjoyment of speculating on the many background mysteries. While this isn't a Chrestomanci story I'd start with if you've never been introduced to the series, it's a wonderful read for fans.
ISBN: 978-0060747459; Published May 2006 by Greenwillow; Purchased for my personal collection