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The Pinhoe Egg: 03/29/13
target="_blank">The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones is the sixth of the Chrestomanci series. Near Chrestomanci's, there's a pair of feuding families — both secretly magic users. Things come to a head when the matriarch of the Pinhoes is forced out of her home and into a retirement home. Uprooted from her home, a long lost egg is found and ends up in the care of those living at Chrestomanchi's manor — whilst he (as always) remains oblivious.
Coming off the excitement of reading the very satisfying and tight Conrad's Fate (book five), I couldn't wait to jump into The Pinhoe Egg. But the lengthy (and seemingly never ending) open scene of the Pinhoes trying to remove the matriarch soured me to the rest of the book.
I had a feeling these Pinhoe scenes were supposed to be funny — as so often baddies of lower socio-economic status are played up to be. But these sorts of baddies — who are always invariably bumbling but somehow super resilient — end up being forced caricatures, rather than being either funny or fully realized characters. The Pinhoes are the worst of the worst of this sort of character type.
So every scene involving either the Pinhoes or their rivals ended up being an excruciating chore to read. Eventually I got to the point of skimming / yelling at the Pinhoe scenes (as my husband can attest to).
Woven around all this Pinhoe padding, is a novella of Cat and his friendship with a couple of the more normal members of the rival families. They help clean out the old Pinhoe home which has layers upon layers of hidden magic, hiding even darker secrets. Among all this, they find an egg. It hatches under extraordinary circumstances and that helps them to finally piece together the long lost history of a terrible tragedy that had befallen the valley centuries ago.
Frankly if Jones had started with that tragedy and played it straight up, rather than trying for comedy, the book would have been a fantastic ending to an otherwise charming series. As it stands, though, it's by far my least favorite of the books even though it has some of my most favorite characters in it.