I started out by thinking that the obvious answer is Millie, from the Chrestomanci books, but actually, the more I think about this, the more there are fantastic supporting characters in all of Jones’ books. Jones does sibling relationships particularly well, so I always enjoy the siblings in her books, such as Awful (real name Anthea) in Archer’s Goon, and Julia and Roger Chant in Charmed Life and The Pinhoe Egg, or Taqui’s brothers and sister in The Spellcoats, or Martha and Lettie, Sophie’s sisters from the Howl’s Moving Castle books.
I also really enjoy those books with ensemble casts, where no one person really dominates the narrative, such as The Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin – though I do really like Blade, Elda and Claudia, in particular – it’s so hard to pick out single characters because they’re also so beautifully drawn – even brainless but beautiful student Melissa in Year of the Griffin is more than just a stereotype. In The Ogre Downstairs, the children in both families are distinct and their relationships, at first, and later, as the adventure progresses, are realistic and moving.
Then there are some fascinating supporting characters in The Merlin Conspiracy, both in Nick’s and Roddy’s narratives, such the powerful wizard Romanov, or Pudmini, a delightful elephant Nick befriends, or Roddy’s outwardly imposing grandfather Gwyn – and that’s not to mention the villainous characters (about whom more in a later post). Nick is also interesting because he’s a supporting character in Deep Secret but a main protagonist in The Merlin Conspiracy. Jones tends not to do this except with Chrestomanci, who turns up most often as a supporting character in several books, such as Witch Week or The Magicians of Caprona, since he’s a main character only in The Lives of Christopher Chant and Conrad’s Fate – this makes sense, since her main characters are usually children, and making an adult Christopher a main character wouldn’t work.
So maybe I should say Millie anyway! ‘Milly’ started off life as Chrestomanci’s wife in Charmed Life, and at first Gwendolen thinks (and the narrative colludes in this misapprehension) that she’s a plump nonentity; kind, certainly, but one who can be disregarded. By the end of the book, however, she’s revealed to be a powerful witch. Then, when Jones investigated Chrestomanci’s earlier life in The Lives of Christopher Chant, Millie appears as The Goddess, the Living Asheth, who Christopher befriends and for whom he obtains girls’ school stories, and who later helps him rescue Tacroy. As an older girl she turns up in Conrad’s Fate, having run away from her Swiss boarding school, and become trapped in the shifting probabilities around Stallery. Millie is an interesting character in her own right, as well as how she and Christopher relate to each other – there’s a lovely bit when she and Conrad, annoyed by Christopher’s overbearingness, tear his character to shreds:
“… He is lazy, you know. He hates having to learn facts. He knows he can get by just pretending to know – bluffing, you know. But the thing that really annoys me is the way he never bothers to learn a person’s name. If a person isn’t important to him, he always forgets their name.”
When Millie said this, I realised that Christopher had never once forgotten my name – even if it was an alias. It suddenly seemed to me to be rather mean, talking about Christopher’s faults when he wasn’t here to defend himself.
“Yes,” I said. “But I’ve never known him do anything really nasty. I think he’s all right underneath. And he makes me laugh.”
“Oh, me too,” Millie agreed. “I do like him. But you can’t deny that he’s maddening a lot of the time …”
Conrad’s Fate, pp 308-309 (2005 hardback)
And she’s lovely in The Pinhoe Egg, too, comforting Janet when she discovers she’s afraid of horses, performing small protective magic, and generally being there in the background to help clear up messes.
So there you go: Millie Chant, one-time Goddess, powerful enchantress, and all-round nice person.