Marianne Pinhoe is the only girl among the grandchildren of Gammer Pinhoe, the current clan leader of the Pinhoe clan in the villages around Chrestomanci Castle. Because of this, her relatives apparently assume that when the current Gammer passes on, Marianne will be trained in some way to assume that role, but no one has thought to consult Marianne about whether she actually wants to do so.
Instead of giving Marianne any training, Gammer -- along with all the other adults in Marianne's life -- uses her as a handy servant to run errands, take messages, and generally do little things to make Gammer's life easier. Her mother and father seem to do the same. Her father, Gammer's oldest son, runs a furniture making business with one of his brothers. Her mother is an herb specialist, busy concocting creams and potions from herbs for medical use by every family in the clan. Marianne is continually pressed into service drying herbs for her mother, doing chores for her father, and passing sandwiches for every aunt-by-marriage in the clan at family gatherings.
Her clan practices a kind of magic they call "dwimmer" - a nature magic based on the properties of herbs, animals, and the countless magical creatures, both visible and invisible, who inhabit the woods and fields in the area around their villages. The clan has taken pains to keep this area of magic to themselves, and are very hostile to the idea of ever letting the inhabitants of Chrestomanci Castle know that any of them are magic users.
Marianne is recognized by others -- particularly by Cat Chant, but also by Chrestomanci when he eventually meets her -- as having enchantress-level magical abilities, but the neglect she experiences from family members has left her uncertain of what those might be, other than the knowledge of herbs she's picked up from her mother and from other clan members in general.
Unlike her brother Joe, who is firmly clear about what interests him and what branch of magic he intends to practice, Marianne doubts herself, but throughout this book, she demonstrates a very clear sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, and is an unbiased observer of her Gammer's slyness and selfishness. Although every adult member of the family has been affected by a glamor spell that makes them believe no ill of Gammer, Marianne can see that some kind of willful ignorance is behind this blindness. Unfortunately for her, she's one of the only ones who sees Gammer as she really is, but one that no adult in the family will listen to, because you mustn't speak ill of Gammer.
That same clear vision and practical outlook helps Marianne to accurately evaluate the character of the people around her. Marianne likes or loves the good people she encounters, and is instinctively cautious around those whose self-interest or weakness lead them towards doing bad or unkind things. This seems to be the foundation of her magical abilities, and although the book ends as she is finally beginning to receive the training that her natural aptitudes suits her for, it seems likely that she will develop and deepen those abilities in various ways, and will continue working with her friends & colleagues in the larger world of the Castle to expand their knowledge of her clan's special type of magic.
Alliance with Cat ChantEdit
The Pinhoe Egg chronicles what happens when Gammer falls prey to a malevolent spell from one of the other magical clans in the area, causing events that lead Marianne to form a friendship and eventually an alliance with Cat Chant. Together, they work to protect, learn about, and liberate the world of magical creatures and beings that should have been surrounding the villages and woods around them for generations.
Marianne meets Cat when she is searching for Nutcase -- Gammer's talented black cat who keeps escaping from every room he's locked up in. Nutcase doesn't seem to believe that Gammer has been moved out of her house, which is being sold. Cat comes to the house with Jason Yeldham, one of the Castle magicians, who is searching for a place to settle with his new wife Irene. It turns out that Irene's maiden name was Pinhoe, a fact that predisposes Gammer's family members in her favor. As the Yeldhams look over the house more thoroughly, Cat volunteers to help Marianne find Nutcase, who has gone up to the attics. In the attic, Cat finds the intriguing magical object that gives the book its name, and the story its driving force.