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I read this book in the late 80s or early 90s. It was about a boy growing up, dreaming that he was visiting other worlds. The dreams stopped when he started wearing a silver dental appliance (silver disrupted his magic powers). He has an uncle who tells him to stop wearing the dental appliance, exclaiming "What's wrong with crooked teeth?"

Later in the book, he learns about his magic and his nine lives, with a major plot point being that his lives are scattered throughout the worlds. He goes to find them again, and in the process he summons fire to defeat a trickster who is holding one of his lives hostage.

The scene with the trickster also features an army of clones that the boy has to look over to pick which one is genuine.

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Not an uncle, but a tutor... the uncle wasn't nearly as nice – sq33G Feb 16 at 9:38
    
partial duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/81466/… (which includes this in the context of a multi-part answer) – Otis Feb 23 at 4:03
up vote 16 down vote accepted

This is "The Lives of Christopher Chant", part of the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, first published in 1988. As you recall, Christopher can travel to other worlds in his dreams, these worlds have split off from his own when historical events could go in different ways. Normally people have alternate personas in these Related Worlds, but sometimes all the lives are concentrated in one person, in one world, making them a powerful nine-lived enchanter, as Christopher discovers he is.

His uncle recognises the usefulness of his dream travelling and gets him to help another, weaker, traveller (Tacroy) into the worlds, so they can acquire magical items from them. At first Christopher thinks this is fun and enjoys it, but later realises that they are smuggling illegal items such as "fishy-smelling parcels" from a world where he has previously played with mermaids. The work is dangerous too and he loses several lives this way, eg burnt by a dragon. When he loses a life in a dream world, he dies in the same way in the real world. He meets a young girl who is the personification of the Goddess Asheth. Christopher is killed by a spear through the chest in this world, wakes up in bed in his own world and is then killed by a curtain rod falling and piercing him through the chest. He is sent to boarding school, but his father takes him out and starts getting him trained so he can restore the family's fortune (which his father has squandered.) Soon after he is moved to Chrestomanci Castle to be trained as the next Chrestomanci.

He travels to other worlds in pursuit of another enchanter's lives, not his own. Gabriel de Witt is the nine-lived enchanter that he is being trained to inherit the title of Chrestomanci from. The big confrontation with tricksters that you recall is on Series Eleven, which is where his friend Tacroy comes from.

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This is exactly it, thank you! – Brian Feb 16 at 16:42

The Lives of Christopher Chant, by Diana Wynne Jones. It's one of her Chrestomanci series. Chrestomanci is an enchanter with 9 lives; he is someone whose other personas in alternate worlds do not survive, giving him all their powers.

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Nailed it. Thank you! – Brian Feb 16 at 18:32

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