Emma's Reviews > Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
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's review
Feb 16, 2008

really liked it
Read in February, 2008

"Castle in the Air" is Diana Wynne Jones' sequel to her amazingly awesome novel "Howl's Moving Castle." It was originally published in 1990 (four years after "Howl's Moving Castle"). At first glance, this novel doesn't sound like a sequel--it sounds more like a companion book at best--but I promise it does explain more about Howl and Sophie, just not right away and not, perhaps, in the most obvious way.

That said, this story is set in the Sultanates of Rashpuht a land far to the south of Ingary (where Howl and Sophie make their home). Instead of a land akin to King Arthur and Merlin, Rashpuht is much more likely to harbor Aladdin and other desert-dwellers. This change in setting, along with a new protagonist, make for the most dramatic differences between "Castle in the Air" and its predecessor.

Abdullah works as a carpet merchant in the city of Zanzib. Abdullah's stall may not be as prosperous as his father's first wife's relatives would like, but Abdullah can't stand most of them so he doesn't worry too much. What really bothers Abdullah is the fact that he's selling carpets at all. Abdullah is convinced there is more to life and spends a good deal of his time daydreaming about what his life could be like if, say, he were a prince who had escaped bandits and disguised himself as a carpet merchant before he found his true love.

All in all, the young man doesn't give his daydreams much thought until he is sold a mysterious carpet. With the carpet, Abdullah finds that all of his dreams seem to be coming true with alarming accuracy. Whisked to a magical garden, Abdullah meets and falls in love with the beautiful and intelligent Flower-in-the-Night only to have her abducted by an evil djinn. So begins Abdullah's adventure as he and his carpet set off to rescue his true love.

This being a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, the plot is filled with charming twists and enjoyable characters throughout. The other great thing about this novel is how much Jones fleshes out the world she introduced in "Howl's Moving Castle." As the novel progresses, readers learn more about the relations between Ingary, Rashpuht, and Strangia (a land that becomes important later, trust me). At the same time, Jones also creates a completely new set of customs and even a new diction for her Rashpuhtian characters which gives the novel an impressive depth.

I don't know if this was the intended effect but, even though both novels are written in English, this change in diction also creates the effect that the characters here speak a different language and that, on some level, their customs would be very foreign to those found in Ingary. One of Jones' best inventions is that buyers and sellers in Zanzib always speak to each other "in the most formal and flowery way." This habit creates a lot of conversations that function on a variety of levels much in the same way body language can add to an exchange. For example:

"It is possible that my low and squalid establishment might provide that which you seek, O pearl of wanderers," he said, and cast his eye critically over the stranger's dirty desert robe, the corroded stud in the side of the man's nose, and his tattered headcloth as he said it.

"It is worse than squalid, mighty seller of floor coverings," the stranger agreed.

Exchanges like this appear throughout the novel and make it really enjoyable to read. At the same time this type of double talk suggests that Abdullah is a shrewder narrator than Sophie might have been at the start of the novel. Abdullah doesn't always know exactly what's going on during the novel, but he always tries to make sure he comes out on top (or at least not on a forty foot pole).

On its own, "Castle in the Air" is a lot of fun as far as fantasies go. Read in combination with "Howl's Moving Castle" and "House of Many Ways" (Jones' latest novel featuring Howl and Sophie due out in June 2008) this book is excellent.
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02/18/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Katniss (new) - added it

Katniss Is it at all related to the first book?

Emma Katniss wrote: "Is it at all related to the first book?"

Very loosely. You can read this one without reading the first but if you read in order you'll catch some nuances and recognize some secondary characters.

Gaby *spoiler* towards the end Abdullah mentions having met Howl before, do you know when that happened?

message 4: by Nga (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nga Linh it is horrible that sophia and howl don't show up a lot. i always like sophia and howl. howl was rude when he turned sophia into a cat

Ramona Boldizsar I haven't read your full review yet (afraid of spoiler), but I just finished reading Howl's moving castle and took the second book, desiring to read more of this author's work. However, seeing there was no Howl nor Sophie in the chapters' names, I got scared and wanted to know what's this all about. Your "but I promise it does explain more about Howl and Sophie" made me want to read it. All in all, what I wanted to say is "thanks". I'm going to try this read after all.

Bella Thanks for letting me know that this related to Sophie and Howl, because I was about to give up reading this.

Emma Stick with it if you can. The end sets up House of Many Ways.

message 8: by Naomi (new) - added it

Naomi I really want to read this, but I can't of like the romance between Howl and Sophie and I'm
Scared that will ruin it! Does it?

message 9: by Naomi (new) - added it

Naomi I really want to read this, but I can't of like the romance between Howl and Sophie and I'm
Scared that will ruin it! Does it?

message 10: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma Not at all.

message 11: by Naomi (new) - added it

Naomi Awesome! Totally going to give this a read then! Thank you :)

message 12: by Bookreader (new)

Bookreader I'm kind scared ... I love Howl and Sophia and I don't know if am I going to like that ..

message 13: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma I don't think this will in any way lessen your love of Sophie and Howl. Give it a shot!

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