A chaotically magical sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great Uncle William's tiny cottage while he's ill should have been easy, but Great Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland an his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places - the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, to name but a few. By opening that door, Charmain is now also looking after an extremely magical stray dog, a muddled young apprentice wizard and a box of the king's most treasured documents, as well as irritating a clan of small blue creatures. Caught up in an intense royal search, she encounters an intimidating sorceress named Sophie. And where Sophie is, can the Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer be far behind?
I absolutely loved Howl’s Moving Castle, but I hated Castle in the Air, the first sequel. I was a little worried about this second sequel, but it turned out to be so awesome that I’m glad I got over myself and read it!
It’s hard for me to do a coherent review, because a) I’m a huge Diana Wynne Jones fan– she’s my Favorite Author Ever– and reading a new book of hers always makes me giddy, and b) I was so deep into the book I ended up not taking any notes! Whoops. But here’s the basics:
Characters? Lovable (even bratty Charmain and wet blanket Peter). And it’s wonderful that Howl and Sophie play such a large part in the story!
Plot? Magical! (No pun intended. Er, does that count as a pun?)
So yeah, I loved it. However, there were a few things that kept me from giving it a full-on 5/5 rating. The biggest problem I had was that she did that thing she tends to do: all the issues are neatly tied up at the end in a few paragraphs, including any magical teachings that characters will be getting (usually by an older, better wizard/magician/whatever). It’s nice to have everything solved, but at the same time it’d be nice to have a character teach themselves magic for once. Or something a little deviant from the normal ending, y’know? Also, there wasn’t as much character growth as there normally is in her books; Charmain does change, a bit, but no-one else really seems to.
The entire thing seems like it needs a sequel to itself, really. And I certainly would love one! I’d especially love to see what happens with Peter and Charmain (and Waif the dog).
Overall I’d say this is a lovely addition to the Howlverse books, but that’d you definitely need to read at least Howl’s Moving Castle beforehand. Some of the references and characters might not make as much sense if you don’t. Though I suppose you could also get by with watching the movie version, too. (Love that movie, by the way. It’s somewhat different from the book, of course, and I think the book handles the romance aspect a little better, but it’s still a wonderful adaptation. Check it out if you haven’t already!)
Read: February 2009