Castle in the Air
Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones’ writing gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside; it’s a happy sensation. And every time I read a book by her (which has been happening a lot lately), I wonder why I wasn’t reading her books back when I was 12 or 14 — the age group for which they seem to be intended. On the other hand, I’m glad that she’s a good enough writer that I can find her books just as enjoyable as an adult as I doubtless would have done as a young teen. This sequel of sorts to Howl’s Moving Castle features a young carpet salesman named Abdullah who just happens to find himself involved in the nefarious schemes of a couple of djinns. Before he knows it, he’s off to rescue his One True Love, the princess Flower-in-the-Night, with the help of a magic carpet and a temperamental genie — and finds himself in some very unfamiliar (for him) territory.
The writing in this book is excellent — geared towards a younger audience but without being in the least dumbed-down. The characters are very well-drawn, too — Jones has some excellent insights into human nature, though she employs them in a fairly humorous fashion. I must say I missed Howl and Sophie in their original, er, incarnations — their personalities were probably the most entertaining part of Howl’s Moving Castle (which must be why, personally, I preferred that book to its sequel). But they do make appearances in here, and Abdullah is a likeable character as well — if not quite as quirky. I felt that the plot was perhaps better constructed than in the previous book; there was less randomness and therefore less loose ends to tie off, which made for a tighter structure and a neater conclusion.
Morally, there was less muddled-ness here even than in the still-innocuous prequel, although Jones does seem to favor mind-control spells as a convenient excuse for rascally characters to do rascally things (and enjoy it). There’s definitely a certain charm rather than a sense of nastiness about her rascally characters…make of that what you will. But Abdullah is a good fellow. And the book is at worst harmless, at best a true pleasure.