Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways: two original sequels to Howl’s Moving Castle

This is the second article I write about the Moving Castle trilogy. In the first one, I focused on the first novel, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the differences it displays with the film by Hayao Miyazaki (if you haven’t read it yet, click here to do it).

Today I want to talk about the two other books in the saga Diana Wynne Jones created: Castle in the Air (1990) and House of Many Ways (2008). I warn you: if you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading now!

Set in the imaginary reign of Zanzib, a country which resembles the Arabic ones, Castle in the Air displays the adventures of Abdullah, a carpet-seller who daydreams all the time about being a prince and meeting a beautiful princess. One day, a stranger arrives at his shop and sells him a magic carpet. That night, Abdullah goes to sleep on the carpet and wakes up to find himself in the garden of the Sultan. There, he encounters Flower-in-the-Night, the Sultan’s daughter. They meet a couple of times again and then they decide to get married but, unfortunately, the girl is kidnapped by a djinn.

This sets the story in motion: Abdullah travels to find her, which he does, thanks to the help of various characters such as Sophie and Howl Pendragon.

The third and last book of the saga, House of Many Ways, focuses on Charmain Baker, a young girl who has to look after her uncle’s house. She soon discovers the place is enchanted: the doors can lead her to different places, including the Royal Palace, and various time lapses. Her dream is to work as a librarian: she obtains a temporary job at the Royal library, which will get her involved in the resolution of some financial problems of the king and his daughter. She will have to solve some mysteries together with Howl and Sophie.  

I really enjoyed reading both books. The idea of changing the setting not sticking with the first novel is quite original and, connected to that, seeing everything with other perspectives than Sophie and Howl’s ones is an innovation, too. To be honest, the concept of not seeing Sophie and Howl that much scared me at first, as they are the main characters of my favourite novel of the saga (the first one). But I have to say that the final products really work for me!

Despite the fact that, as I said, the Pendragons don’t appear as much as they did in the first book, they are well-characterised. First, we learn they are not a conventional couple: they keep fighting all the time and they never agree on anything. Still, they love each other very much and, in Castle in the Air, we find out they had a child together, Morgan.

We get to see quite some transformations in the two stories: in the second one, Sophie is turned into a cat by Howl to protect her from the evil djinn that took hold of their castle. In House of Many Ways, Howl turns himself into Twinkle, a ridiculously beautiful toddler. Funny thing about it is that Sophie hates this disguise – and she does nothing to hide it!

In addition to that, what I liked the most is the depiction of the main female characters. In my last article I focused on Sophie and wrote why I believe she represented a good example. In Castle in the Air, on the other hand, there is Flower-in-the-Night. At the beginning, she looks like a shy and naïve girl (when she first sees Abdullah she mistakes him for a woman, for she has never seen other men than her father – so she believes all men are like him), but she is actually quite rational, logic and clever. When, at the end, the characters have to get rid of the djinns, she’s the one who solves the situation. She’s also fair: she promises the Genie (who is, in fact, Howl himself) to wish him free after everything is over, and she does.

House of Many Ways’ Charmain Baker is an unconventional main character instead. She’s spoiled, she doesn’t even know how to boil water for tea, she’s not patient at all, she screams as a reaction for everything (she will also discover that her magical power lies in that – screaming to get things and people to do what she wants).  

On the other hand, she’s very smart, she owns huge powers – even if she’s not aware of them at first, she fights against her mother for her independence and she’s a total bookworm. When she finds herself in a stressful situation, she feels the urge to stop and read something to calm down and set her mind up. I have to say I can relate to her a lot!

Charmain’s character and the location of the third novel (the realm of High Norland, surrounded by mountains) are the elements that make House of Many Ways my favourite book between the two sequels. Of course, this is just my personal opinion: the stories we read strike us in different ways, depending on our taste and sensitivity.

Objectively, I have to say that Diana Wynne Jones was capable of creating two excellent sequels, with original ideas and unpredictable elements.  

So, have you read Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways? If not, what are you waiting for? Let me know with a comment what you think of them and of my article!

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