As promised, I finished The Castle in the Air this weekend, and so I’m here to review it before my entire life is absorbed by The Bands of Mourning (out tomorrow!).
It’s late, so let me get right to the point.
First, this book follows much in the same vein as the first book. Though Howl and Sophie play much smaller roles, they are present, and they warmed my heart as ever.
This book follows Abdullah, a carpet merchant in far away Zanzib. He’s a man of daydreams, whose childhood was full of disappointment and derision. His father’s only son, he was to follow in his footsteps, except a prophecy at his birth foretold that he would not carry on the carpet business, and would in fact rise above all others in the land.
In Diana Wynne Jones typically cheeky way, this happened both literally and figuratively.
Abdullah’s dreams begin to come true after buying a magic carpet. The carpet whisks him away in his sleep to a beautiful night garden, where an enchanting princess is kept in solitude. Thinking he is but dreaming, Abdullah tells the princess that he is a lost prince, kidnapped at birth and brought to Zanzib to lead a dreadfully mundane life.
But, when Abdullah realizes that the princess, named Flower-in-the-Night, is in fact real, and that they both love one another very much, he is determined to marry her and fly off into the sunset. But, nothing is ever so simple.
A Djinn, leathery and winged, scoops up Flower-in-the-Night, just as she’s running to join Abdullah on his magic carpet, kidnapping her. Abdullah pursues her, and through various mishaps, comes across a Genie in a bottle. This Genie is cantankerous, and overall an unwilling character of the story. He grants a wish a day, but does so in such a way that no matter the wish, something bad will happen.
As Abdullah travels, he arrives in Ingary (home of Howl and Sophie), where he joins the company of an old Soldier, and they travel together to Kingsbury to speak to a Royal Wizard. Along the way the Soldier adopts a cat and her kitten, who wield their own brand of magic.
All of this so Abdullah can reach the castle in the air, which floats disguised as clouds.
Well, they finally all arrive, and it turns out Sophie was the cat this whole time, her kitten being Morgan, her and Howl’s son. They are returned to their proper form, but Sophie’s not giving up until she finds Howl.
So once in the castle, thanks to the magic carpet, Abdullah is reunited with Flower-in-the-Night, and they devise a plan to be rid of the Djinn’s who have captured the various princesses of the world.
In the usual way of Ms. Jones, the final scene play out in a whirlwind of loose ends tying up in fancy, neat bows. You see, once the Djinn’s are vanquished, we see that Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer were in the story all along. Sophie, as Midnight the magical cat, Calcifer as the Magic Carpet, and Howl as the cantankerous Genie!
So, after much turmoil, Abdullah and Flower-in-the-Night are married, but are unable to return to Zanzib, since her father doesn’t approve of the union. So, through some favors and bribery, Sophie and Howl convince the King to appoint the newlyweds and Ambassadors to Ingary. They more or less live happily ever after in a modest house with magical gardens that bloom year round.
And they are visited often by their magical friends.
This was another fantastic tale from Diana Wynne Jones. All the magic, humor, and whimsy of the first book asserted itself in this one. Though no characters can compete for with the love I have for Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer, I found that Abdullah’s patience and adoration for Flower-in-the-Night was endearing and powerful in its own right. I laughed out loud often, and read well into the night, curious to see how everything played out.
But, this one didn’t make me cry, so I can’t rate it quite as high as the first one.
However, I really appreciated the way Howl and Sophie are depicted. Though they are separate through much of the novel, once they are reunited, they are perfect. Just as I remembered them, they bickered good naturedly. Howl teased Sophie, and she yelled at him, though she smiled through it. They argued, and though their voices were in it, their hearts weren’t. Sophie and Howl are two sides of a coin, constantly at odds while relying and depending entirely on the other. Seeing them together, with their child for the first time, and witnessing their subtle admissions of doubt in their new roles was so touching. Despite the magical world in which they live, Howl and Sophie are a very real representation of a married couple.
I love them for that.
But, this story wasn’t really about them. It’s about Abdullah, and his devotion to Flower-in-the-Night. He worked tirelessly to find her, the only man to even attempt a rescue of his princess. And his patience, determination, and devotion all paid off. Since they lived happily ever after.
Talk about the perfect fairy tale!
If you find yourself craving a quick and easy read that keeps you smiling way passed your bedtime, I suggest you give this book a try.
Since I finished Castle in the Air on Saturday, I found myself with spare time before The Bands of Mourning released. Since I didn’t have time for a full book, I read both Saga Vol. 1 and Sanderson’s short story Dreamer. I don’t make a habit of book reviews on short stories, because really, what’s the point? By the time you read the review, you could have just read the story yourself! But, I plan on doing a review for Saga, once I’ve read it in its entirety.
So, not any time soon.
Tomorrow I’m waking up early to hit the bookstore when it opens, that way I have The Bands of Mourning all ready to go before work tomorrow. I figure it will only take a couple of days for me to plow through, and then I’ll be right back with a review.
Until then, Blogland,