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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

This book is labeled on the cover as a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, and while that is the case, it's not a typical sequel. Many of the main characters show up again, although not where you expect them, and not in ways you will necessarily recognize, at least at first. The main story centers on a young carpet merchant named Abdullah whose daydreams (good and bad) start coming true after he is given a magic carpet. But then the princess he has fallen in love with is stolen away by a djinn, and Abdullah must do whatever he can to recover his beloved-- traveling to a strange land with interesting companions to find the castle visible in the sunset skies where the djinn has taken hostage many princesses from all over.

Like many of Diana Wynne Jones other books, this is a delight to read. Abdullah in particular is always complimenting people in ridiculously flowery language (because that is how he is used to negotiating in the marketplace of Zanzib), until he learns that some people (like the genie in a bottle he's carrying around) prefer a more straight-forward approach.

The djinn who is stealing all the princesses, Hasruel, is actually a good djinn who has been enslaved by his brother, a half-wicked djinn. He is forced to do these deeds, but everywhere he steals a princess he sets up a lover he hopes will come to her rescue. It eventually becomes clear that Hasruel is having a great deal of fun playing this game (almost like a huge kind of chess game, with human pawns at stake across a board spanning many countries).

It was a delight when familiar characters started showing up-- particularly Howl and Sophie still arguing all the time, but happy that way, in love and now with a new son. When I finished the book and discovered the twist about where these characters had been hiding from the evil djinn (because he stole Howl's magical castle), I almost felt like reading the book straight over again, so I could pay proper attention to them. I'll have to read it again sometime soon.

Title:Castle in the Air
Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Date published:1990
Number of pages:298


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