Apr 29, 2007

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

I was given this book last Christmas, and it had been sitting on my shelf ever since. Somehow, even though I love Diana Wynne Jones, I hadn't really felt like picking it up. But I’m very glad this challenge finally gave me the motivation to do so. Diana Wynne Jones is a master storyteller. Her characters are loveable and her plots are wonderfully woven, and this book doesn't disappoint.

Castle in the Air is a sequel to the wonderful Howl's Moving Castle, but it’s not a direct sequel. The two books are related in a less obvious way than one would expect. In fact, you don't need to have read Howl's Moving Castle to understand and enjoy this story, though you will probably get more out of it if you have.

This book introduces us to Abdullah, a modest carpet-seller in the Arabian-like city of Zanzib. Abdullah spends his time daydreaming of a different life in which he is a lost prince who goes on adventures. One day, when a mysterious stranger sells him a magic carpet, he begins to live the adventures he had made up for himself. He meets and falls in love with Flower-in-the-Night, but she is stolen by a djinn before his very eyes. He decides to rescue her, of course, and soon enough, he finds himself transported to the land of Ingary (where the story of Howl's Moving Castle took place), and with a sneaky soldier, a grumpy genie in a bottle, and two cats for company.

Familiar characters from Howl's Moving Castle only appear about two thirds into the book, but the way this is done is absolutely brilliant. And by then, Abdullah had become as familiar and as dear to me as the characters from her previous books.

One of the things I love the most about Diana Wynne Jones is the fact that her tone is humorous, but not silly. When she makes a joke, it’s never at the expense of the story itself. If there’s one thing I dislike, it’s when a story is told in a jocose tone that implies that the story itself, the characters and everything being described is nothing but a little bit of silliness. Diana Wynne Jones manages to be light and humorous without doing this at all – her tone reminds me of that of J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit, for example.

Another thing I love is how well she weaves her plots. At the end she picks up every little thread and ties it up perfectly, and suddenly the significance of things you didn’t even realized that mattered fully hits you. This book is no exception. It’s a book where details matter, where observant readers will feel rewarded, and more distracted ones, like myself, will want to re-read it as soon as they’ve finished it. I plan on reading this book again in the next few months, because I can only imagine how enjoyable it will be to see story unfold bit by bit once one has access to the information that is only provided at the end. And more than this I cannot say. I’ll only add that, like the rest of Diana Wynne Jones’ work, this is a book I highly recommend.

Other Blog Reviews:
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6 comments:

  1. Diana Wynne Jones is one of the authors I have yet to read, but keep meaning to. Everytime Neil Gaiman mentions her on his blog I mean to go and pick up one of her books.

    Great review!

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  2. Thanks for the wonderful review! You've made it nearly impossible to resist this one!

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  3. Thank you both.

    It's an honour to know I'm contributing to spreading the Diana Wynne Jones love!

    Quixotic, it was exactly because of Neil that I first decided to read her books, and it's one of those things I'll be forever grateful for.

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  4. I too am one who has heard of Jones for years...heard her praised by authors I admire...and still haven't read one of her books. Its high past time I get to it.

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  5. Carl: do get to it, she's wonderful!

    My favourite of her books is "Fire and Hemlock". It's a retelling of the old ballads of Tam Lim and Thomas the Rhymer, but it's also a contemporary coming of age story, and a very moving book that portrays human relationships beautifully. I need to write a post about it one of these days. I think it's one of those books everyone should read.

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  6. i've been curious about diana wyne jones for a while now and you've made me even curiouser!!

    thanks for the cool review.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.