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Bought with the book token I won for participating in the Flash Fiction challenge at Mecon.

This is another sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, and for me a better one than Castle in the Air. Not to say the latter is bad, of course - it's just that this one has more of Howl, Sophie and Calcifer in it, returns to the gingerbread fairy kingdom setting of the first novel which I liked so much (though we're in High Norland now, not Ingary), and has a heroine I can relate to more easily. Actually, there's room to get cynical about just how relatable that heroine is: she's a sheltered daughter of Respectable Parents, who thinks she likes nothing better than escaping from the world into a good book, but actually turns out to be rather more competent and capable than she thinks when circumstances require. In other words, she is DWJ's primary readership with all their fantasies fulfilled. But for all that, she's so likeable and three-dimensional that you can't help but forgive the manipulation and fall for her all the same.

As the title implies, the book centres around a magical house (specifically, the cottage of High Norland's Royal Wizard) where space folds over itself in surprising ways, and from which you can get almost anywhere in the kingdom if you know exactly the right way to turn. It made me realise, actually, how particularly good DWJ is at architecture. There's hardly a single one of her books in which a castle, a mansion, a cottage or a hotel doesn't play a central role in the plot - and as a reader, I can see all of them in rich detail. I would recognise Chrestomanci Castle, Stallery Mansion, Hunsdon House, Derkholm or the Hotel Babylon, Wantchester. And the same goes for the landscapes around them, too. It isn't overblown, but the details of them seep into your mental picture bit by bit as you read - and I love that.

I was slightly distressed in this book to find that four characters ended up being turned into animals and then killed by dogs. OK, so they were evil, and lubbockins, and planning to take over the kingdom - but I'd rather hoped they might at least be imprisoned or exiled or turned into stone or something, rather than actually murdered. It wasn't quite what I expected from the Howlverse. Other than that, though, it's a delightful read, with all sorts of brilliant characters. And it seems I've read enough DWJ books now that I even nearly managed to guess the ending. I can't really say what I guessed or what was actually correct without creating spoilers - but suffice it to say that I was right to think that the little dog, Waif, would turn out to be More Than She Seemed.

In short, highly recommended. If you liked Howl's Moving Castle, you'll like this, but even if you haven't read it, this still stands alone very effectively.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 17th, 2008 09:01 am (UTC)
You've intrigued me - I'm off to find Diana Wynne Jones in the library. Any suggestion which one I should try first?
Nov. 17th, 2008 09:06 am (UTC)
Well, Howl's Moving Castle or Charmed Life are where most people tend to start. Both are brilliant, and both lead on to a series of really good sequels as well. But really, any of her stuff is good. You should just browse the relevant section in your library (which I'll warn you now may be either W or J, depending on the individual librarian's preference!), and see what appeals to you most.
Nov. 22nd, 2008 06:24 am (UTC)
Thanks. Have just finished Charmed Life. What an intriguing world, and a lovely tone to the book. For some reason it makes me think that that if P. G. Wodehouse were to write Children's fantasy (and there's a thought to make the mind boggle), the result would be similar. Can't wait to get to some more!
Nov. 22nd, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)
Ah, I'm really goad you liked it! And I think you're right about Wodehouse, too. These two websites will fill you in on some of her other books, if you'd like to explore more of them.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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