Saturday, April 10, 2010

Of Flying Carpets and Castles

Castle in the Air

Written by: Diana Wynne Jones

Released: 1990 by Methuen Children’s Books Ltd.

Summary: Far to the south in the Land of Ingary, lives a young carpet merchant called Abdullah. In his dreams, he is the long-lost son of a great prince. This dream is a complete castle in the air, or is it?
Abdullah's day-dreams suddenly start to come true when he meets the exquisite Flower-in-the-Night, daughter of the ferocious Sultan of Zanzib. Fate has destined them for each other, but a bad-tempered genie, a hideous djinn, and various villainous bandits have their own ideas. When Flower-in-the- Night is carried off, Abdullah is determined to rescue her - if he can find her.

Well, I didn’t like this book nearly as much as I adored Howl’s Moving Castle, but I guess that’s what you get most of the time with a companion novel. Of course this wasn’t a bad novel either – I just liked Howl more. There’s something about a snarky wizard that just makes me laugh and want to read and have a small literary crush on him.

This book had an Aladdin feel with the Arabian desert city, oasis’, the entrapped genie, the poor carpet vendor, and the Princess of a Sultan. There’s even a magic flying carpet, just like the Disney movie and the main character’s name is Abdullah… fishy if you ask me. Still, this book for all its similarities is completely different in so many ways that it’s still fun to read. There’s much magical mayhem, just like in Howl, and Sophie and Howl make appearances as their happily married selves.

I found the plot to be up-beat and interesting and the referrals back to elements of the first book in the ‘series’ (if you can really call it a series with only three books… trilogy is maybe better) make it familiar in a nice way. This also helps the reader situate themselves within the Howl realm, which is an added bonus.

The characters are your typical stereotype characters for any fantasy-adventure book involving genies, but they are written in such a way that you really don’t mind it. Plus, there are more than enough surprises thrown in that they keep you on your toes and guessing.

When it’s all said and done, though I didn’t love this as much as the first, I still really enjoyed reading it and finding out what happened after the ‘happily ever after’ of Howl. I’m giving this book a 6/10 – I just wish that there were more of Howl and Sophie – and the language and characters makes it a great read for all ages.

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