Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, Review by Corinne Donnelly
Castle in the Air is the underrated companion novel to Diana Wynne Jones’ beloved Howl’s Moving Castle. While the setting and characters are mostly different, Jones’ clever, albeit short, addition of the characters from the first novel, provide value to an already strong standalone plot. The novel follows Abdullah, a young carpet merchant in the neighboring country of Zanzib. When he comes into the possession of a flying carpet, his once mundane life turns upside down as his lofty dreams rapidly start coming true.
The novel is a fun, wide-sweeping romp through Zanzib, a land ripe with genies, pirates, and djinns, and the already established country of Ingary. The main character, Abdullah, while a daydreamer, works very hard and has an active imagination which never fails to entertain. The companions he meets during his journey are just as interesting. A belligerent genie who twists others’ wishes to his pleasing, a cat-loving soldier from the nearby country, Strangia, and a mother cat and her kitten are just a few of the many travelers Abdullah befriends along the way.
Similar to Howl’s Moving Castle, magic also plays a significant role in the novel, although there is a larger emphasis on the exotic, particularly prophecy. Both Abdullah and his love interest, Flower-in-the-Night, live under the constant pressure of prophecies made at their births, which add an element of mystery to the plot. Will their prophecies come true, and if they do, will they play out in predicted ways?
Surprising twists and turns are a common element in Jones’ work, so expect a few throughout this novel too. The plot and timeline are very straight-forward, but don’t let their simplicity fool you.
If you love Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer from the first novel, there will be moments where you will wish they appear more often. Don’t get frustrated when they don’t appear right away. Most importantly, don’t put the book down for this reason! I promise their eventual appearance will be worth it.
Diana Wynne Jones’ Castle in the Air is a rollicking adventure filled with new faces and familiar friends. As Abdullah sets out on his quest of discovery, keep your mind open to the peculiar. You may learn a thing or two.