Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Castle in the Air is a companion to my favorite Diana Wynne Jones novel, Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s not really a sequel but the events in this one occur after Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve had my copy for over a year now, this was given by Evert as a birthday present in 2010.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Abdullah was a young and not very prosperous carpet dealer. His father, who had been disappointed in him, had left him only enough money to open a modest booth in the Bazaar. When he was not selling carpets, Abdullah spent his time daydreaming. In his dreams he was not the son of his father, but the long-lost son of a prince. There was also a princess who had been betrothed to him at birth. He was content with his life and his daydreams until, one day, a stranger sold him a magic carpet.

Diana Wynne Jones’ novels are always a lot of fun, even if they’re written for younger audiences that what I’m used to reading. I think most of her books fall under MG or younger YA fantasy. I wish I knew about her when I was younger because she’s been writing about magic and wizards long before Harry Potter became popular. I probably would’ve loved her books to bits if I read them when I was a child. Castle in the Air is an Aladdin-esque story set in the same world as Howl’s Moving Castle and some of my favorite characters even make an appearance. I mentioned Aladdin because Abdullah lives near a desert, buys a magic carpet and gets to meet a genie. There are glimpses of Howl, Sophie and even Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle in this installment but I still think Castle in the Air stands well on its own. Abdullah is a carpet merchant who loves to daydream. He didn’t inherit his father’s wealth because of a prophecy at his birth. It doesn’t matter because he’s content with his small booth in the bazaar in Zanzib, where he can daydream whenever business is slow. His main source of irritation comes from his father’s first wife’s relatives who keep on trying to tell him what to do with his life. Abdullah gets thrust into one adventure after another when a merchant sells him a magic carpet.

While Howl’s Moving Castle is still my favorite DWJ novel, I still enjoyed reading about the quirky characters in this one. I liked that it had a different setting from Howl and that Abdullah came from a different culture. His way of using flowery language when speaking is unique and he even uses some adjectives that I wasn’t familiar with! Castle in the Air is easy to fall into, the plot moves along at a nice pace and there are a lot of silly and funny moments in the story. I think that assessment is applicable to all of the other DWJ novels that I’ve read. They’re all light and fun – filled with characters who end up in crazy situations that they eventually manage to get out of. If you’re a fan of MG and YA fantasy and you’ve never read any book by DWJ then I recommend that you give them a try soon. I know that she has a lot of fans out there, even her fellow authors admire her work (I know Megan Whalen Turner is a DWJ fan). If you’re familiar with DWJ’s books, I’d like to know what’s your favorite.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Spoilers and Nuts
Teen Book Review Blog

11 thoughts on “Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

  1. LOL. I was annoying the Potter die-hards back in the day because I kept saying “But Diana Wynne Jones wrote about wizards and witches in a British setting long before JKR ever set pen to paper” or “Ursula Le Guin wrote about a wizarding school and a young wizard-in-training three decades before Harry Potter appeared on the scene”… ^^;;

    Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite DWJ book as well. It also helped that when the Studio Ghibli anime (have you watched that?) came out, anime Howl was Studio Ghibli’s first adult bishonen character. *fangirls anime Howl*

    • I really wish I knew about DWJ when I was younger! But Harry Potter is different anyway because it has an urban setting so I feel like it’s still urban fantasy instead of epic fantasy like most of DWJ’s work. Have you read the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud? That’s another magical series set in the UK.

      Yep, I’ve seen the Miyazaki film and liked it as well even though it’s really different from the book. Err what is a bishonen character?

      • I have books 1 and 3 of Bartimaeus (Booksale finds), but haven’t found Solomon’s Ring or book 2 yet. So since I haven’t completed the series yet, it’s in the TBR pile.

        Bishonen/bishounen literally means “beautiful/pretty boy”. It’s a term you encounter in relation to almost every anime show/movie out there, because most of them seem to require a token pretty boy in the cast (or sometimes, *all* of the male characters will be pretty boys, like what we get in most of the Gundam series post-1996, after Gundam Wing came out).

        I grew up on Studio Ghibli films (watched them in Mandarin as a kid, even though I couldn’t understand more than half of what they were saying) as much as I did on the Disney renaissance films of the late 80s/early 90s, so when I heard that Hayao Miyazaki was doing a film version of Howl, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the DVD release. And yes, it’s very different from the book (Ghibli’s film adaptations usually are, just look at what happened with their Tales of Earthsea). Somehow I never imagined Howl’s castle as a huge fishlike monstrosity that looks like it should belong in a steampunk movie. But the movie has a charm all its own, and the sense of wonder that I got from watching it was no less than what I got from reading the book.

      • The Bartimaeus books are available in all major bookstores here so I hope you get a copy of that soon.

        Oh thanks for that definition! LOL I don’t really watch anime so I don’t know a lot about it although I’ve been meaning to watch the rest of Miyazaki’s films because I’ve heard good things. So far, I’ve only seen Howl, and yes, I never imagined the book to be steampunk but that’s how the movie came out.

      • I used to watch a lot of anime in college, but I haven’t kept current on the latest shows. I still watch out for each new Ghibli release though. I mentioned the uniqueness of Howl being a bishonen because frankly, Studio Ghibli isn’t exactly known for its bishonen characters… So the sight of the initial stills released for the Howl movie had me squeeing. A lot. I got the “art of” and “roman album” artbooks as well, so you can understand the level of my fangirlishness for anime Howl.

        If you want to get started watching Ghibli films, I understand that it’s quite easy to find, ahem, dibidi copies in most bazaars. Mine were all bought by relatives from Taiwan or Hong Kong, and I understand that there are region 1 releases in the US, but Ghibli films haven’t been made available locally. I think we must be the only Asian country where kids grow up not knowing who Totoro is…

  2. I loved Abdullah’s flowery way of insulting people. It was hilarious.

    My favorite DWJ book is The Lives of Christopher Chant, though Howl is a close second.

    • Abdullah’s way of speaking was really funny! And it was hilarious the way he thought that other people were rude for not speaking the same way.

      I read Chrestomanci Volume 1 and I liked it but it didn’t became a favorite. Maybe because I read Howl first? Chrestomanci reminded me of Howl in a lot of ways.

  3. I dunno which my favorite its. Loved for longest would be Spellcoats. Most makes me laugh would be A Sudden Wild Magic. Most satisfying over all, probably Howl’s Moving Castle….

    Someday I have to stop reading all these new books and go back to re-reading! It’s been too long…

    • Charlotte, you’re the one who has a dedicated DWJ shelf right beside your bed, right? 😛 Why am I not surprised that you can’t choose a favorite?

      I know how you feel – I really want to reread some old favorites and maybe review the ones that I haven’t featured here on the blog but the TBR beckons.

  4. Pingback: Retro Friday Review: Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones « Bunbury in the Stacks

  5. Pingback: Castle in the Air (mini review) « The Alcove

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