For fans of Howl’s Moving Castle, have you read House of Many Ways yet? It’s the sequel to Howl and I must say a right smashing one. The style is very different–much more sparse than Howl, as I recall, though it’s been a few years since I read Howl and I’m always getting the most excellent book mixed up with Miyazaki’s equally excellent but extremely different anime interpretation, which I checked out from the library at the same time as the new book. I do remember the reading of Howl to be a much longer, more complicated reading experience than reading House (i.e., the story was less linear, the language more complicated, as I remember it).
However, different does not equal bad. In this case, it is a far, far better appelation I seek. It’s set in another country in Howl and Sophie’s world, and though Howl and Sophie do make significant appearances, it’s not their story–their story has been told and they’ve gotten their happily ever after (if one can be s
aid to be had for anyone in Diana Wynne Jones’s worlds–there’s always something after the end of her stories!), and this story is about another girl, Charmaine, who isn’t quite so endearing as Sophie was–in fact, she’s rather annoying–in a good way! Jones is great at writing annoying characters that you cheer for. She’s sent to watch over her great-uncle-by-marriage’s house, who happens to be a wizard. Being a wizard, the great-uncle’s house does have some surprising magical qualities of its own that grow in magnitude (well, they don’t actually grow, but the characters’ perceptions of them grow) over the course of the book. But Charmaine doesn’t really want to be helping her wizard great uncle; she wants to work in the royal library, and she gets a surprising reply to her letter that invites her to help the princess and the king sort through some royal papers to solve a mystery.
Add in danger from a lubbock and possible lubbockin, fantastic and mean creatures that live up on the hills and prey upon humans, and Charmaine’s adversarial relationship with her great uncle’s apprentice (whose name I can’t seem to find and I’ve already returned the book), and it all comes together quite nicely.
In googling the book, I realized that Castle in the Air is also set in the same world, which I didn’t r
ealize before. Well, then! I’ll just have to do some more reading!