When I was younger, I really enjoyed the Chrestomanci books, by Diana Wynne Jones – I actually re-read them this year, (they’re books 18-23 on the list) and still enjoyed them. However, in my quest for Wynne Jones books (this was pre-internet) I managed to read Castle in the Air, only realising after I had gotten it out of the library that it wasn’t part of the Chrestomanci series.
I thought at the time that it was a standalone book, but midway through realised that it was part of a series. That said, though, it does stand on its own.
In any case, some eleven or twelve years later, I revisited my Diana Wynne Jones fascination, and read all three of the Wizard Howl books over the course of about a week.
The first in the series is Howl’s Moving Castle, which tells the story of Sophie, the eldest of three daughters of a hatter, and thus the one who is destined never to have any adventures (everyone knows that happens to the beautiful youngest daughter, after all). The book is set in a beautifully magic-filled world, and has a variety of charismatic and memorable characters (my particular favourite is Calcifer, the fire demon). It’s a children’s book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, even reading for the first time this year, at the age of 24.
[Calcifer is really cool. Look at his awesome face]
The second is Castle in the Air, which was the one I read when I was younger. The great thing about these books, though, is that even though they’re related, it’s not a prerequisite that you have read the previous one to enjoy the second. Castle in the Air has a far more eastern flavour, reminiscent of 1001 nights. Funnily enough, it didn’t stick in my mind – when I was reading the Chrestomanci books, I remembered major plot points, but I had forgotten everything of Castle in the Air. Still thoroughly enjoyed it.
Once I had read Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, I decided I should then watch the Studio Ghibli adaptation of Howl. I went looking for it, and also found a Ghibli film called Castle in the Sky. Delighted, I watched Howl’s Moving Castle, then moved on to the second film. It had a very different look from the first thirty seconds, so I went a-googling, and realised that, despite the similarities in title, they are not even a little bit related.
However, my googling also revealed that there was a third book which featured Wizard Howl! Hoorah!
House of Many Ways is different again to the first two Wizard Howl books, but no less enjoyable. Wynne Jones had an immense talent with her pen that brought an incredible amount of life to her characters, and I absolutely adored all three of these books (as well as the anime adaptation – very different, but still very enjoyable). Rare indeed that I award it, but all three books get five stars from me, especially if recommending them to a child. I loved them.