Howl’s Moving Castle Readalong: Castle in the Air

I’m changing the name of the readalong for clarity’s sake. Also, whereas we read Howl’s for a direct comparison to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, we’re basically reading the rest of the Howl series just because they’re fun and we can.

I hope, Squiders, that you didn’t have as many issues as I did trying to track down Castle in the Air. I checked multiple library systems, including the Kindle Lending Library, several used bookstores, and several not-used bookstores (we had that conversation already). I finally had to buy it off of Amazon.

(All the libraries have the third book, The House of Many Ways, but now I am wondering if I should just buy it so I have the whole set.)

Ah, Castle. I think, the first time I read it, I was just reading Diana Wynne Jones books because I never had until Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle came out and I didn’t realize it was related at all until, you know, near the end when you suddenly have Sophie and you’re a bit confused about what just happened. I think it’s more confusing if you don’t know that the books are related before hand. And I suspect it is even more confusing if you haven’t read Howl’s previously.

I have complaints. Whereas Howl‘s plays on the traditional fairy tale tropes, Castle tries to do the same with your Arabian-Night styled tropes, and I feel that instead of twisting the cliches, it just falls prey to them. There’s your typical genies and magic carpets and djinns and sultans, and maybe the twist is supposed to be that a lot of them are enchanted people, but it doesn’t quite work out.

Also, the plot feels kind of hodge-podge. Like she had this idea for the story of Abdullah and Flower-in-the-Night but couldn’t quite get it to go by itself, so she mixed in elements from her Howl’s world and kind of stuffed things wherever they would go.

(Also, I could remember from the first reading that the carpet and the genie were Howl and Calcifer, but I couldn’t remember which was which, and I guessed the other way around from how it actually was, because it seemed to me that Howl would like to be flattered with pretty language and that it would just piss Calcifer off.)

(Also, Prince Justin apparently can’t go more than two feet outside of Kingsbury without getting enchanted.)

And I am annoyed that Sophie, despite being an excellent mother as a cat, suddenly is all timid and incompetent when faced with a human baby. Nrrrgh.

There are things I liked, though. I like the end rather a lot, and I like that the princesses are reasonable, useful people instead of just being in the way or being helpless. I like how everyone had to work together to get rid of the djinns. I like Jamal and his dog. And I like the epilogue.

…so apparently I only like the last quarter of the book. Hm.

What did you think, Squiders? Do you feel like the book was successful at its attempt to be a twist on the Arabian Night stories?

We’ll read The House of Many Ways for the end of July. I haven’t gotten around to reading that one yet, so I’m interested to see how it goes. I’m hoping it gives us more of a look at how Howl can cross from our world to Ingary and back again.

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