Friday, March 13, 2020

Castle in the Air

My very old copy, from the UK
Castle in the Air, by Diana Wynne Jones

Happy Friday the 13th!  Somehow that seems appropriate for a story that features bad luck and black cats pretty largely.


I chose to read Castle in the Air partly because it's never been one of my favorites, so it's been a while since I read it, but I still like it enough to revisit it every once in a while.  This is the second book in the moving castle trilogy with Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer, but you can't tell for quite a while.

If you're unfamiliar with the story, it starts with the carpet merchant Abdullah, who escapes the nagging of his extended family members by daydreaming, until he purchases a magic carpet that takes him on some unexpected adventures involving a genie in a bottle, a legendary bandit, adorable (and scary) cats, a couple of djinns, and an actual castle in the air.  And of course a princess, who is both lovely and whip-smart.  Actually there are a lot of princesses, of all kinds!

I love that this story takes its title literally and has so much of the DWJ theme of having things come true and hit you.  The genie's goal is outright to make any wishes he grants go horribly wrong for the wisher.   Abdullah has ridiculous, fanciful daydreams, and is dismayed by having to live them out in reality.  Even the djinn finds out that his dream of kidnapping a hundred-plus princesses is no picnic.  (If you're new to DWJ, she said that it sometimes actually did happen that something she'd written would come true at her.)

There are things I don't love about this story, though.  It just doesn't feel as ....real?  gripping?  as most DWJ stories.  It doesn't seem to have the depth, somehow.  And, this is the story where her dislike of pudginess comes through most clearly.  It strikes a sour note.  Still, I'm pretty happy to read it every so often, and I do enjoy the antics of Calcifer and Howl, as well as Morgan's utter outrage at being a baby.


3 comments:

Lory said...

I do like that cover. The last time I read this book I couldn't help wincing at bit at the appropriation of pseudo-Middle Eastern culture, even though it's a fantasy world and based on literary traditions and so forth. Not as bad as the Calormenes in Narnia, but still.

I know what you mean about not having as much depth... the seams show more than in most of her books, or something. An enjoyable read nevertheless. (The same cannot be said for the third book, which is the only DWJ book I never want to read again.)

Jean said...

Yeah, I know. What are you gonna do.

Interesting that you don't like the third one; it, too, has its flaws but I like it better and re-read it more often. I think the lubbock is one of the scariest creatures she ever invented. (Well, she didn't invent a lot of creatures, and usually stuck to humans, but you see what I mean...)

Lory said...

The book was okay, but the Lubbock traumatized me. It embodies a brand of nastiness that I don't care to give any headspace to. Fortunately, that is the only DWJ book which contains it, so I can happily reread all the others.