Castle in the Air, by Diana Wynne Jones, was published in 1990 by HarperCollins. It is the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle.
Far to the south of the land of Ingary, in the Sultanates of Rashpuht, there lived in the city of Zanzib a young and not very prosperous carpet dealer name Abdullah who loved to spend his time daydreaming. He was content with his life and his daydreams until, one day, a stranger sold him a magic carpet. That very night, the carpet flew him to an enchanted garden. There, he met and fell in love with the beauteous princess Flower-in-the-night, only to have her snatched away, right under his very nose, by a wicked djinn. With only his magic carpet and his wits to help him, Abdullah sets off to rescue his princess.
I like Castle in the Air, even though I don’t think it’s nowhere near as delightful as Howl’s Moving Castle or some of Jones’s other books. It has a classic complex Jones plot, some funny moments, and has all the beloved characters from the first book (minus Michael and Martha) even if they are only in the background for the most part. I think, though, that it was a smart move on Jones’s part: I enjoy seeing characters from an alternate perspective and it would be harder to do a good sequel from the point of view of Sophie than from a new character’s point of view, in my opinion. And Castle in the Air is a much better sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle than Year of the Griffin was to Dark Lord of Derkholm.
A few things did bother me, though. For one thing, I don’t think Abdullah ever told Flower-in-the-night that he actually wasn’t a prince (though he might have done in the end, I can’t remember), although I suppose it doesn’t matter considering where they end up. Also, Sophie’s awkward maternal feelings didn’t make much sense to me, seeing as the first time we see her she’s perfectly fine with Morgan. Then all of a sudden she starts thinking she’s going to drop him or whatever? That doesn’t really sound much like Sophie to me, but it’s different being outside of her head rather than inside.
As a final note, I really do like Jones best when she does the interconnected plots. One of the best things about Howl’s Moving Castle for me was the “everything is important” plot, and Castle in the Air has it too, only to a slightly lesser extent.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“O most excellent of carpets,” he said, “O brightest-colored and most delicately woven, whose lovely textile is so cunningly enhanced with magic, I fear I have not treated you hitherto with proper respect. I have snapped commands and even shouted at you, where I now see that your gentle nature requires only the middles of requests. Forgive, oh, forgive!”
The carpet appreciated this. It stretched tighter in the air and put on a bit of speed.
“And dog that I am,” continued Abdullah, “I have caused you to labor in the heat of the desert, weighted most dreadfully with my chains. O best and most elegant of carpets, I think now only of you and how best I might rid you of this great weight. If you were to fly at a gentle speed—say, only a little faster than a camel might gallop—to the nearest spot in the desert northward where I can find someone to remove these chains, would this be agreeable to your amiable and aristocratic nature?”