Posted by: Lizzie Ross | May 24, 2010

Howl Again

Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones (1990), Harper Trophy, 298 pp.

A sequel where the continuing characters don’t appear for the first 200 pages? Odd, but typical for Jones, where nothing is what you think it is.

The hero of this book is Abdullah, an extremely polite carpet seller who lives in Rashpuht, a sultanate just south of the country we got to know in Howl’s Moving Castle. Abdullah is a dreamer, with visions of finding a princess who will love and marry him despite his lack of royal blood. Flower-in-the-Night is the princess of his dreams.

When a magic carpet falls into Abdullah’s hands, his imaginings begin to come true. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that his imaginings include death hikes across desert sands and run-ins with cruel bandits. Djinns, a genie, a soldier, two cats, and about 30 princesses from various lands help and hinder Abdullah in his efforts to woo Flower-in-the-Night.

Only Jones could give character flaws to a magic carpet. This particular one exhibits smugness when lavished with praise. What kind of language makes a magic carpet feel smug?  Something like this:

O elegant tapestry of enchantment … O carpet compiled of most complex cantrips, I pray you to move at a sedate speed toward Kingsbury, but to exercise the great wisdom woven into your fabric to make sure that we are not seen by anyone on the way….  This carpet … is of an ensorcellment so pure and excellent that it will listen only to the finest of language. It is at heart a poet among carpets.

Luckily, Abdullah has expertise in such linguistic groveling, and the carpet is happy to do his bidding.

This is Jones at her best.


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