The DWJ Project: Castle in the Air
I remember picking this book up when it hit the shelves, and being delighted when I saw that it was a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle.
I also remember being really, really confused as to how it could possibly be a sequel. For more than half the book, the only visible connection is a couple of passing references to Ingary. (There’s much more than that going on, of course, but it doesn’t become obvious until fairly late.)
For that first half or so, the real connection is more a matter of style. Just as Howl’s Moving Castle played around a bit with fairy-tale tropes — eldest of three, setting out to seek one’s fortune, etc — Castle in the Air plays around with tropes from the Arabian Nights. Abdullah is a very different character from Sophie, and his conflict is likewise different; the story is more centrally about him solving his problem (and dealing with a larger one in the process), rather than Sophie solving a larger problem (and getting her own resolved in the process). But there’s a similar feel to the two stories, and I’m quite fond of Castle in the Air, if not so fond as I am of the original.
On to the spoilers!
Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer are all there, of course, for quite a lot of the story. I made an effort, this time through, to keep that at the forefront of my mind; normally I get more swept up in Abdullah’s perspective, and lose sight of the underlayer. Turns out that if you pay attention, Howl sounds very obviously like himself — to the point where maybe people who weren’t ten the first time they read it made him after two pages. Calcifer, of course, is harder to spot, and Sophie spends a decent portion of her page time being herself. (I love the touch about Morgan being so hugely upset at not being able to do anything, after getting around as a kitten.)
Oddly, I’m not sure I ever consciously noticed that the soldier doesn’t get a name until after everybody gets sorted out. It’s the style, I think: in folktales, often only the central character gets a name. It never seemed odd to me that the soldier remained “the soldier” for so many pages.
I like Flower-in-the-Night. Abdullah’s response to her ignorance is charming, and her own reaction makes clear the distinction between ignorance and stupidity. She has the former (and mends it), not the latter. And I really appreciate the proactive way she and the other princesses deal with their captivity, playing an active role in their own rescue. Just because the one-sentence description of a plot sounds cliche doesn’t mean the execution of it has to be.
It isn’t the most graceful of sequels, in the sense that Abdullah’s situation doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Howl and Sophie. Hasruel’s entire plot could have been carried off without stealing the moving castle, and then it would have just been a story about Abdullah, which would have worked fine. But I like the random connection. It’s like the “Love and Monsters” episode of Doctor Who, where you get an outside angle on the Doctor’s life. As much as I crave more Actual Howl and Sophie, this is fun in its own way.
House of Many Ways next, to finish off the Howl-related stuff.