This book is the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. Howl is still around and so is Sophie, but we don’t see a lot of them in this book.
This book starts out in a land called Zanzib, yes, it’s a middle-eastern type of culture very reminiscent of Disney’s Aladdin or C.S. Lewis’ Calormen. Our main character in this story is a young man named Abdullah who sells carpets, well no surprise there. One day a man brings to him a fairly worn-out carpet telling him that it’s a magic carpet. Abdullah buys the carpet. When he sleeps on it at night he’s taken to a magical place. At first he thinks it is a dream, but it later turns out that it’s real. There is a princess there named Flower-in-the-Night. She’s in a beautiful garden and she has never seen another man besides her father. Abdullah promises her that he will bring pictures of many men to her so she can see what men look like.
He finds himself back at his shop. He collects pictures of men, people thinks he is crazy, but he does it anyway. His family wants to marry him off, but he resists. He finds himself back with Flower-in-the-Night the next evening and shows her pictures of all of the men. They agree to be married. He finds himself back for yet again a third night, but a terrible monster swoops down and takes the princess away. Abdullah finds himself back at the shop where he is summarily arrested. He gets out of jail by calling to his carpet. The carpet breaks him out of jail. He tells his friend Jamal to leave.
Abdullah journeys to an oasis, where he meets a criminal, a fake criminal. There he escapes again narrowly. He also happens to steal himself a genie in a bottle. He meets a companion soon, who is overly fond of a mother cat and kitten he found on the road. The strange thing about the cat is that it can grow very large. They make it to the city where they seek to find a wizard. They have found out from the awful creature himself that his brother is forcing him to do all these terrible things and he is stealing princesses from everywhere and putting them in a castle in the sky.
Abdullah goes to see the wizard he heard about, but the cat goes too. It turns out that the cat is a person and the wizard turns her back; it’s Sophie. The kitten is her son Morgan. Nobody knows where Howl is. They go to fetch the soldier fearing that Morgan has turned back into a human as well, instead of a kitten, but the solider is gone along with the genie bottle. They go after him to the castle in the air on the magic carpet.
At the castle they find many princesses from all over. They formulate an escape plan. Part of it involves the solider they were traveling with dressing up as a woman and part of it involves two dogs. There is chaos and havoc, but finally things are restored. The bad man is told he must leave, but Abdullah sends him away with his would-be two wives. It turns out Howl was there all along and you’ll probably never guess where. Everyone returns to their lives.
What I liked
This story was full of adventure. It does remind me very much of Aladdin and The Arabian Nights. It definitely has this whimsy to it that a lot of stories can’t really hold. If I read about a cat that can change its size at will in another story, eh, but Diana makes me believe that this cat can really change its size at will. She’s already laid down the groundwork previously that would make me believe something like this could happen in her world.
What I didn’t like
While I think stories akin to Arabian Nights are great, I’m not overly fond of them and many of the elements of this story seem rehashed. Who hasn’t heard of a flying carpet? Who hasn’t heard of a jealous sultan or a princess locked away from all the world? Who hasn’t heard of a man who claims to be a prince, but is really not a prince? These are all story elements that come from other stories. Genies in a bottle? It’s been done. Part of this probably stems from my hatred of the movie Aladdin. I do not like that movie. I have seen it so many times that it was practically coming out of my ears and honestly I just can’t stand it. I love Robin Williams and all, but the rest of them–go fly a freaking kite. I don’t like reading Aladdin type stories with Aladdin elements because I hate Aladdin.
This story was also painfully lacking in Howl and Sophie. I find both Howl and Sophie to be interesting even if Howl gets on my nerves a bit by being too much like Sherlock Holmes. I really wish this story had been more about Howl and Sophie. Abdullah is alright, but rather typical. I want to be a prince, Genie, make me a prince. The cats were interesting though.
I did like this book contrary to my complaints. I think Diana is absolutely wonderful at making up places and making a person believe magic could really happen.
Q & A
Do you like the Disney movie Aladdin? If so, should I reconsider?
If you had a cat that could grow larger at will, what things would you devise to keep it off the counter tops?
abdullah, arabian nights type of story, big cat, carpet merchant, castle in the air, Castle in the Air by Dianna Wynne Jones, castle in the sky, cats, dianna wynne jones, flower in the night, flying carpet, howl’s moving castle, sells carpets, sequel to howl’s moving castle
Fantasy, Fiction, Jones-Diana Wynne, Mystery, Romantic Fiction, Young Adult