House of Many Ways: My favorite DWJ world

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewschildren's fantasy book reviews Diana Wynne Jones House of Many WaysHouse of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Had I realized that House of Many Ways was another sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle it would’ve ended up in my hands even quicker than it did. Nevertheless, it found its way there happily enough, allowing me another visit into my favorite of Diana Wynne Jones’ wonderful worlds.

House of Many Ways features Charmain Baker, an overly sheltered girl strong-armed by her aunt into taking care of her Great-Uncle William’s cottage — which just so happens to bend space and time, leading to any number of places, the royal palace included. Soon she finds herself embroiled in a quest to find the mysterious Elfgift and to stop a devious, murderous creature called a Lubbock. Fortunately (?) for Charmain, she has help: a magician’s apprentice, a woeful dog that just might be magical, and the family of the wizard Howl.

One of my problems (if you can exactly call it that) with these books is I always begin feeling completely unsympathetic to any of the characters involved. But even though she is defined as a fairly unsympathetic sort — spoiled, lazy, cranky — I find myself liking Charmain more from the beginning of the book than any of the other characters in this series. Perhaps it’s because she’s such a bookworm (you wouldn’t be reading this if you couldn’t relate to that, would you?) or because she’s a product of how she was raised. Whatever the case, watching her grow through the events in the book was interesting. Jones is masterful at creating characters that surprise, confound expectations, and grow and change without losing the core of who they are.

A second high point of the book is that Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer make their appearance much sooner than in Castle in the Air. The humor and chemistry of this family is utterly magnificent, and I generally found myself looking forward to the parts when they would reappear. The parts they play add an extra something to a semi-mystery plot that is interesting enough, but not all that much more.

House of Many Ways does slow at times, occasionally spending a bit more time on certain elements than really felt necessary. But even so it retains much of the irresistible, often difficult to define charm of Howl’s Moving Castle.

Published in 1986. Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

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BETH JOHNSON, one of our guest reviewers, discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Beth lives in Sweden with her husband. She writes short stories and has been working on a novel.

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2 comments

  1. I saw this book at the library yesterday, but then realized it was a sequel. Waiting for the first book to come back. :-D

  2. It’s not strictly necessary to read the other books in the series to understand this one, but Howl’s Moving Castle is definitely worth reading.

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