Charmain has so far lead a sheltered life, going to the most respectable school, keeping her hands clean and reading many books. So when she finds herself ordered to look after her sick Great Uncle William’s house, she finds herself a bit lost – even with his unearthly directions. Charmain finds herself going in every dimension, but then things are complicated further by the arrival of Peter and a Lubbock.
I’d recommend this novel again for teenagers, and older children. At times it can be quite scary for a young child, so I would advise supervised reading.
‘Castle in the Air’ is officially a sequel to ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, however to me it is more like a loosely connected novel in the same world. Sophie and Howl play minor parts as themselves, although they do feature in the text playing interesting roles.
The novel concerns Abdullah, a young carpet dealer who spends his time daydreaming about a princess. Much to his surprise, he finds himself one night floating on a magic carpet to the castle (and princess) of his dreams. Some laughter occurs, as the princess accuses him of being a female. However they both sort out their differences, and things are going along smoothly until Flower-in-the-Night is snatched away.
The narrative builds quickly, and the reader finds themselves enjoying Abdullah’s relationships and personality more as the plot progresses. This is a fast paced narrative that crescendos to a satisfying finish with many unexpected twists.
This novel is likely to suit younger readers for being read aloud to, and for teenagers. I’m not so sure of its appeal to adults, but if you enjoyed ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ it’s probably worth reading.
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ concerns Sophie Hatter, the eldest of three daughters. While technically she should have been an ugly sister (the youngest sister is the product of a second marriage), instead she is just boring, and bored with her life. The whole town fears Howl, the resident ‘wicked’ wizard. Sophie goes out to visit her sisters, and meets Howl. The required ‘baddy’, the Witch of the Waste, takes a dislike to Sophie and casts a spell on her. Sophie isn’t the kind to give up easily, and she chooses to chase Howl instead.
‘Conrad’s Fate’ concerns Conrad Grant, a boy with a horrible fate that is ordered by his uncle to go and destroy another person who is purported to be causing all Conrad’s bad luck. This is complicated by the presence of multiple other magics in the mansion where he finds himself serving as an Improver (footman). Conrad and Christopher Chant (from ‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’) explore the mansion and the changing possibilities, often with quite humorous results. As usual, the Chrestomanci must step in at the end of the novel to save the day.
‘The Pinhoe Egg’ was really very enjoyable – who doesn’t love griffins? I empathised with the main characters, and enjoyed the struggle of the various witches vs enchanters. I found it a bit confusing to read straight after ‘Conrad’s Fate’, but by around half way through the book I started following on again. The ending could be seen as a little ambiguous and disappointing – but only because you longed to hear more about Cat and Marianne Pinhoe.
Having now read all 6 books in a row (I’m waiting to get my hands on ‘Mixed Magics’ a book of short stories set in the same world) I’d have to say I would have preferred to read them in strict chronological order. The order I would suggest (and will reread them myself in this order) is:
- ‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’
- ‘Conrad’s Fate’
- ‘Charmed Life’
- ‘Witch Week’
- ‘The Magicians of Caprona’
- ‘The Pinhoe Egg’
Books 1 and 2 are about Christopher Chant, Books 4 and 5 have only a secondary role of Christopher Chant as Chrestomanci and Books 3 and 6 involve Cat (Eric) Chant.
The second novel ‘Witch Week’ is still light hearted in tone, but deals with heavier issues, such as bullying and individualism. The four main characters who happen to be witches cause mayhem in school. This is in a world which burns witches where the worlds have no split correctly. It is a problem that only the Chrestomanci can solve, but he needs a lot of help as he’s out of his home world. Again, the Chrestomanci element comes in only at the end of the narrative to save the day.
It is the vivid characterisation that makes this book, rather than extensive descriptions of Larwood house. I would probably recommend this book for ages 12 and up due to the somewhat contentious themes.