Castle In The Air by Diana Wynne Jones

So after reading the cutest story I’ve read in a long time, I jumped on reading the second in the series.

Young merchant Abdullah leads a humble life. Or he did until a stranger sold him a threadbare—and disagreeable—magic carpet. Now Abdullah is caught in the middle of his grand daydreams. Waking one night in a luxurious garden, he meets and falls instantly in love with the beautiful and clever Flower-in-the-Night. But a wicked djinn sweeps the princess away right before Abdullah’s eyes, leaving the young man no choice but to follow. This is no ordinary quest, however, for Flower-in-the-Night isn’t all the djinn has stolen. Abdullah will have the so-called help of the cantankerous carpet, a cranky genie in a bottle, a dishonest soldier, and a very opinionated black cat. Will this motley crew be able to find the djinn’s mysterious dwelling and rescue a castle full of princesses?

I’m actually okay with not going directly back to Howl and Sophie, as much as I would love to read more about their adventures. What I’m not okay with is how, frankly, boring Abdullah is as a character. Compared to the eccentric personalities of Sophie and Howl and the extended cast of the first, he pales, so much so, he may as well be a stark white, a #00000, a blank slate.

Okay, so he does have a bit of a personality. Abdullah wants to get Flower-in-the-Night back. Their first meeting was rather adorable, with Flower-in-the-Night, a sheltered woman who has never seen a man before, mistakes Abdullah as a woman simply because he doesn’t look like her father. However, they only get one more meeting before she’s kidnapped and Abdullah goes on a journey to get her back.

On one hand, I was wanting to read a good Arabian Nights-esque tale, on the other, this didn’t scratch it because it’s too much like a traditional fairy tale.

For one, “fate” and “prophecy” is a big recurring theme. I’m okay with this, so long as it’s used as a foil or the characters are on a mission to defy it. But that’s not the case here. They want fate to be true. He’s going to save Flower-in-the-Night because he’s fated to do so, she’s going to marry him because she’s fated to do so, blah blah blah. We all know these types of stories don’t end in a bad way, so basically we’re hearing about the good ending before it happens, during the entire book.

Even if Abdullah is boring, if the supporting cast is good they can make up for it. Sadly, that is not the case. He’s alone for about half of the book then once he gets a companion he doesn’t really trust him. His companion isn’t too much of a fun guy either. He has one good quirk, but it’s not good enough to make up for the shortcomings of him and Abdullah. The genie is entertaining, but he’s also one note — grumpy/moody. They have cat companions, but cats are cats. There’s only so much you can do with non-speaking animal companions.

By time the third act rolls around, things become exciting. Why? Because we’re seeing/meeting characters from the first book. I am happier about seeing those characters for a brief moment than I am anything else in this plot. The final arc/ending is great, mostly because we’ve finally hit that point where Abdullah is with Flower-in-the-Night again, we have the big showdown with the bad guys, and we finally get to see Sophie and Howl again.

But it’s too little, too late.

Even though Abdullah and Flower-in-the-Night (gosh that’s annoying as sin to type out) are cute together, we get four scenes total between them. Three at the beginning, one at the end.

Final Thoughts:

Three things don’t do it for me.

  1.  Fated lovers — Flower-In-The-Night was fated to fall in love and marry the first man she saw.
  2. Quests to get Fated Lovers, even though they only met three times at most before she was whisked away.
  3.  Repeated mentions of this “fate” because they interacted so few times before that they have to repeat this over and over to make it seem like it’s “love”.

Therefore, minus three hearts.


holllywhat My heart scale is defined as follows – 5 hearts = a story everyone will fall in love with, regardless of preferences; 4 hearts = a well-done story that people who love the concept will adore, and people who don’t may end up liking it; 3 hearts = if you like this type of story or this type of hero, then you will enjoy this, but those who do not like either of those things will probably not; 2 hearts = it had potential, it squandered it; 1 heart = just a waste of time from the get-go; 0 hearts = why was this made?

No favorite moments this time  because nothing was worth highlighting. There’s also no fanart to speak of, outside of three pieces that I found. So… that’s about how well loved this book is with the fanbase (let’s be honest, most of us are here for Sophie/Howl, since we fell in love with them first) And perhaps it isn’t //that// bad of a book, but compared to Howl’s Moving Castle and reading this after reading that book, it was a steep hill to climb. I don’t fancy myself ever rereading it, while I do so for Howl’s Moving Castle.


1 thought on “Castle In The Air by Diana Wynne Jones”

  1. Hmm I must say I agree with your review. Abdullah was so boring xD The best part of this book are Howl/Sophie moments ;D

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