House of Many Ways
Following the success of Miyazaki’s animated adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle, Wynne Jones revisits the Wizard Howl (last glimpsed in Castles in the Air). Bookish Charmaine discovers magical abilities hidden under her family’s veneer of respectability when she is sent to look after her sick greatuncle’s house. Secret routes exist leading to the Royal Mansion of Ingary, and to the dwellings of the Kobolds (who are dwarf-like beings). With the help of a host of interesting characters, including Sophie, Howl and Calcifer, Charmaine discovers that the heir to the throne is a monstrous lubbockin, and that he has been stealing the royal fortune.
Wynne Jones’s style is witty and easy to read and will appeal to all lovers of magical tales. Although it is a sequel to earlier books, it isn’t necessary to have read them to enjoy the story. The ‘many ways’ of the title refer to the mysterious set-up of Charmaine’s Great-Uncle William’s house, which allows the canny traveller to take shortcuts through Ingary and also back in time. Wynne Jones deftly deals with chaotic plot strands and complicated ideas, and the overall result is an entertaining and charming read. However, the ending felt rather rushed, and some of the many ways were perhaps deserving of further exploration.