Is This Really a Castle in the Air?

Castle in the Air - Diana Wynne Jones

Since this is the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle, I really wanted to like this book. But I just couldn’t get into it. So the plot goes as follows: a young guy named Abdullah lives in the Sultanates of Rashpuht and sells carpets for living, but dreams of being a prince. By an odd chance, he comes into possession of a magic carpet that flies and that later takes him to a sultan’s daughter, who falls in love with him and is ready to marry him after meeting him only two or three times. Unfortunately, just before the young couple can elope, the princess is stolen by a djinn, and for the rest of the book Abdullah is trying to rescue her.


My problems with the book:


1. Where are Sophie and Howl? I bought the book so I could read more about them. Well, they do come up closer to the end, but the book is not about them, and that was a disappointment.


2. How is this different from other formulaic boy-battles-evil books? It isn’t. And I guess I expected more from Jones after Howl’s Moving Castle.


3. Is this feminism? Jones does address inequalities between men and women here and there, like for example, when Abdullah tells the sultan’s daughter, who is extremely ignorant, that men can marry more than one woman, but women can’t, the girl says, “Oh, that’s unfair.” Then the topic is promptly dropped, and when at the end of the book, a guy—another guy, not Abdullah—marries two women, it is treated as totally okay. O_O


4. Could this book be racist? So, to find the sultan’s daughter, Abdullah travels from the Sultanates of Rashpuht, a southern country where he lives, to Ingary, which is a northern country in the book. And so we get to hear about both places, and the South is shown as a barbaric place ruled by a barbaric sultan while the North has flowers and wizards, and women are not as oppressed, so it’s a really good place.


5. Is the plot logical? So, a sultan’s daughter meets a stranger in her garden who tells her he is a prince, and she falls in love with him and decides to elope with him after seeing him only two or three times. I don’t know—I’m not a sultan’s daughter—but I can’t imagine any princess deciding to just run off with a stranger. I know that’s how usually fairytales go, but isn’t this book the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle that was built on questioning and undermining fairytale tropes?


But apart from these problems, it was a good book. :)