I first read this book because of the title, and also because it’s a sequel to Diana Wynne Jones Howl’s Moving Castle, but mostly for the title. Growing up in a small house I would have loved to have a house with more rooms than it could fit. Jones takes this idea of magical gateways and gives it a practical significance that also creates an intriguing story.
When Charmain Baker is asked to care for the house of her wizardly great-uncle, she is less than impressed. After arriving at his home she finds her task to be much harder than she thought. With one door that can lead to hundreds of places, a dog that has become inseparably attached to her, and a clumsy wizard’s apprentice who shows up on the door one night, Charmain finds that she has her hands full of comical disasters. But her originally simple task takes a turn for the dangerous when she encounters a creature known as a Lubbock with sinister plans and the King who enlists her help in a search for a mysterious Elfgift with the power to protect the kingdom.
I love these books that remind me of traditional fantasy tales with Kings and wizards, magical creatures, and devious plots. It’s so different from the life I live everyday that I can easily slip into the pages and escape from reality. Once there, hours can pass and the story flows smoothly by until the last page where I am left disoriented and confused. This may sound strange to someone who doesn’t read fantasy or fiction, but it is a wonderful feeling, and usually immediately followed by a book hangover.
The one thing that I feel comfortable enough o constructively criticize is the ending of this book. That being said, I can’t talk too much about it without giving things away, but I will suffice to say that, in my opinion, the way Jones raps up the story is a bit too… abrupt. I won’t go any further so as to not ruin it for those who choose to read it, but you’ll see what I mean when you do, even if you may not agree.
Having read a few of her other books I truly appreciate Jones’ style and form to create not only a good book, but a great world and memorable characters. Charmain and the apprentice wizard Peter, for example, have a wonderful dynamic when they are brought together in the story, but they are still quiet complex by themselves. They are full of flaws, and I mean full, but with an equal amount of virtues. When I consider my friends I picture them the same way I picture these two in the story and it makes their foolish decisions that much more enjoyable.