First published in The Warwick Boar (online) – October 2015 – in response to an Editor request for articles with the title “Favourite Trilogies”.
As a fan of Studio Ghibli’s 2004 anime film, Howl’s Moving Castle, imagine my delight when I discovered that not only was the film based on a book by Diana Wynne-Jones, but that the book is part of The Land of Ingary Trilogy.
The books are wonderfully descriptive, with the first book, Howl’s Moving Castle painting the town of Market Chipping, the land in the mountains and meadows above and life within Howl’s castle perfectly, fully immersing the reader in the land of Ingary and the somewhat perilous adventures of the main characters, Sophie, Howl and Calcifer as they seek to undo the spells cast upon them by the Witch of the Waste. The characters are stronger in the book than the film, with Calcifer being more sinister, the witch more evil and Howl significantly more foppish and petulant.
The second book of the trilogy, Castle in the Air’, follows the story of Abdullah, a carpet salesman from the desert lands South of Ingary. When his love, Flower-in-the-Night, is abducted by a genie he leaves his homeland to rescue her on a magic carpet, pursued by soldiers and villains alike. It is at first difficult to understand the link between this book and the first of the trilogy, other than its setting in the same universe, however a twist half-way through re-introduces some familiar characters and reveals them as being pivotal to the plot.
The protagonist of House of Many Ways is the book-obsessed Charmaine, who is forced to look after a wizard’s house whilst he is away. However the doors in his house bend space and time and it is not long before Charmaine and the wizard’s hapless apprentice, Peter, meet Sophie and are swept into a perilous adventure as they seek to uncover a conspiracy which could threaten the King’s life.
The trilogy is full of clever twists and surprises, delivering both edge-of-the-seat suspense and some real comedy moments. They are a refreshing take on traditional science fantasy writing, delivered in Wynne-Jones’ extremely readable and charming style.