Saturday, January 09, 2010

House of Many Ways

I managed to pick up a copy of the Diana Wynne Jones novel, House of Many Ways when I was in Shanghai recently. I had been keeping an eye out for the book, but certainly hadn't expected to find it in Shanghai. Anyway, I am happy I did spot it there, and really enjoyed reading it. Not surprising, as Diana Wynne Jones is always one of my favorites.

The book features Howl and Sophie, but they are not the main characters. Instead, Charmain and the little dog who adopts her, Waif, are the main stars of the show. It is a nice way to continue to feature Howl and Sophie, the pair in Howl's Moving Castle, as they make a very fun couple to follow. And Calcifer is, of course, as charming as ever.

It is always hard to beat a Diana Wynne Jones fantasy tale. She knows how to weave stories in such a way as to make the reader want to know what is going to happen next. She is incredibly creative, making use of all sorts of strange and funny magic to get the tale moving along. Her use of space and time is, as always, entertaining in House of Many Ways.

Charmain is like most of the characters you expect to find in a Diana Wynne Jones book — whether it be a part of the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark series, the Spellcoats series, the Howl books, or any of the many stand-alone volumes she's written. Charmain, like the rest, is simultaneously lovable and infuriating. Her faults aren't hidden from us, but are rather made an object for amusement and bemusement all at the same time. You wonder, while reading, how someone could continue to be so bad-tempered... and yet, you can't help but smile, perhaps recognizing it as a very typical, very human mode of behavior. (Maybe even something you might have seen in yourself from time to time.)

For me, it is this combination of innovative magic, good humor, lovable/infuriating characters, and good plots that makes every Diana Wynne Jones story so much fun. And House of Many Ways doesn't disappoint.

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