on 28 June 2008
Having read Howls Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, I was waiting for this to come out with a great deal of anticipation. And I can safely say that it was worth the wait.
Howl, Sophie and Calcifur make a welcome return and have more prominent roles in the story, which was a welcome surprise. The new main character Charmain, a sheltered young woman sent to take care of her wizard uncles magic house, is an engaging character who gradually comes to realise that she has magical talents of her own.
If I have any complaints to make its only that the villains of the story, the lubbock and the lubbockins, never really seemed like much of a threat in the story. And the ending, although satisfying, was slightly abrupt.
Overall this story is definetely worth a read, though I definetely recommend reading the first 2 books first if you havn't done so already.
on 18 August 2009
What a fun read! I have read the previous two books in the series, 'Howl's Moving Castle' & 'Castle in the air' and enjoyed them immensely, books to be kept and shared with my nieces and nephews. 'House of Many Ways' was a great tale and it included my favourite characters, Howl and Sophie, plus the introduction of some new characters. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments, I have never laughed so much at the actions of one little white dog called 'Waif', if you get the chance, read the Howl series, you will thank me for it.
on 31 July 2010
I am a huge Howl's moving castle fan, and although I wished there was more of Howl and Sophie, this is a really good read all on its own. I'm a little older than the target market, but I tend to read anything that's magical or mythical. It has all of Wynne-Jones quaint charm in her writing, her tough no-nonsense female protagonist, and the very warm and well rounded characters. If you loved Howl's moving castle, then this is definitely worth a look. Castle in the air was passable to me but it doesn't touch the house of many ways. As I read I kept waiting for Howl and Sophie to turn up, but the story made me forget all about it until they showed up. I would recommend!
on 22 September 2010
Just a little short of "The Little Prince" or "Pinocchio" this wonderful little book has the uncomparable charm of those works written for kids but capable to address adults as well.
The writing is neat, precise, orderly, just like the world of little Charmain, the book's flawed main character. The plot is simple but not dull and moves forward convincingly and easily in a fairy tale world left undescribed -which is very good- but self evident and vivid in the reader's imagination which is even better.
All the characters are believable and have something to teach to everyone but with a splendid lightness of touch.
I would heartily recommend this novel to everyone: though it belongs to the Howl's series it can also be read as a standalone.
A few years ago, Hayao Miyazaki made a gorgeous anime movie based on the classic fantasy novel "Howl's Moving Castle," about a wizard and the artificially-aged girl who falls for him.
It must have made Diana Wynne Jones nostalgic for her flamboyantly-dressed, quirky wizard hero and his little family, because he plays a pivotal role in "The House of Many Ways." And the rest of the book is the kind of work Jones has been producing for many years -- a complex, tight little plot full of magical mysteries and bizarre problems, and at least one gutsy adolescent hero.
When the Wizard of High Norland falls ill and has to be hospitalized by elves, his great-great-niece-by-marriage Charmain is roped into taking care of his cottage.
But Charmain has a rather difficult time with the magical cottage and all the odd spells it contains. She also struggles with the cooking, cleaning, vast seas of soapsuds, a timid dog, a tribe of angry kobolds, and the arrival of Uncle William's new apprentice Peter -- who never gets magic quite right. In the middle of all this, she finds that she has a new job working with the King in his library.
But there are no fewer problems in the King's mansion, where Charmain is ordered to find information on something called the Elfgift. And the sorceress Sophie Pendragon -- along with her toddler, fire demon and cutesy, too-smart "nephew" -- have arrived to do some investigating as well. But even with powerful wizards nearby, this conspiracy's key may lie with Charmain -- and the vile magical creature lurking near the House of Many Ways...
It's been almost twenty years since Diana Wynne Jones last visited Howl, Sophie, Calcifer and the magical moving castle -- although they're presented so freshly in this book that you wouldn't know they'd ever been gone. And though Charmain is indisputably the heroine of this piece, she still gets the spotlight stolen by Howl -- or "Twinkle" -- whenever he appears.
And around this, Jones crafts a complex plot full of magical Elfgifts, missing gold, elves and a very suspicious heir to the throne. There are various minor plot threads, puzzles and developments that don't seem very important at the time, only to have Jones suddenly weave them all together. And I'll say this -- she knows how to spin up a brilliant fictional conspiracy.
And it's written in Jones' signature style, with plenty of English villages, castles, and wizards, and plenty of mildly eccentric characters -- not to mention the forays through the various space'n'time-bending doorways. Plus a wacky sense of humor, of course ("How DARE you do that! I'm not used to it!"). Charmain produces most of this, with her disastrous (and bubbly!) attempts at keeping house.
Charmain is a pretty good heroine for the book -- she loves books and dogs, and has been living with a mother who thinks magic and housework aren't nice or respectable. You can guess how long that lasts. And she works well alongside the understandably irritable Peter, a likable kid who has more real-world experience than Charmain has ever had.
And then there's the Howl Brigade -- our favorite wizard spends most of the book disguised as a truly nauseating, golden-curled, lisping child, which understandably drives Sophie crazy. His cleverness, power and vanity are undiminished, but it's a relief when "Twinkle" stops lisping. And the fire demon Calcifer gets to play a pivotal role in the story.
"The House of Many Ways" could as easily be called "The Story of Many Ways" -- a brilliant, sparkling book full of fantastical humor and mystery. Definitely a must-read.
on 7 February 2009
It was a typical DWJ book, it was fun, exciting and kept you hooked from the first page. I thought that it was in some ways better than castle in the air because this time sophie, howl and calcifer are more focused on and have more of a part in the story but the book is nowhere near as good as howls moving castle (like anything is). I just wish that it was a little bit longer and more thorough with it's plot and it unlike castle in the air does not really go into the emotions of the new characters as much. Thank you DWJ for another fantastic book and I hope theres another sequel very soon!!
on 7 January 2016
3.5* - coming-of-age book with some magic and a mini adventure.
This book isn't as sophisticated as some of DWJ's other books (e.g. Hex, Fire & Hemlock), however, it was immensely enjoyable.
Me: when reading sample: SMILES
Me: reaching the middle of the book: UUMMMMMM....
ME: the ending of the book: ok, not bad...
1. The Lubbock and the Lubbockins concept was great - it's a shame these baddies weren't fleshed out more. They didn't play much of a role in this book, otherwise I think they're far more interesting then the Witch of the Waste
2. We also get to see Sophie, Howl and Calicifer again (and Sophie and Howl's baby boy) was nice.
3. Charmaine was an interesting character -I liked how she stood up for herself and how her character grows. She's a tough, go-getter who likes to take charge which was great.
4. The plot was engaging - it's a shame there wasn't more to the mysterious connection surrounding the royal family and the Lub's
5. The various strange and very exotic characters were interesting
1. The ending seemed rush - particularly the rather obvious ways the baddies behaved. They seemed to have been defeated really easily.
2. The baddies were a great concept but executed poorly. Usually DWJ's baddie(s) are far more insidious. There's more of a mystery, with loads of "method to the madness" stuff as well as riddles galore - however, here the baddies were so obvious and the "action" ended very quickly.
3. The magic was a trifle boring
Charmain Baker: may be 16/17 years old, loves reading (her only pas time in life, particularly in the beginning). Her ambition is to work at the Royal Library.
She was brought-up in a sheltered and spoiled manner - not to do any domestic chores/work and avoid magic (her parent's considered the practise of magic to be a vulgar pursuit too inferior for their special snow-flake).
Royal Wizard Norland (Great-Uncle William): is a frail older gentlemen who is being taken care of by elves for a mysterious ailment. We hear him from time to time magically giving instructions and answers to questions regarding the house
Waif: a dog who's a bit mysterious and gets up to all sorts of mischief.
Peter: a young apprentice to the Royal Wizard Norland. He's a bit hopeless when it comes to magic. His mother is a well-known witch.
I don't think it's possible for Diana Wynne Jones to write a bad book. Her writing is so very readable, drawing you in as a reader, and she manages to get readers totally engaged with the characters in a very short space of time. This is a sequel to her earlier novels of 'Howl's Moving Castle' and 'Castle in the Air' and many of readers' favourite characters reappear including the wizard Howl, his wife Sophie, and the fire demon Calcifer. However the main protagonist of the novel is teenager Charmain, who has led a sheltered life prior to being caught up in a classic DWJ adventure.
Charmain's character is slightly odd and didn't quite hang together right for me. She seemed to develop too fast in too short a page space, and there seemed to be some contradictions at the heart of her. However saying that I was still rooting for her throughout. The short novel is fast paced and seems to be over very fast - although it is aimed at younger readers so a shorter length is understandable - and at least you can't accuse Wynne Jones of indulgent (lack of) editing. The ending does seem a bit rushed though, and the bad guys defeated with very little effort or real sense of threat. Another chapter or so would have provided a bit more of a fleshy finale.
But despite those criticisms, it's still a good read and a less good Wynne Jones is still better than most authors' best. DWJ was writing good children's fantasy decades before JK Rowling and other authors appeared on the scene, and her old novels are still just as good today. Whilst this one isn't her best, it's a fun read and I'd recommend it - but read the first two novels beforehand.