House of Many Ways: A Book Review
They say all good things come in threes. Well, House of Many Ways, the third book in the Castle series is a good thing. Following on the success of Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones gives us an exciting new adventure set in the mountainous kingdom of High Norland.
Charmain Baker, a rather self-obsessed, sheltered and indulged bookworm, has been volunteered by her great aunt Sempronia to take care of great uncle William’s tiny cottage whilst he is being healed by the elves. Taking the opportunity of being free from home and her parents’ restrictive ideas of respectability, Charmain volunteers (on the side) to help the kindly King Adolphus X and his stern daughter, Princess Hilda, in their efforts to sort and list the contents of the Royal Library.
The thing Charmain doesn’t quite realize – until it’s much too late – is the fact that as High Norland’s Royal Wizard, great uncle William’s house isn’t as simple or easy to navigate as it looks from the outside! Taking into account the fact that she has no inkling how to do any sort of house keeping and has had no training in magic, each disastrous experience never fails to bring at least a chuckle.
Joining the fray is Sophie Pendragon (and family), who has been invited by Princess Hilda (whom she met in Castle in the Air) to help the royal family solve two problems: where their gold is disappearing to and what is the Elfgift?
From the view point of magic as lofty and dangerous (in Howl’s Moving Castle) to the realm of superstition (in Castle in the Air), Diana Wynne Jones now takes us to a different perspective – magic as part of everyday life. In many ways, House of Many Ways feels like a growing-up book. It deals with the issues of life that a young girl will sooner or later have to deal with; like washing dishes, doing laundry and dealing with difficult boys who think they know it all. It deals with growing up enough to stop hiding behind ignorance and taking up the responsibility to learn and change. And for Charmain, it deals with learning that the way to face a problem is really not to go and read a book until the problem disappears.
With a dangerous lubbock lurking in the background, upset blue kobolds making mischief, and an irritating apprentice wizard (who manages to mess up every spell he attempts) getting lost among the house’s many passageways, this book is a real page turner.