When Charmain Baker agreed to look after her great-uncle’s house, she thought she was getting blissful, parent-free time to read. She didn’t realize that the house bent space and time, and she did not expect to become responsible for an extremely magical stray dog and a muddled young apprentice wizard. Now, somehow, she’s been targeted by a terrifying creature called a lubbock, too, and become central to the king’s urgent search for the fabled Elfgift that will save the country. The king is so desperate to find the Elfgift, he’s called in an intimidating sorceress named Sophie to help. And where Sophie is, the great Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer won’t be far behind. How did respectable Charmain end up in such a mess, and how will she get herself out of it?
This sequel was no less entertaining than the previous books. Again mixing new characters and old, Diana Wynne Jones has delved into yet another country only briefly mentioned in the other stories, creating histories, plots, quirks, and traditions that are unforgettable.
I loved the new characters in this installment. Charmain was not quite Charming, but her bluntness and ignorance (despite her love of reading) only added to the “real” factor. She wasn’t perfect; in fact, she was quite the opposite – proud, a bit arrogant, short-tempered, and a tad unkind. However, somehow these traits were shown in such a way that I couldn’t help but like her, and wish that I could meet her, but especially admire her. The way she resolved to be kind to Peter, after I would have kicked him out of the house, wasn’t selfish at all. Those small moments made Charmain into the perfect protagonist.
Speaking of Peter, the messes he made! The fires and resulting scorches, the floods, the food! Charmain may be self-centered, but Peter has no self-control!! Of course, old characters like Sophie and Howl always make a ruckus, too. Twinkle was highly entertaining, especially because he was always getting on Sophie’s nerves, which made her irritable and I couldn’t help but crack up at the entire charade. The only thing about that family is that I wish I could have seen a normal day, with Calcifer, and Sophie and Howl acting semi-normal (normal for normal people, not normal for cranky wizards) in the moving castle. I’d have like to see Howl acting like a dad, which there were moments of (though little opportunity what with the charade and all), but definitely not enough of. Morgan’s love for his parents, though it would be greatly annoying if he were real, simply made me laugh at his tantrums and fits when Sophie or Howl weren’t present.
The plot was great, too. With every new country that Jones explores, there’s more magic, more adventure, and a whole lot more disasters to fix. I love how I never get tired of reading about the tight spots the characters always seem to end up in, and how each situation is different. There’s always something creative and unique to follow in each chapter.
Basically, this book, and the rest of the series, is amazing. I highly recommend it for teens, adults, and even kids. They’ll love the adventures and quirky characters just as much as the adults.