In Which I am Sidetracked By a Throw-away Plot Point

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Castle in the Air

Diana Wynne Jones


And so I'm here, with the last book in the Howl series, except it's not the last (it's the first companion book), it's not really about Howl, and it's barely a series.

Those caveats aside, I suppose I should clarify. House of Many Ways is the second companion book, meaning I should have read this one first. Then again, as I've mentioned in the last review, it's really not a big deal, because apart from a few details in Howl and Sophie's family it doesn't really matter what order your read it in.

This time it's more of an Aladdin adventure, except the protagonist is Abdullah, and there's a rather clever explanation for the seeming employment of fairy tale tropes. It's a lot more fun than House of Many Ways and at no point did I want to smash Abdullah's face in.

Still, it's much less fun than the original Howl novel. If you think about it, nothing is as fun as the first novel. (Pardon the rabid fan-girling.)

But I suppose my biggest issue with Castle in the Air is the casual mention of a war between Ingary and Strangia – one that Howl and Suliman helped Ingary win. When Abdullah gets to Ingary he discovers that the kingdom has annexed Strangia.

How is that not an issue?

Why is that not a bigger deal?

Seriously? Annexation?

It was mentioned so casually that even when Howl is chastised in the end because of his participation in the war, it doesn't seem important at all and Howl is ashamed but not too concerned.

War! Annexation!

Are we to assume Howl and Suliman helped Ingary win the war with marshmallow bombs and candy cane guns? I mean I understand this is a novel for younger readers, but really?

I'm not one of those hippies who think all wars are wrong and soldiers are to be viewed as murderers. I understand enough about the world to know that sometimes, we fight because we need to. I also think people who participate in wars aren't monsters. Sometimes they're just doing what they think is right, and to condemn them is to be narrow-minded.

What gets me is how nonchalant the novel treats wars and forced occupation. Definitely it's not something I'd ever consider cool or fun.

 

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