In Zanzib, a city in a land south of Ingary, a carpet merchant named Abdullah dreams of meeting and falling in love with a princess. He buys a magic carpet from a stranger one day, and that night, finds himself improbably in the night garden of just such a princess, Flower-in-the-Night. As soon as he’s realized that this is actually happening, rather than a dream, a djinn kidnaps Flower-in-the-Night, and Abdullah sets off to rescue her.
Castle in the Air is a companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle, and is loosely based on stories from Arabian Nights. I was told by many other bloggers, before I started this book, that 1) it was not as good as the first book, and 2) not to expect much of Howl or Sophie in it. I still wanted to listen to it, though, so I went into it without high expectations. The result was that I ended up enjoying the book much more than I might have otherwise. While it was not as good as Howl and I doubt I will obsessively read through it multiple times, it was still a very fun book.
Like with the last book, this one was fast and easy to listen to, and it caught my interest right away. I liked the characters and the way the story twisted and turned. Also like the first book, I found some things in the story very predictable, while also finding some completely surprising. I admit, I enjoyed the book much better in the second half, especially once I started meeting up with characters I’d known from the last book. It was great to see them from Abdullah’s point of view and to learn more about where they ended up several years after the last book ended. But I didn’t like the book solely for Sophie and Howl. I really liked the way Abdullah’s character evolved throughout the novel, and the way his and Flower-in-the-Night’s story went. I particularly love that she was an intelligent, thoughtful kind of girl that was strong in a crisis and could think her way out of trouble, rather than relying on someone else.
Really, my only big problem with the book was the way it drew on cultural stereotypes. I understand that it was just the retelling and fairy tale nature of the story, and that it was super exaggerated on purpose, but it still made me cringe to see the way the culture of Zanzib was portrayed. I’m very sensitive to that sort of thing. The book wasn’t entirely defined by these stereotypes, which was good, but they still made me uncomfortable. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the next book!
Performance: Once again, Jenny Sterlin narrated this book, and she did an excellent job with all the characters, including ones that existed in many disguises.