House of Many Ways is the third book in the Howl series, and like Castle in the Air, it is more a companion novel than a direct sequel. Once again, this book takes place a couple years after the last book, and we get to see where several of our favorite characters have gotten to in the last little while. There is more of Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer in this book, which made me happy. The setting is High Norland, a small country in the same world as Ingary. The royal wizard of High Norland has become ill, so his great-great niece, Charmain, comes to look after his very strange house while he is away being treated. Charmain is a big bookworm and doesn’t know anything about magic or taking care of houses, which makes her life in this house quite interesting.
I think I liked this book almost as much as the first book, and definitely better than the second. I adored Charmain and several of the other new characters, and I laughed all through the sections with the old characters. There seemed to be less mystery to this book than the others, so I didn’t spend as much time playing guessing games with the plot, though there was, of course, some good reveals at the end. I do think some of the end was wrapped up a bit too quickly. I would have liked to explore a few more things, like how/why the rocking horses were “protection,” and how Charmain’s magic worked, and maybe a resolution for Charmain and Peter’s friendship. In general, I just wanted more more more at the end. It makes me sad that there are no more books about all these characters.
These are such fun books. I’m really looking forward to reading others by Diana Wynne Jones now, and I’m bummed that only one other of hers (Enchanted Glass) is available in audio from my library, as I’ve really enjoyed listening to these three. But by now, I’m willing to read the print versions too, so I have a large selection to dig into!
Performance: Jenny Sterlin, as usual, did a fantastic job with the narration of this book, especially with Howl’s rather odd vocal choices. These have definitely made my top audiobooks list, and she had become one of my favorite narrators!