From School Library Journal
Grade 5–10—Sheltered teenager Charmain Baker is sent by her domineering great-aunt to house-sit for a distant relative, the royal wizard. She finds that his residence has myriad magical rooms and hallways and soon learns that there is trouble in the seemingly peaceful kingdom of High Norland. The treasury is disappearing, and no one knows where the money is going. Princess Hilda invites Sophie Pendragon, the main character from Howl's Moving Castle
(1986), to come help solve the mystery, with her husband, Howl, disguised as an annoying preschooler, and the fire-demon Calcifer. A lubbock, one of Jones's more threatening magical creations, and its offspring, the lubbockins, threaten the kingdom, and it's up to Charmain and her nascent magical talents—and her new friends—to save the day. A whirlwind conclusion sets all to rights and leaves Charmain ready to start life outside of her parents' shadow. Sophie and Howl play background roles here, as in Castle in the Air
(HarperCollins, 2001), but readers will find Charmain much to their liking as she develops from a girl who is unable to take care of herself into a proactive and adventurous young woman.—Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* It’s been a long time coming, but Jones has finally returned to the madcap world of Howl’s Moving Castle (1986) and Castle in the Air (1991) with an equally rollicking, enchantment-filled tale. Although the Wizard Howl (this time in the guise of an irritating, lisping little boy); his feisty wife, Sophie; and Calcifer the fire demon play important roles, the story centers on Charmain, a bookish teen. When Charmain’s great-uncle William, the king’s Royal Wizard, falls deathly ill and is taken in by elves for a cure, Charmain is sent to look after William’s house, which is, indeed, a house of many ways and rooms and magic within. She begins reading William’s books and discovers that she has inherited some of his gifts. Enriching this elaborate and satisfying comic fantasy are some delicious characters, including a little dog named Waif, who seems to be guarding Charmain; young Peter, who arrives to become the wizard’s apprentice; the elderly king and his mysteriously vanishing treasury; the evil heir-apparent; and a fearsome creature called a lubbock. Long-standing devotees of this richly textured world, as well as new fans (who may have first encountered it through the 2005 animated film of Howl’s Moving Castle), will find that their third visit fulfills every expectation. Grades 6-9. --Sally Estes