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House of Many Ways (World of Howl) Paperback – May 26, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 191 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Howl's Castle Series

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 830 (What's this?)
  • Series: World of Howl (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; Reprint edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061477974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061477973
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Elizabeth L. Crain on June 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charmain Baker lives in the small, shabby realm of High Norland. (Her age is not stated, but I imagined her to be about twelve.) Her father runs a successful pastry shop; her mother has a nouveau-riche obsession with propriety. Both treat Charmain as though she is made of glass. They've indulged her bookishness to the point that, when she is called upon to house-sit for an eccentric uncle-by-marriage, Charmain is as helpless at washing and drying dishes as she is at managing her newly-discovered magical talent.

In the meantime, the elderly King and his almost as elderly daughter, the Princess Hilda (whom we met briefly in Castle in the Air), are frantically attempting to save their country. For hundreds of years High Norland has been leaking prosperity, morale, and any sense of security. Now almost nothing is left.

Charmain, who has grown up oblivious to all this, on a whim writes to the King offering to help in the Royal Library. She figures that hundreds of other Norlandi kids have done the same thing, and doesn't expect to hear back from him.

But she does, and soon finds herself with two jobs--in both of which she is way in over her head.

Charmain learns that some dark and dangerous creatures live right outside of town, in particular the insectile lubbock, which claims to own High Norland and everybody in it. Jones knows how to show the face of pure evil, and she does so fearlessly--although always with a light touch.

The Princess Hilda, meanwhile, has called in an old friend and the best fighter-of-evil she knows, the sorceress Sophie Pendragon.
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Format: Hardcover
If books are like the food we must have, then Diana Wynne Jones' House of Many Ways is a bit a like a cream bun and a bit like the meaty pasties from the bake shop of Charmaine Baker's dad. How tasty! How quickly they go down! Perhaps, like Mr. Baker's, they are written with some kind of helpful enchantment because we always seem to come away happy but yearning again soon for another dose of Jones' perfect brand of English magic.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Jones' books are so charming is that one of their important elements is not heroics or dragons or kings of ancient lineage -- although she can use those at will -- but balance, a fine tuned ecological balance between creatures, magical or otherwise, who behave as they ought. Master of the roller coaster plot, Jones uses magic to restore that balance and return her world to harmony in the tidiest way by the end of the book. No wonder we begin now on the countdown for the next.
1 Comment 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Charmain's mother doesn't ever let her do anything that's not respectable--not laundry, not cooking and certainly not magic. But when her Great-Uncle William (a famous wizard) gets sick, no one in the family wants to take care of his house, so Charmain is volunteered for the job. She doesn't mind; in fact, it's her chance to leave home and apply for her dream of working in the king's library. Nearly as soon as she arrives, Charmain's Great-Uncle is whisked off to be treated by elves, leaving her alone with dirty dishes, piles of laundry, a small white dog named Waif and a magical house which at first glance only has two rooms, but in fact the right turn could take you anywhere from the bathroom to the stables--and the wrong turn could leave you horribly lost. Charmain thinks she will have plenty of time to do some reading while her Great-Uncle is away, but instead finds herself dealing with an exasperating wizard apprentice named Peter who suddenly shows up at the doorstep, angry kobolds, spells that go wrong, a sinister blue insect-like creature called a lubbock, and the mystery of the kingdom's emptying treasury.

Diana Wynne Jones just seems to keep getting better as time goes on. Her recent additions to the Chrestomanci series were amazing, so when I heard that there was a new addition to the Howl's Moving Castle series I was excited. Like the first sequel, Castle in the Air (1990), Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer aren't the main characters--they show up at nearly the halfway point to help the king figure out why his gold has disappeared and play mainly supporting (but indispensable) roles.
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Format: Hardcover
I always look forward to any new Diana Wynne Jones books, but I have to admit they are a hit or miss. Most of her stories are fun to read, but some are so off the wall and unbelievable, they become too awkward to read. "House of Many Ways" fell completely between hit and miss, leaning more closely toward miss. It definitely was not one of Jones' better reads. For one thing, calling this a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle is a stretch. When I saw this book on the shelf, I liked the description enough to want to read it. But I hadn't read Howl's yet, so I bought that one too. Howl's Moving Castle was very cool. It was so enjoyable, I expected the "sequel" to surpass it. It didn't, not by a long shot. Sophie and Howl showed up about 3/4 of the way through the book, but they were both out of character and seemed forced into the storyline.

The scant roles of Howl and Sophie were a minor annoyance for me and not really enough to drop my five stars to four. The reasons for the lower rating had to do with the extremely weak plot (or lack of one), awkwardness of the story flow, and my dislike for the two main characters. Neither Charmain nor Peter were very likeable. She was irritating beyond belief, and he had very few distinguishable features (not very promising for an apprentice). Charmain's dialect was almost freakish (i.e. "Oh bother!" Was this an English teenager or Winnie the Pooh?). I know she was supposed to represent someone who was raised obsessively respectable, but I winced every time the girl had a thought. Peter, too, was hard to swallow. His character wasn't solidly developed. He showed up as a small boy, but Charmain sees that he has whiskers, so we are left to wonder...is he a teenager? A young man? A 12-year-old with a jump start on puberty?
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