Goodreads: A chaotically magical sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great Uncle William's tiny cottage while he's ill should have been easy, but Great Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland an his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places - the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, to name but a few. By opening that door, Charmain is now also looking after an extremely magical stray dog, a muddled young apprentice wizard and a box of the king's most treasured documents, as well as irritating a clan of small blue creatures. Caught up in an intense royal search, she encounters an intimidating sorceress named Sophie. And where Sophie is, can the Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer be far behind?
I have to say that while I enjoyed Castle in the Air, The House of Many Ways is right back up at the level of Howl's Moving Castle. Maybe I just prefer Diana Wynne Jones' heroines to her heroes? I'm not really sure what it was, but I can tell you that the heroine of this book might be my favourite of the three I've read so far in this series. (Also is Wynne Jones her last name or just Jones? I've wondered this for years...)
While she's clever and clearly magically powerful, Charmain (which I kept reading as The Chairman which drove me nuts haha) is by no means a perfect heroine. She subverts our idea of a traditional heroine, particularly one in a fairy tale setting - she's not kind, not domestic at all (and not in the charming clumsy way you often find in manga), she's lazy, stubborn, and in general rather irritable. I say these like they're bad things (and they are - I suppose most people don't see these as good characteristics) - but she's not unlikeable. While there's nothing wrong with unlikeable characters, I do have a harder time reading books with unlikeable main characters. That being said I LOVE it when characters aren't perfect (or the sort of imperfect which is still pretty much perfect ala the charming clumsy girls of shoujo manga). I mean look at one of my favourite characters of all time - Celaena is selfish, vain, and she knows she's good at what she does - and she revels in it.
There's also loads of Howl and Sophie (even if Howl isn't exactly...how you expect him to be. I don't want to say anything because spoilers!) which is always lovely. This is set at least a few years after Howl's Moving Castle, so it's wonderful looking at how their lives have got on since then. It's just as funny and disfunctional as their relationship was in the first book and yet just as charming. We also see a return of my favourite character - Calcifer! Although I have to say I've added another favourite character from this universe - I love, love, LOVE Waif. (Waif is a dog in this book who is adorable and as main a character can be with no dialogue) I particularly love how Diana Wynne Jones has built her worlds, so they're all connected in some ways, and you get to see all sorts of references to the other worlds, but they all follow their own distinct rules. It's a perfect blend of familiar and something new, and when it comes to world building Diana Wynne Jones is absolutely one of the best.
If you are a fantasy lover and haven't read Diana Wynne Jones yet, you need to remedy this immediately. Howl's Moving Castle is a great place to start, and if you liked Howl's Moving Castle, you should definitely give this book a read! (In fact, you don't need to read HMC to read this book, although you will miss out on some of the joy in seeing Howl and Sophie in this book). Yet another fantastic book from DWJ!