Instead of Howl's rural alternate-Britain, it's time to head for the bustling souk so familiar to Ali Baba or Aladdin, for Castle In the Air is firmly in Arabian Nights territory.
Abdullah is a humble carpet merchant who purchases a magic carpet from a mysterious stranger, and finds himself thrust into the world of his dreams - and his nightmares. First he meets the girl of his dreams (or rather, the princess!), then he finds himself caught up in a battle of djinns - a battle that may well have involved the Wizard Howl and his entire family. With genies, carpets, cats and kittens in tow (as well as disreputable soldier who may not be what he seems) Abdullah will have to rescue a whole host of princesses if he's ever to find himself a new home. It's a journaey that will take him far away from the deserts of his birth to colder, greener lands in the north...
Like much of her output, Wynne Jones delivers yet another entertaining read, if perhaps not as quite as good as its predecessor. There's a certain delight here in the subversion of the traditional fairy tale (no matter which culture it's been appropriated from). Wynne Jones avoids many of the pitfalls of the sequel by apporaching the story in a completely different mode, with completely different characters. While Howl's Moving Castle was a story of a chaotic romance, Castle In The Air has a much more swash buckling feel, even if a touch disneyfied - for no one gets really hurt, and even the bad guys take a turn for the better in the end.
A fun, short read - the sort of book to be taken on a spring or summer picnic.
(Mind you, HarperCollins need to do something about the colour balance on the cover art...)