House of Many Ways

Do you know what I love?

Books . . . about books.

More specifically, I love books about readers, because it isn’t hard for me to slip right into the pages and feel as though I am living the story myself. In addition, books about books almost always feature an amazing, incredible library. The sort of library every single one of us readers would like to own ourselves, complete with floor to ceiling shelving and old desks, dusty ink pots and lovely old manuscripts with crumbling pages.

Someday, I’ll have a library like that. And no one will ever see me again.

Ever.

But until then, I’ll have to be content with the little library in my bedroom and enjoy reading about fantastic, overblown libraries instead of owning one. One of my favorite books featuring this sort of library is House of Many Ways.

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House of Many Ways is the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle, a book I reviewed a few months ago. This series is one of my all time favorites, simply because of the whimsical, fairytale-like way it’s written, and the wonderful characters that have stayed with me from the moment I first picked the book up.

But House of Many Ways holds a special place in my heart, because this story is about Charmain, and Charmain is a reader.

Unfortunately for Charmain, she has grown up in a home where her reading is encouraged and everything else is—handled for her. Her mother spoils her and her father keeps out of the way and lets her mother raise her the way she likes. So when Charmain is asked to take care of her Great-Uncle William’s home while he is away, she finds herself in the decidedly uncomfortable position of having to learn to manage a very magical home on her own. Even in a magical home dishes won’t wash themselves, laundry piles up, and the plumbing doesn’t always work properly.

And so, Charmain is forced to pull her nose out of her books and learn to manage all sorts of problems, including a terrified little dog, a wizard’s apprentice who never seems to manage a spell properly, and a host of rioting little kobolds who are supposed to take care of the housekeeping and chores, but instead delight in snipping all the pink blossoms off the hydrangea bushes and magicking the water taps right out of the kitchen sink.

Several libraries make an appearance in this book. Charmain’s mother conveniently forgets to pack her any books, but her Great-Uncle William’s study has a great many books on wizardry and other things. Later on, Charmain is also invited, through a little finagling of her own, to come and help organize things in the Royal Library, which, to her pleasure and her housemate Peter’s disgust, gets her out of the many chores that seem to keep piling up in the house.

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But things in the Royal Library are mixed up and confused too, and Charmain finds herself—once quite literally—in hot water wherever she goes. Wizards and kindly witches pop up wherever she turns, and it isn’t long before her own attempts at magic yield some rather interesting results.

House of Many Ways holds to the wonderfully brilliant style of Howl’s Moving Castle. It is charming, simple, and all in all one of my favorite reads. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good fairytale or needs a book to make the world seem brighter. If you’ve read it, let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts.

She thought irritably that not one of the many books she had read had so much as mentioned washing dishes, let alone explained how you did it.

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