Set in the same world as Howl’s Moving Castle, the sequel, or ‘companion’, book does and doesn’t rely on it. The cast of Howl’s doesn’t show up until late, but I wonder if a new reader might not feel a bit snowed under towards the end of the novel, when the previous characters start exploding out of the woodwork.

For most of the time, Castle in the Air is Howl (and Sophie)-free, but the main character, Abdullah makes up for any lack returning readers might feel quite easily. He’s an unlikely hero, hen-pecked by inlaws, and prone to extravagant daydreams. But once the action starts, he steps up with a ready wit, and enough determination to get around, if not always through, his problems. For some reason that I can’t quite pin down, Abdullah’s adventures put me in mind of the Harold Shea stories; I think it must be because of the wit and a certain amount of zaniness in everyone around him.

I had some problems with the wrap-up, as there were a few too many ‘oh but really—!’ moments for my comfort. But overall it’s a hugely entertaining tale that keeps going at a fast clip that carries right into the denouement.