If Diana Wynne Jones is good at one thing – and she is – it’s really fun fluff. House of Many Ways is an excellent example of this. Our protagonist, Charmain, is the great great grand-niece by marriage of the kingdom’s wizard. She’s sent off to watch her great great grand-uncle’s house while he’s being healed by the elves, and takes the opportunity to write the King and offer her services helping in the royal library – not because she wants to be helpful, particularly, but because she wants to look at the books. Charmain is spoiled and useless, having never learned to clean up after herself, do laundry, wash dishes, or the like. She’s prone to snapping at people, especially when she isn’t quite sure what to do. When something goes wrong, her initial reaction is to bury her nose in a book.
In short, she embodies the worst parts of me, and probably of you, too. I should hate her. So should you.
But I just can’t.
It’s just too much fun to wander the strange house and the king’s palace with her and gather the little clues the author has left for us, with little diversions to explore such problems as accidentally washing a red wool robe with a load of white shirts.