Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesSeries: Howl's Moving Castle book #1
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: 1986
Read Date: 14th December 2015
Tagged Under: 2015 read, book review, YA fiction, fantasy, 3
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Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl - and herself - than first meets the eye.
Diana Wynne Jones is one of those childhood authors that I just never read a book from when I was in middle grade and high school. Not because she wasn't recommended to me (she was, repeatedly). But I was either always reading another book or was too busy with studies to ever pick up her works. It wasn't until I watched Hayao Miyazaki's film adaptation of this book (maybe I should do a movie review on it later on) that my interest in her works piqued. And throughout the years that followed, I occasionally thought of Howl's Moving Castle and briefly considered picking the book up and giving it a go.
Sophie is the eldest of three daughters and since she is destined to fail should she ever seek her fate, it is only natural for her to inherit the family hat shop. Although it does get quite boring and lonely (with nothing but her hats to talk to), Sophie is content with her quiet life. One day, she finally musters the courage to venture out into the village and visit her sister. And so begins all her troubles, starting with offending Witch of the Waste, who cast a spell on her and turned her into an old batty lady.
With nothing else left to do, Sophie turns to the Waste to find the Wizard Howl in the hope that the heartless magician can somehow lift her curse.
First reaction upon finishing the book is I would have enjoyed this book a whole lot more had I read it years ago. The writing style is lovely and charming, reminiscent of old fairy tales, making it really easy to dive into this book after setting it aside for awhile. The language is clearly written with Middle Graders in mind. And that I think took away a little bit of my enjoyment of this book. Much like A Series of Unfortunate Events, I wouldn't have noticed the language had I read this book in high school and would have probably enjoyed it simply as it is.
The characters are all unique and interesting. There is the no-nonsense Sophie, the indulgent Howl, the frequently angry Calcifer to name just a few of the main characters. Their quirkiness adds to the charm of the story, as does the setting. Everything is fascinating and seems to come right out of a child's imagination - nothing, no matter how magical and out-of-the-box it may be, seems too bizarre. It is a world I'm definitely interested in finding out more about.
The plot, while being delivered in a fairy tale-like manner, is very intricate and only comes together neatly right at the end. This is where I can't help but compare it to the film adaptation. While most movies are an abridged version of the book they are based on, Miyazaki took the beginning premise of the story and its main characters and have essentially spun a tale on its own. Diana Wynne Jones' novel, on the other hand, contains so many more plot lines that are carefully interwoven together. Both are enjoyable in their own ways.
In summary, I really enjoyed this novel. It is whimsical, charming and reminded me of childhood imagination and magic. I wish I had read it when I was younger because I would have definitely enjoyed it more and given it a higher rating. Overall, this is definitely a novel for everyone to try.