Howl’s Moving Castle
By: Diana Wynne Jones
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy
“How about making a bargain with me?” said the demon. “I’ll break your spell if you agree to break this contact I’m under.”
In the land of Ingary, where seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility do exist, Sophie Hatter catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste, who puts a curse on her. Determined to make the best of things, Sophie travels to the one place where she might get help – the moving castle which hovers on the nearby hills.
But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the hearts of young girls…
I’ve heard about this story for a very long time, made even popular by Hayao Miyazaki’s anime movie back in the early 2000s. I never watched the movie and I have been meaning to read the book for ages, especially after hearing from fellow bloggers how much they had enjoyed it. Geek Girl Pen Pals featured it for September’s Group Read and, needing a break from some of the ARCs I’ve been reading, I decided to pick up a copy of the novel and check it out. May contain some minor spoilers ahead!
Simply put, where has this novel been my entire life? I can’t believe I haven’t read it sooner! I honestly don’t know how it is that I have never come across it in the school library or in the bookstore but I know for certain that ten/eleven-year-old me would’ve enjoyed this novel.
Howl’s Moving Castle is absolutely fantastical, a whirlwind adventure. The reader follows Sophie, a sensible and bright young woman who goes off in search for a way to reverse what the Witch fo the Waste did to her and ends up embroiled in Howl’s crazy antics and issues at hand. It’s a pleasant surprise of an adventure because, from the premise and the first few chapters, I couldn’t quite make out how the story would turn out; suffice to say, you never quite know what’ll come next or indeed how everything will come together (or unravel). And when it does, it’s quite delightful.
The novel is populated by a colourful and wonderful cast of characters: Calcifer is hilarious and sneaky, Michael is an awkward sweetheart, Howl is quite the drama queen, and so forth and so on. I found it’s important to keep track of such an array of characters (as well as certain hints and pieces of information dropped along the way) because they do reappear at some point, which added to the experience. Sophie Hatter is someone readers can identify with: smart, solid, a reader and a girl who has her fair share of some very familiar insecurities. I found it amusing how quickly she took to not only letting go of some of her insecurities along the way but also acting her age, which added to the humour but also in revealing some realities about life. In short, the curse actually helped Sophie deal with her lack of confidence, adventure and fortune; she also learn a lot about how we value and view others, that there’s much more to people than meets the eye (in most cases, anyways).
I really don’t know what else to say about Howl’s Moving Castle; it’s really one of those novels you have to read and experience for yourself. It’s full of imagination and heart, the setting familiar yet magical. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, I highly recommend it! =)
(Meanwhile, I’m going to go and get myself a copy of Miyazaki’s adaptation. I slightly spoiled myself so I know there’s been some major changes, but I’m looking forward to it anyhow, it looks really well done and just as charming =))