The World’s Best Pick-Me-Up: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Genre: YA Fantasy
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.
Rating: 5 stars!
Confession: I knew of the Studio Ghibli movie way before I picked up the book.
The good thing is I read the book before I watched the movie, so all is still right in the world. There are a few differences to the movie and the book and they shine in their own way.
What I love about the book is that it didn’t focus so much on the romance or love story between Sophie and Howl. Instead, it pans out and tells the bigger picture: Sophie’s journey to find her own way in this world.
I love that it’s not told in the first-person voice the way most fantasy novels are written these days.
DWJ’s narrative style feels like a breath of fresh air. She somehow manages to be both simple and sweeping at the same time and I really enjoyed the ride.
There were a couple of chapters that didn’t make sense at first, but I was actually surprised to find that they were clues or elements that were essential to the storyline in the end. Dianna Wynne Jones dropped easter eggs here and there and they were so subtle I didn’t even notice.
Her world building is exceptional, too. Moving castles? Catching falling stars? Seven-league boots? Sign. Me. Up. She wove an unforgettable world with a whimsical castle and a plot twist that I truly didn’t see coming.
Sophie as a character was very interesting.
She seemed to take her curse in stride and wasn’t one to mope around. I love how she kept barreling forward, even if she annoyed the castle’s inhabitants to no end. The Wizard Howl was also a joy. In the Ghibli films, he’s portrayed as a brave, dashing hero but in the book, he’s much vainer and self-centered. The fact that he’s secretly noble makes him even more endearing.
Howl’s Moving Castle is my first Diana Wynne Jones book and I’m so glad that it didn’t disappoint. Actually, I read this book to help me cope with the death of my dog, Sirius, late last January. To say that this is the world’s best pick-me-up would only be a fitting description.
DWJ, take all of my five stars! 🙂