Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
First published in 1986, this might seem like an odd book for me to review given its age. But after reading it again this week and stumbling across a friend’s old review, I feel compelled to share this story with you.
It’s unfortunate but most people are only familiar with the story of Howl through the 2004 animated film by acclaimed director, Hayao Miyazaki. Why is this unfortunate you ask? Because this is one of the worst film adaptations I’ve ever seen. The film itself is well done, but for anyone who loved the book and then saw the movie, it’s horribly disappointing. It’s like this: you love pears and someone says “Oh I’ve made you a pear pie!” but when you go to eat it, you discover that the pears are really brussel sprouts and while you may love brussel sprouts, they’re not what you were expecting nor craving.
But I digress.
Set in a magical world of Ingary, Sophie Hatter expects her life to be full of failure and disappointment because she is the eldest of three daughters. While working in the family’s hat shop, she unwittingly offends the cruel Witch of the Waste, who turns her into a very old woman. Feeling as if she must, Sophie sets out and suddenly finds herself in the path of the Wizard Howl’s castle, which, as one might suspect, moves from place to place on its legs. Now Howl has a wicked reputation for eating young girls’ hearts. But Sophie finds herself no longer afraid of him because she’s old. In fact, she forces her way into the castle, makes herself a part of the staff as the cleaning woman, and finds herself both annoying and being annoyed by the young wizard. Howl is not all that he seems, though. Nor is the castle with its door that seems to lead everywhere, including a strange place called Wales, and a fire demon living in its fireplace. Will Sophie ever return to her proper age? Will Howl escape the curse that the Witch of the Waste has sent after him? Will Sophie ever figure out how to break the contract between Howl and his fire demon, Calcifer? Will Howl ever stop slithering out of his responsibilities? To find out, read the book.
Ms. Jones is an artistic storyteller, creating not only a wonderful, new world, but a magnificently woven tapestry where every thread comes together in the end to make a masterpiece. For me, this is definitely a story that gets better every time you read it. If you’re looking for something fun and creative, give Howl a try.
Profanity: None that I can think of.
Violence: Minimal and of the magical variety.