October 06, 2011

Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones

I had originally seen the movie by Hayao Miyazaki and hadn't even realized that there was a book. I stumbled across it quite by accident and of course had to read it. I have to say, I was pretty pleased with it. Even with my preconceived notions from the movie, I still enjoyed the plot and all the characters in the book.

Sophie is the oldest of three girls, and in her world, that means she's due to live an uneventful unlucky life. When a tough break with a witch leaves her looking like an old woman, she leaves the hat shop where she works and wanders, eventually coming upon Howl's Moving Castle. While she's heard horrible things about Howl and young women, she figures since she is old now she should be safe.

While staying with Howl she learns some of his secrets and makes friends with Calcifer, a fire demon who is bound to Howl and runs the castle. Along with Michael, his apprentice, Howl has turned this castle into quite the wondrous place. Sophie agrees to help Calcifer in return for his help and becomes Howl's cleaning lady. But will Sophie be able to get back to normal and help Howl with his own problems? There is an evil witch after him and the King wants his help in finding his brother; he may not have the time to return Sophie to normal.

The characters in this novel are pretty delightful. I especially love Calcifer. Even though he may just be fire, he's got quite the personality. Sophie and Howl have interesting interactions and its easy to see that despite their annoyances, they like bantering with each other. Even the side characters show some interesting traits; after all, this is a world that accepts magic.

The writing, since this is technically a kid's book is on the side of easier to understand. There's not a lot of hard language or concepts in the book. I will say that towards the end of the book the writing gets rushed and hard to follow. I had really enjoyed the book up until that part but I found myself reading in patches near the end just so I could try to make sense of what was going on. I think if Jones had just slowed down and detailed a bit more it would have vastly improved it. Despite the confusion at the end, I'm sure this would make a great book to read to a child.

Such a wondrous imaginative book though. I did enjoy it for the most part. I know Jones has some other novels out that have been made into movies and I'll probably look into reading them since I enjoyed this one.

Howl's Moving Castle
Copyright 1986
212 pages

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