Saturday, April 24, 2010

*Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Where I Got the Book: I actually own two editions of the book; after I heard about the movie, I got an older version (paperback) from Amazon, but much later(as you will read a little later), a friend got me the copy (also paperback) that you see to the left.

For the past fifteen years (going on sixteen, in May 2009) of my life, I have been a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan. So of course, when Oscar season rolled around back in 2006 and I heard that a new Miyazaki movie was nominated, I was dying to watch it. Without having seen it, I bought it almost immediately from Amazon. I don’t mean to segue into a whole topic about Amazon and its awesomeness, but thanks to that site, I’ve made some amazing discoveries. One of them was the book that Miyazaki made an adaptation of. The book sounded amazing, so obviously I stuck it in the cart along with the movie. Sadly, after the first two or three chapters, I abandoned the little gem until I decided to pick it up again when my pal from Wise Review left me a copy on my doorstep as a Christmas present (nota bene: Wisdom of Youth is a friend of mine whom I met when I was in the eighth grade). And then, reader, I began the most fascinating, the most intriguing, the most hilarious, and the most magical journey around Ingary in Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle.

“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.” For Sophie Hatter, it is just her luck to be born the oldest child out of three daughters of a hat shop-owner. So with this common belief in mind, she is certain that between her and her sisters Lettie and Martha, she will have the most miserable fate. As if that didn’t hurt Sophie’s self-esteem enough, Sophie’s father dies, leaving Sophie to become an apprentice of the hat shop. While she stays home trimming hat after hat, her sisters go off to seek their fortunes in pastry shops and apprenticeships with witches. Sophie’s destiny seems to be sealed to be terrible after her father dies and she is forced to become an apprentice of the hat shop and do mind-numbing hat trimming while her sisters go off to seek their fortunes. As if Sophie’s destiny isn’t sealed to be miserable enough, the infamous Witch of the Waste, for reasons unknown to Sophie, turns her into an old woman. Having aged more than seventy years, Sophie heads off to better her life and stumbles upon the treacherous Wizard Howl’s moving castle, where she strikes a bargain to rid her curse with a fire demon named Calcifer, befriends Howl’s fifteen-year-old apprentice Michael, and stands up to the notorious wizard himself! So many questions pop up that you want answered, and these keep you on the edge of your seat turning page after page, just dying to find out what happens next.

First of all, if you are a Miyazaki fan and are thinking about reading this book, keep this in mind: someone wrote a Book-a-Minute version of the story, Miyazaki read it, and changed it in his own way. Alright, so maybe that’s not what really happened, but it sure feels like it; the only thing that is the same between the book and the movie are Sophie’s and Howl’s names (and even “Howell” was not mentioned in the movie), and Sophie’s curse. That’s about it, just keep the movie and book separate. As for my thoughts on the book itself? Read below.

Pros: Everything about it! The characters were amazingly real, including their many flaws; the plot is breath-taking; and the integration with John Donne’s “Song”? Definitely a work of a genius! It takes the poem to new heights and new meanings.

Cons: Sometimes the writing seemed too elementary for me, but perhaps it was because I had just finished Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl right before starting this one. Also, I feel like the book wrapped up a bit too fast—so fast, in fact, that the romance (hint hint) didn’t realistically develop (and yes, I know it is in the fantasy genre, but social and behavioral situations can still be realistic!).

Red Flags: Ehh…none that I really remember, though it’s been awhile. It seems that this book is all clear with Common Sense Media as well. :)


Plot: 10/10

Characters: 9.5/10

Writing: 8/10

Originality: 10/10

Enjoyment: 10/10

Overall: 47.5/10


Genre: Fantasy, Juvenile Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Original Release Date:

Also Recommended:

  • The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Check It Out!

I have just recently found out that Diana Wynne Jones is currently suffering from cancer. Please pray for her, or if you are not religious, please keep her in your thoughts. Thank you.

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