Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Harper Collins
“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 really exist, Sophie Hatter attracts 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..
Howl’s Moving Castle is, in my opinion, a tale of discovery and magic. Sophie learns more about herself and what she is capable of. Not just in the mundane sense, which is her skills and abilities, but also in the magic she didn’t know she had. Her entire life she has lived according to the stereotype that because she is the eldest her life will be boring, drab and really nothing good happens to her or what she does. Her firm belief of this caused her to learn to be content with what is handed to her and consider herself lucky when really, she wants more to her life. Throughout the book, you understand that Sophie is the only person who believes in her misfortune as the eldest. Her step-sisters Martha and Lettie encourage and urge her to not be content just because she is the eldest. They are constantly telling her that she far too kind-hearted to see that she is being used. What pushes Sophie is a curse that was placed on her by the Witch of the Waste to make her look like a 90-year-old woman. After being cursed Sophie gains a different, albeit perhaps extreme, outlook to her own life. She figures that since she is an old lady she can do as she likes with her life but she never loses that belief about misfortune from being the eldest. Even close to the conclusion of the book where everything has gone topsy-turvy she stills blames it on her being the eldest child, which doesn’t make sense honestly. Although it is true to Sophie’s character and it is such an ingrained belief that it seems almost natural for her to think it. Howl, on the other hand, is sure of himself, a narcissist and almost always seems to strive to leave the wrong or bad impression of himself. (At least he admits that he’s a coward) Which leaves the impression that he is doing all of it on purpose.
Something that I almost forgot while I was reading was the aspect of romance in the story. Throughout the book, Sophie portrays Howl as a scoundrel playboy who is whizzing off to make a girl love him then later abandon said girl. All the while her feelings for him are changing. Being in the same castle as Howl lets her see almost all the good and the bad sides of him. She knows that he’s a coward who slithers out of things, spends money on frivolous things and that he is a master evader but he is also kind (sometimes), a bit of airhead and charges way too low for his services. Life with Howl is never boring. For the majority of the book, you see this one-sided romance from Sophie while Howl is just going in and out. It is only much, much later that you find out that the lousy wizard has actually been after her heart and affection, plus Sophie is so damn oblivious. It probably didn’t help that half the time they’re bickering over small things (a bit like married couples actually) but hey who am I to judge how they romance each other??? Needless to say, it is not a typical romance.
Something that stood out for me was how vivid everything was. All the characters even the minor ones all feel significant and have enough substance to make you curious about them. I for one would like to know about the step-sisters story. It makes you ask questions about them and you start to care. You’re suddenly invested in the fact that Michael has a sweetheart and that Howl has a disapproving family complete with a niece and nephew. No one is really one dimensional, in a sense. Also, the world and the magic is fascinating. The descriptions and the details really brought it to life. In the book universe, you can get a sense of just how powerful Howl is when he and Michael are making spells and how he wields his magic. (Haphazardly most of the time, in case you wanted to know) These little details really brought the story, the characters and the world to life.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The world building, the characters, the magic and all the details made it a compelling read and certainly a very interesting and amusing one.