Whoops, wrong place there. You may know Howl’s Moving Castle as the animated film, but it all started from this book.
Sophie is the eldest of three daughters, which automatically means she’ll amount to very little. Whoever decided that was a total ass, by the way, and incorrect. When it turns out that she has the power to speak to things and make them magic, a jealous witch comes and turns her into an old lady.
Sophie goes on a quest to get the curse lifted. The one person who may be able to help is Wizard Howl, who is known for, among other things, being temperamental, fickle, and childish. Adding to the problem is the fact that Sophie can’t tell anyone she’s been cursed. And unfortunately, Howl is too busy wooing girls and shirking duties to notice.
Howl’s fire demon notices that she’s been cursed so she makes a deal with him: if she removes the curse binding him to Howl’s service, he’ll remove the curse on her. But c’mon lady, didn’t anyone tell you not to make deals with random demons?
The Quills: 7/10
The castle stayed roving about the hills, and it was learned that it did not belong to the Witch but to Wizard Howl. Wizard Howl was bad enough. Though he did not seem to want to leave the hills, he was known to amuse himself by collecting young girls and sucking the souls from them. Or some people said he ate their hearts.
-Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is a young adult fantasy but in terms of tone, it can be a little difficult for the younger YA audience to get into. There are some awkward phrases here and there, and it’s told in third person from the point of view of an old lady, so the voice is that of an old lady. Not totally palatable to 15-year-olds. It does have really funny moments, and Sophie is full of spunk for someone who claims to be 90. There is a fair amount of subtext and the story isn’t thrown directly at you, so older readers may enjoy this book more.
This story covers a whole lotta world, (consequence of a castle located in 4 places at once) so there’s a lot of description. There are whole pages dedicated to describing the setting. Even so, I feel like if I had not seen the movie beforehand, I wouldn’t have a super good grasp of the world. The novel is about 300 pages and definitely needs more girth to put all that world onto the page.
The characters are very interesting and far more three-dimensional than they are in the movie, although the antagonist still remains quite flat. Sophie herself is a very strong character, and does a lot to move the story forward. The plot makes a lot more sense in the book, has many intricate strands that you should pay attention to (read twice to find out!) and it also makes the character of Howl more human and relatable. It does have the not-so-subtle themes of destiny and “you become what you believe yourself to be” but it’s not to the point of being overbearing either. It’s too bad the book doesn’t come with the movie’s yummy voice acting.
The Roses: 8.5/10
Maybe it comes from enjoying the movie a lot, but I really like this book. It does many things better than the movie and once you get into it, it’s quite funny. I really like the characters, and I wish the movie had included all the subplots of the book, because they add so much to the story. It does take some time to get into, but once you do, it’s totally worth it.
This is the first book of a series, however I won’t be reviewing the other books.
In conclusion, if you enjoyed the movie, Howl’s Moving Castle (the book) will add a whole new dimension to the characters and world that you loved.