“Howl’s Moving Castle,” by Dianna Wynne Jones is a magical tale that takes place in the town of Market Chipping; a land where all is possible. The story begins introducing us to our main character, Sophie. As her younger sisters prepare to leave home and seek the fortunes of life, sister Sophie, being the eldest, is assigned to stay behind and run the family hat shop. Unfortunately for her, running a hat shop is incredibly dull; that is, until the witch of the wastes drops by. After a brief confrontation, Sophie is left feeling a bit different – a bit stiff. She soon comes to realize that an awful spell has been cast upon her; one that has turned her into an old woman. This then ignites the fire of the story as Sophie sets off on her own journey; a journey that leads her straight to the eerie castle that looms above the town – Howl’s Moving Castle.
This is one fantasy novel that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. While I never truly forgot about it, I kept putting it off. Part of my reluctance came from the fact that it appeared to be a novel directed toward much younger readers. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with young adult/children’s literature, I wasn’t convinced that it would be something I could connect to. Nevertheless, the description intrigued me, and much of the reviews were quite positive. So despite my reluctance, I picked it up and jumped in. I’ll say right now that I’m pleased that I did. “Howl’s Moving Castle” was an incredibly entertaining and fun read. Here’s why:
To start, the characters were great; so great in-fact, that it was nearly impossible to single any out as favorites. I will say, however, that Sophie was one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve read in a long time. Not only was she strong-willed and brave – but hilarious, witty, and a bit mad. She had a big heart and it really showed. Aside from Sophie, we also had the all-powerful Wizard Howl. As I was introduced to his character, I have to admit that I was actually rather surprised. For whatever reason, I expected something reminiscent of king Haggard from “The Last Unicorn;” someone depressed, mopey, unlikeable. He was quite the opposite (though prone to leaking green slime when depressed). Oh and yes, we can’t forget Calcifer, an adorable puppy-dog-like fire demon; Michael, Howl’s young apprentice; a creepy scarecrow, and the witch of the wastes. To say the least, I was really impressed with Jones’s ability to create such diverse and interesting characters.
In addition, there was also the writing. Well, what can I say? It was equally as impressive. As stated above, when I decided to begin “Howl’s Moving Castle,” I was expecting something crafted for a much younger audience. My assumption however, was quickly destroyed. After reading just a few chapters, I soon found that it was much more; and while kids could definitely get a kick out of it, nothing was dumbed down. The overall language was impressive; the pacing was perfect; the tone was amusing. Diana Wynne Jones is clearly a witty and clever author, and her style in “Howl’s Moving Castle” was both comfortable and easy to follow; yet at the same time, well-written and carefully detailed. Her words were like art, flowing from page to page; her humor had me cracking a smile through-out. This wasn’t like reading, this was like taking a journey.
Lastly, the story itself was refreshing, creative, and fun. From Sophie’s odd predicament, to Calcifer the fire demon, to magic spells and shooting stars, “Howl’s Moving Castle” was jam packed with wonder and enchantment. While reading this lovely tale, I found myself never knowing what would happen next – and with Wizard Howl in the picture (who was a very skilled wizard, mind you), anything was possible. Aside from that, things progressed swiftly, and there was never a dull or boring moment; there was a huge amount of character development, leading all the way up to the final page, and there were even a few interesting plot twists. Overall, this story was spot on, and held my interest all the way up to the end. Oh, and speaking of the ending? I absolutely loved it. I can’t imagine it being any different.
With that said, “Howl’s Moving Castle” was really impressing, and after closing the final chapter and beginning this review, I quickly came to find that coming up any sort of critique was a real challenge. For me, this is one of those novels where nothing should be changed. From the intelligent writing, to the memorable and lovely characters, to the story, and to Howl himself, I found myself completely immersed within each page. While this is indeed considered a young adult novel, and I can certainly understand why, it’s clear to me that people of all ages could enjoy the magic of this novel. If you’re looking for a really fun, well written fantasy, this could be exactly what you’re seeking. Overall, I found “Howl’s Moving Castle” to be a truly a riveting and enchanting tale; one full of wit, heart, and a whole lot of magic.