Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones


Howl’s Moving Castle is probably not a well known book as it is the movie by Hayo Miyazaki’s who brought many of the character’s to life on the big screen.

It should come to no shock however that the book differ’s from the movie, indeed the author Diana Wynne Jones has said that Miyazaki put a lot more focus on the war than she did in her book, which meant that to focus point that she was getting across in written format didn’t come across in the movie.  Although that isn’t a bad thing, Miyazaki was putting across the horrors of war while using the book as a base of sorts.

This is a review about the book, which has many layer’s and has far more depth; as is the case with many books that turn into movies.

We begin by being introduced to Sophie Hatter, a young woman who works in a hat shop.  She isn’t one for dealing with customers, although she does get by, but her strength comes from creating the hats and without her knowledge gives them a hint of magic.  She is very much an introverted character, keeping in the background, although she does come alive to tell people what to do and make sure everything is going well, indeed she helped her step-mother to raise her two sister’s, in fact she became a kind of mother two them both.

The book could come across as slow to begin with, but it’s to get across Sophie’s home life, what she lives with, what her own sister’s are like and even her step-mother to an extent.  It’s interesting to read and it’s lovely to read about Sophie before she even meets Howl.

Naturally things go wrong for Sophie when the Witch of the Waste places a curse on her, making her essentially a 90 year old woman.  Sophie takes this in stride however, thinking to herself that at least the clothes she wears actually suits her now, although it does pains her to leave her family behind, most notably her sisters, although she knows the pair of them will get on well regardless.

When we meet Calcifer, Michael and Howl, Sophie has made a claim for them to keep her, as a house keeper.

The story expands more on Howl and how Sophie has to help Michael and Calcifer deal with him and his lustfulness, although when she learns that a family member is in line of his affections she worries and begins to form a plan.  In-between this we learn that Sophie has used magic again, on one of Howl’s suits, Calcifer can’t openly explain the terms of his and Howl’s contract but he is willing to give clues and aid Sophie is removing her own curse.  Michael is a teenage who has fallen for Sophie’s sister and we see that life in a Moving Castle isn’t normal, but it certainly is never dull.

As much as I enjoyed the book, the ending is what bother’s me, I never understood how Howl and Sophie could get together, there was never any real chemistry from the pair of them, if anything Sophie would nag at Howl and Howl would complain and whine.  There was never anything more to it than that.

Apart from that, the book was a brilliant read, interesting, exciting and comical with a hint of magic throughout.

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