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Jones' Howl's Moving Castle

Novel by Dianna Wynne Jones

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The Original Howl's Moving Castle

  • Sep 13, 2009
Rating:
+3
Pros: A unique tale with nifty goodies

Cons: I never liked Howl

The Bottom Line: Close to five stars, but not quite - maybe I'm just picky about my books these days...

Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle has origins, and those origins are here, with the creation of Diana Wynne Jones’s book of the same title. The moment I heard the movie came from a book, I sought it out (since, oh, March? April?). I’ve just recently gotten my hands on it and finished the mere 212 page book in two days.

Sophie is the eldest of three, which means she won’t amount to much, or so everyone says. After her father dies, her mother Fanny sends her sisters Martha and Lettie off so they can make their fortunes and Sophie is to stay at the hat shop and become and apprentice. So Sophie makes hats. Day after day. She talks to them a little too, since there’s not much else to do while making hats. But one evening a woman comes in – a woman who turns out to be the Witch of the Waste, and when Sophie doesn’t give her what she wants, *poof!* a spell is cast and Sophie becomes an old woman. Drat.

Deciding to set out on her own even as an old woman, Sophie leaves and heads out, winding up inside Howl’s moving castle where she meets Michael, Howl’s young apprentice, and Calcifer, a fire demon. Calcifer sees Sophie is under a spell and they make a deal – Sophie breaks Calcifer’s contract with Howl and he will break her spell. Sophie agrees and announces herself as Howl’s new cleaning lady. But during her time there she learns that Howl does steal hearts – figuratively, and then breaks them, one of which may be her sister. There’s an odd and frightening scarecrow that keeps chasing after the castle. The Witch of the Waste is after Howl. Howl himself is a selfish pretty boy, whose talents are great, but redeeming qualities few. And throughout all this, Sophie learns a thing or two about herself and her own talents.

9 out of 10 times the book is better than the movie. Though this book was good in its own way, I liked the movie better. Actually, I think a meshing of the two would make things perfect, but that’s beside the point. Jones’s writing style is crisp and clear, and she gives us plenty of magical items and encounters, and people to boot. A man stuck as a dog. A scarecrow with a mind of its own. Boots that zip you ten miles over the landscape. A spell with some very unique end results. And of course, a castle that moves and has a door that opens to four locations. Delightful.

I think Howl and the very end was my only problem. Though I like all the characters and everything that is happening, it was no surprise that Howl was a spoiled pretty boy. But I expected to see some change as the book went along. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t ever recall seeing any. The things he says to Sophie are never truly mean-spirited, but I personally wouldn’t take to kindly to them either. Naturally Sophie is annoyed or angry with him most of the time, but at the end suddenly it’s as though we have a complete 180 by both characters. Actually just Sophie – there’s only one tiny instance before when we spot a change in Howl, but that’s it. Even in the book is said that he hadn’t changed much. I’m just not convinced she would fall for him, as I expected I should be.

But aside from all that, it’s a cute book. Read it to your kids, they’ll probably enjoy it. The plot may be a tad bit thick, what with the missing persons and the scarecrow’s purpose and what the bad guy was trying to do exactly. But read it yourself if you’re curious; you can’t go wrong when there’s a little fire demon involved.

NT

Recommended:
Yes

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More Howl's Moving Castle (book) reviews
review by . June 16, 2010
Spoilers will be had.      First of all, if you have not read the novel and only have seen this Miyazaki movie: Forget everything you know about Howl's Moving Castle.      This book was my introduction to Diana Wynne Jones, and is still my favourite by her. Her writing style, her way of describing the happenings of the world, the rich lyrical way that she portrays, well, everything... it's amazing.      Her characters grow magnificently …
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Cute novel.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
A very interesting story with intriguing plot twists and well-written characters.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Just as amazing as the movie, but also delightfully different.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
beautiful concepts!
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
To this day one of my favourite books.
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
A very good read!
review by . April 22, 2009
When I recently picked up Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones, I was actually rereading it.  I first read it a couple years ago, wanting to read the book before I saw Miyazaki's movie. Back then, I was of the opinion that this was one of the rare instances where the movie was actually better than the book. Which is not to say the book is bad--far from it, it's quite good. But it also requires careful paying attention to details or, if you're like me and get so lost in a story that you …
About the reviewer
Nicole ()
Ranked #166
Age: 27 Currently: Freelancing my butt off and querying my other novel, Blood for Wolves. Who likes seriously factured fairy tales? =D      Like books? Then take it from a real, live … more
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Wiki

Grade 6 Up Sophie Hatter reads a great deal and soon realizes that as the eldest of three daughters she is doomed to an uninteresting future. She resigns herself to making a living as a hatter and helping her younger sisters prepare to make their fortunes. But adventure seeks her out in the shop where she sits alone, dreaming over her hats. The wicked Witch of the Waste, angered by "competition" in the area, turns her into a old woman, so she seeks refuge inside the strange moving castle of the wizard Howl. Howl, advertised by his apprentice as an eater of souls, lives a mad, frantic life trying to escape the curse the witch has placed on him, find the perfect girl of his dreams and end the contract he and his fire demon have entered. Sophie, against her best instincts and at first unaware of her own powers, falls in love. So goes this intricate, humorous and puzzling tale of fantasy and adventure which should both challenge and involve readers. Jones has created an engaging set of characters and found a new use for many of the appurtenances of fairy talesseven league boots and invisible cloaks, among others. At times, the action becomes so complex that readers may have to go back to see what actually happened, and at the end so many loose ends have to be tied up at once that it's dizzying. Yet Jones' inventiveness never fails, and her conclusion is infinitely satisfying. Sara Miller, White Plains Public Library, N.Y.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0061478784 (pbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780061478789 (pbk.)
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
First to Review
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