Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Reviewed by Katya Pilkington
Amazon Rating: 4.7/5
Content Warnings: None
As the eldest of three, Sophie Hatter had accepted that it was not her place to seek her fortune. When the Witch of the Waste curses the young hat-maker into an old woman, Sophie leaves her quiet life to go search for a way to break the curse. Armed with her walking stick and new found confidence, she forces her way into the lives of the dramatic Wizard Howl, his fire demon Calcifer, and his apprentice Michael. With all the magic, dramatics, and buckets of green slime, hopefully Sophie can survive life in the moving castle until the curse can be broken.
This book is one of my all time favorites. All. Time. Favorites. It is on the short list of books that is going to be taking up space in my college dorm room. It doesn’t matter that I’ve read it once or twice every year since I learned about this book. The story and characters don’t get old even with multiple readings.
Howl’s Moving Castle is enjoyable for readers of all ages – my little brother and my mom both love it, so age really isn’t an issue. While the reading level required to understand the book is fairly low, the writing style doesn’t come off as juvenile. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that some of my childhood favorite books aren’t nearly as enjoyable, but this book is not one of them. Despite knowing this book practically backward and forwards, I read it over and over again. Diana Wynne Jones is an amazing author and all the books of hers I have read have been wonderful. Howl’s Moving Castle is no exception.
Warning: this book will make you laugh. The various hi-jinks that ensue whenever Howl and Sophie clash are so humorous to picture. With Howl overly dramatic and Sophie overly nosey, nothing is safe from them. I consider this book one of my pick-me-up books whenever I am in need of a good chuckle.
Sophie Hatter is a strong female lead, which is quite enjoyable to see. Despite being cursed to be around 60 years older than she is, Sophie takes everything in stride. She is just as strong minded as Howl and doesn’t fall into any helpless heroine stereotypes.
The rules of magic in this book are a bit unclear, but it doesn’t detract from the story – it’s just one of the quirks of the setting. It is never fully described how magic works, but is largely accepted as a fact of life by all of the characters in the book. It is fun to see how different spells are used, while still keeping an air of mystery about them. Magic seems to be expressed differently depending on the user, which keeps it from becoming boring or monotonous.
The last hundred pages or so of this book do move pretty fast. With enough going on, it can be worth a reread or two of some sections – sadly, it can be a bit unclear what is going on at first. Overall though, it is such an enjoyable read that this is not too big of a turn-off.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a great humorous fantasy book for readers of all ages. The characters are memorable and the situation hilarious, without coming off as overly silly.
Small note: Studio Ghibli has made a wonderful movie based on this book, which is where I first found out about it, though the plot lines between the two of them are rather dissimilar.
Also, Howl’s Moving Castle, though it works well as a stand-alone, is the first book of a series, with Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways occurring after this story.