Author: Diana Wynn Jones
Publication Date: 1986
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy
Sophie is the oldest of three sisters and everyone knows that that means she will never live a life of good fortune. After her father’s death, she is to stay and help at the family hat shop while her sister Lettie works at a bakery and Martha becomes a witch’s assistant. It is a dangerous time for the village, with Howl’s moving castle near by. Howl is rumored to eat beautiful girl’s hearts, and is supposed to be nearly as bad as the Witch of the Waste. Although it’s not what Sophie wished for, she has gotten used to her life as a Hatter’s assistant and is even quite good at it. But a run in with the Witch of the Waste leaves Sophie cursed to become an old woman even though she’s only eighteen. When Sophie ends up at Howl’s castle, she makes a deal with a fire demon and becomes Howl’s new cleaning lady. As she learns more about the real Howl and his magical castle, she discovers a power within her she didn’t know she had.
I see Diana Wynn Jones’ books everywhere but this is the first one I actually read. A reader called Alice actually recommended it to me and I’m glad she did! Right away I fell in love with the enchanting style of story telling, that instantly reminded me of fairy tales. The magical world Jones created was creative and just utterly fantastic. With a moving castle, Seven-League books, sisters that switch places and faces, and the mysterious Wizard Howl, the world building in this book was wonderful. The plot felt a bit slow moving, but there a lot of layers to the story that made it interesting. The characters were flawed and realistic, and while I don’t love Howl like many girls apparently do, I thought that he was a great character. Jones got the idea for the book from a reader who requested she write a book called The Moving Castle, but even with that prompt I could never have thought of anything like this. Set in a vivid magical world, the book seems like an obvious choice for Hayao Miyazaki, who made it into a film in 2004. There were many differences, but I loved both in their own right. One of the most original fantasy books I’ve read in a while, Howl’s Moving Castle is a book that can take you anywhere, just like the doors in the castle itself.
“I think we ought to live happily ever after.”