Sophie is the eldest of three girls; though her own mother has died and her father has married, she gets on very well with her stepmother and two stepsisters. But when her father dies, things begin to change; Sophie’s sisters are sent to learn different trades and Sophie herself must take over in the hat shop. Unhappy with her lot, Sophie longs for change, and runs afoul of the witch of the wasteland, who turns her into an old woman. To get her life back, Sophie heads to Howl’s Moving Castle, where she hopes the enigmatic wizard Howl can help her.
I bought this book before Diana Wynne Jones’s recent passing; I felt the best way to react to that news was to start reading her work ASAP, as I should have done when she was alive. And I really should have because, as everyone told me I would, I loved this book and I was completely captivated by the story here. I read it during the Read-a-thon all in one go and that was truly perfect for it, because I could simply lose myself in this lovely book.
For me this book felt like a fairy tale I might have read when I was much younger, though it is obviously also very appealing for adults. It certainly seems a book to suit all ages, personally. I was entranced by the idea of the moving castle and Howl himself – I could see the end coming from a while previously, but that didn’t make it any less sweet.
My favorite part really is Sophie’s entire switch of thought process. As a young woman, she’s trapped in the hat shop. She becomes very timid and set in her ways. By turning her into the old lady she’s become, the witch actually does her a favor, because she realizes what she is missing. She also brings her into contact with Howl, and unquestionably the best scenes in the book occur when Sophie has actually gotten to Howl’s castle.
The fantasy characters themselves can be a riot with each of their very distinct personalities. In particular, I thought Calcifer in the fire was a fun character, and I was intrigued by the relationships Howl had with people outside the castle – I wondered how much the rest of the series picked up on what was established here, and trust me, I intend to find out.
Howl’s Moving Castle is exactly as wonderful as you suspect it is. Read it! You won’t be sorry.
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