Book title: Howl`s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynn Jones
rating: 5/5 stars
*I try to keep my reviews spoiler-free unless stated otherwise. This is one of those other times. There`s just no reviewing this book without spoilers. So don`t read this if you haven`t read the book yet and don`t want to be spoilered. Sorry!
I bought this book because I absolutely love the Ghibli movie adaption of it and I heard a lot of good things about the book. I was not disappointed.
Let me give the summary from the back of the book first:
“Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl`s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there`s far more to Howl – and herself – than first meets the eye.”
Now, as I said, I bought this book because of the Ghibli movie. I should probably point out here, to anyone considering reading the book, that the book and the movie start off roughly the same (or at least similar), but then veer off in two completely different directions. And I do honestly mean completely different.
And I personally absolutely loved that. It allowed for me to really see them as two separate stories that just happened to have the same characters. So even if you don`t like the movie, but you like the idea of it: try the book.
This book had just about everything I want in a book: a complicated, interesting storyline that keeps you wondering and surprises you at every turn, main characters that have flaws and quirks and good sides like all human beings, strange magical characters, some scary, some not so scary after all. It had a good sense of humour, and a subtle line of romance that both was and wasn`t the most important topic in the book.
Let me explain that last one first, because I can see you think “romance both was and wasn`t the most important topic in the book? What does that even mean?” And you`re completely right in thinking this.
You know the type of books that go “YOUR BOYFRIEND IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER IN YOUR LIFE”? You probably know the ones I`m talking about. I can`t handle those type of books.
In this book too, yes Howl`s constant whooing of girls is important. Yes, Michael has a girlfriend who is important. Yes, love is important. But so are Sophie`s sisters, so are the friendships between everyone, so is the hate from the Witch of the Waste. This book sends a very clear message that yes, love is important, and quite possibly one of the most important things in your life. But you won`t get anywhere without daring to try something new, without friendships, without a home (and an income). You`re nothing without any of that. And I like that message.
The next big thing from the book I really liked (well, maybe like is the wrong word, but I can`t think of another one to use), is Sophie`s insecurity and self-deprecating. Whenever something goes wrong, or something she tried with the best of intentions goes wrong, she will blame herself. But she`s not letting it stop her from doing anything. In fact, this very way of thinking helps Sophie in getting things done. It also propels the story forward: it`s Sophie`s actions, Sophie`s way of thinking, that makes Howl`s curse come true. But it`s also Sophie`s actions and Sophie`s way of thinking that lifts all the curses and that solves the extremely problematic situation they`re all in. But what I like the most about this part of Sophie`s character, is how it makes the reader think about how you look at situations and how you deal with them. Sophie has a tendency to blame herself for things she can`t help, and the book shows how really kind of silly that is. Still, this part of doesn`t change, she doesn`t go through some sort of eye-opening experience that makes her realise it`s not her fault and that she can stop being so insecure. No, it`s an important part of herself, and it`s okay. It`s just how it is. I like that message too. It`s much more a message of accepting yourself for who you are, instead of changing it to what everyone wants you to be.
Finally, one more thing I loved in this book is the humour. It`s sarcastic, it`s self-deprecating, it`s blunt at times, and it`s exactly my kind of humour. If you`re ever wondering how to make me laugh, take an example from Howl`s Moving Castle, because that`s how. I was reading this book for a large part while sitting in the kitchen with one of my housemates, and I think I ended up annoying her by laughing about something and then reciting the part to her.
All in all, I absolutely adored this book. It`s exciting, gripping, edge-of-the-seat. It`s engaging, it keeps you stuck in the book until far after you`re finished, and I recommend it to anyone who likes magic and romance (and sarcasm) in books.