Howl’s Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Rating: 4 stars
‘In the land of Ingary, where seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility do exist, Sophie Hatter catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste and is put under a spell.
Deciding she has nothing more to lose, she makes her way to the moving castle that hovers on the hills above Market Chipping. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the souls of young girls… There she meets Michael, Howl’s apprentice, and Calcifer the Fire Demon, with whom she agrees a pact.
But Sophie isn’t the only one under a curse – her entanglements with Calcifer, Howl, and Michael, and her quest to break her curse is both gripping – and howlingly funny!’
The Welsh is strong with this one. It’s a fairytale infused with all the sparking, strangeness of Welsh Mythology and the
I saw the Studio Ghibli version of Howl’s Moving Castle a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it. However, as with most book adaptations, you could definitely see the places where aspects of the book were missing. Somehow, Diana Wynne Jones’ body of work has managed to pass me by entirely – I can only assume that she was underrepresented in Lancashire libraries when I was little. So this is the first book of hers that I’ve read – I’ve definitely been missing out.
I really loved her tongue in cheek narration, the twisted way she told her tale of body swapping, multiple identities, disguise and distraction is a delight. You’re never entirely sure what anyone’s motives are, what they know or indeed who they actually are – nor is anybody else..
There’s definitely fairytale influences and Wynne Jones is quite happy to play off conventions and to flip them on their head whenever she sees fit, but this is very much her own story. Sophie is an unconventional delight and I loved her brand of magic. The castle’s other inhabitants – Howl, Michael and Calcifer – are equally entertaining and strange. Calcifer and the mythology surrounding him are a personal highlight and he really makes the ending – brilliant final line from him.
I suppose the best thing about it that Howl’s Moving Castle feels both traditional and refreshing all in one breath. We’ve got capricious wizards with suspicious familiars combined with Welsh Rugby and children being bribed with video games. It’s a highly original novel brim-full of biting wit, fairy-tale wisdom and a girl who only learns what she’s worth when she has the decades distance to see it.