Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
You know those books that pretty much anyone who is a fantasy fan has read? I’m slowly making my way through those books, with Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones at the top of my pile. Oh, friends, Diana Wynne Jones absolutely did not disappoint. We have a cranky old woman, a vain heartbreaker wizard, a fire demon, a witch and a fantastic storyline.
You see, Sophie is a hatter (because her last name is Hatter, she makes hats) and lives with her two sisters, Martha and Lettie. Her sisters leave for apprenticeships and Sophie is stuck with the family business. Yet Sophie believes the eldest is not destined for great adventure and fortune and is resigned to her hatmaking fate. Honestly, a smarter person than I could puzzle out a determinism versus fate theme, but I won’t go into that sort of analysis. As bad luck would have it, the evil Witch Of The Waste enters Sophie’s shop, is unsatisfied and turns Sophie into a 90 year old woman. Sophie, believing no one will recognize or know her decides to seek refuge with the wizard Howl, known throughout Ingary for eating the hearts of young women.
Yo, you can totally trust the Brits when it comes to children’s fantasy, these people are solid. Howl’s Moving Castle was all that I expected it to be – whimsical, magical, and a place for me to revel in my favorite character trope: cranky old ladies. Diana Wynne Jones’ characterization is pitch perfect – from practical talks to objects Sophie, to Calcifer the fire demon who wants out of his contract, to Howl who initially comes off as spoiled and selfish yet there’s more to him than meets the eye. Jones has created a cast of dynamic three dimensional characters.
The story is told in a way that never condescends to the reader. I never felt talked down to or that the narration was treating children as though they were stupid. Instead, I felt as though I was reading a fairytale of yore, and guys I totally love that feeling.
My only complaint is aesthetic, and that is the print in my copy hurt my eyes when I read it for too long, but that’s easily fixed if you read this on an ereader instead of in print.
Howl’s Moving Castle is absorbing with a few surprise twists. I have a feeling that I will become good friends, or very well acquainted with Diana Wynne Jones’ work, as her books are exactly what I love as far as fantasy goes – strong characterization, an imaginative plot, and excellent writing.
Disclosure: Purchased Copy.