Tuesday 23 July 2013

Blast From the Past: Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Originally published in 1986 by Greenwillow Books in the US

My edition: the Kindle edition of the gorgeous 2009 paperback by HarperCollins Children’s Books (pictured above).

What’s it about?
When Sophie Hatter catches the attention of the Witch of the Waste, she is put under a spell. Feeling she has nothing to lose, Sophie makes her way to the castle that roves the hills above Market Chipping which belongs to the Wizard Howl who is believed to thrive on the souls of young girls... There she makes a pact with Howl’s apprentice, Calcifer, and fights to break her curse.

Why now?
With the death of Diana Wynne Jones in early 2011, the book world recently rejoiced at the news of a posthumous novel from the fantasy legend which was finished by her sister, being published next Spring. The joy from my Twitter feed prompted me to give her a go, and where better to start than with her most famous novel.


The verdict:
Straight up: utterly, utterly magical.

I fell immediately in love with the characters of Howl’s Moving Castle. I felt a kinship with Sophie from the off, and not just because we share a name. She’s trapped by the fate of her position as the eldest of three and doomed to failure, she’s bored by her life and job and wants to seek out adventure, danger and life. That’s completely I’m strongly relating to at the moment and we clicked straight away.

The contrast between Sophie as a seventeen-year-old girl and a ninety-year-old woman is fascinating. Before, she was shy and pretty much a doormat really. Once cursed, Sophie becomes a force of nature. She refuses to take no for an answer, sticks her nose in where it’s not wanted and forges ahead with every seed of thought that flicks through her mind. The idea that aging gives you a freedom that’s impossible to grasp when you’re young and s reliant on the world and people’s perceptions of you really interested me; Diana Wynne Jones planted a very interesting idea in my brain with that.

Howl and Sophie also had a fantastic dynamic. The banter that was thrown back and forward between them had me smiling and chuckling under my breath; they have great chemistry. I do, however, think that they worked better as great friends and an evil-fighting team rather than the hint f a relationship at the end of the novel. It made me a little uncomfortable actually. I can’t quite put my finger on why though...

My love Calcifer, however, remained strong and true throughout the novel. I love him! He’s such a unique creature and the whole idea of him is brilliant. He’s funny, stubborn, mysterious and totally loyal. I’d read a whole book about Calcifer. Maybe about the beginning of his adventures with Howl...

I thoroughly enjoyed this and I’m so, so glad I’ve finally read it. This is one that I’ll read to my children when I have them. Howl’s Moving Castle is a story of a type of magic best devoured as a child.

Still not convinced?
- Watch the 2004 adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki: it’s magical, heart-warming and utterly gorgeous.
- Diana Wynne Jones is one of the most beloved authors of children’s fantasy.

Which Wynne Jones novel would you recommend newbies start with? Did you like the resolution between Howl and Sophie? What books are you looking forward to reading to your children?



  1. I would need to read some work from this author, but I must praise your idea of having "Blast From The Past" segments. I thoroughly enjoy them, whether it be "The Great Gatsby," "The Hobbit," or this.

  2. I completely agree with your assessment of Howl and Sophie's relationship! I couldn't quite articulate what it was til I read this review, but that's EXACTLY how I felt. You should read her other books in the series - they make brief appearances in them. Just enough to give a little nod to her readers.


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