Howl's Moving Castle

Diana Wynne Jones
Howl's Moving Castle Cover

Howl's Moving Castle


As the eldest of three daughters, Sophie has resigned herself to an unadventurous life taking over her parents' hat shop in the town of Market Chipping. Then one day, she somehow incurs the wrath of the evil Witch of the Wastes, who punishes her by turning her into an old woman. Taking this unexpected turn of events well in stride, Sophie decides to seek help at the home of the powerful and narcissistic Wizard Howl, well known for both his mysterious moving castle and his apparent penchant for stealing (and possibly eating) the hearts of young girls.

The most awesome thing about this book is Sophie. Everything Sophie does is pure gold, all the time. Some reasons why Sophie is fantastic:

I love that, contrary to the idea that only the young go out adventuring, Sophie is resigned to a dull, uninteresting life as a hat maker until she becomes an old woman. Becoming an old woman is a transformative experience for her, liberating her to express herself and her desires when previously she was polite and restrained. Basically, old lady protagonists are THE BEST.

I enjoyed the strange, dysfunctional little family that Howl, his apprentice Michael, his fire demon Calcifer, and Sophie made. The characters are all so delightfully quirky; I loved Sophie's penchant for accidentally bringing objects to life around her, and the way Howl spends two hours in the bathroom doing his hair every day, and Calcifer's long suffering snarkiness. I did finish the book with one major complaint and that is the way that every female character romantically pairs off in the end--seriously, does every girl require a boy to ensure her future happiness? I get that it's a fairy tale happy ending, but it really undermines the book's overarching message about Sophie becoming more independent and strong-willed, and left me slightly bitter, because we all know how I feel about romance.

Howl's Moving Castle is a book I would recommend without question to a young reader; I can imagine myself reading it aloud to my younger sisters, as I used to do when we were little, and all of us loving it. It's a fantastically fun read. That said, I am more hesitant to recommend it to an adult. I've recently read some really wonderful, quality pieces of YA literature (Orleans, A Creature of Moonlight), that have a not age-restricted ability to intrigue, inspire, and move. Howl's Moving Castle didn't do any of those things, and I can't say that I fell in love with it as passionately as so many other readers have--but it did charm me, make me laugh, and introduce me to one of my favourite new protagonists. I would say it depends on your mood... and if you are in the mood for a straightforward, frolicsome fantasy romp, then this is absolutely your book.