I bought this on my Kindle for a long flight because I had been seeing it front and center in all the bookstores and it seemed like just the kind of lI bought this on my Kindle for a long flight because I had been seeing it front and center in all the bookstores and it seemed like just the kind of light fiction that I like on planes. I see a lot of reviews say they disliked this book because it wasn't as creepy as promised, and while I see their point, the lack of a creepy factor wasn't what made me disappointed with it. For me, it was the characterization and world building that was lacking.
*SPOILERS TO FOLLOW*
I was pretty much on-board until after Jacob's arrival on the island. Then it went downhill. Jacob shows up at the ruins of the children's home and Riggs does a good job of building tension as Jacob rummages through the basement, but then as soon as the children appear, looking at him through the hole in the floor, the moment disappears and suddenly Jacob becomes really chummy with them. He has no reason to believe these kids are alive or friendly, other than his grandfather's memories of them, but Jacob seems to accept the loop universe despite there being no reason to trust it. I just kept thinking - shouldn't he be more scared or more questioning of the crumbling of what he knew to be reality?
In the same way, Emma acts really aggressively, even threatening to kill him with a knife and then suddenly changes her mind. Transitions are not earned or explained. So many motivations of the book's characters are not developed. Later, Emma and Jacob develop a romance that has no reason to happen except that the plot called for a romance so it was inserted. There's nothing in the prose to indicate why the two are drawn to each other or a reason to even like each other. It unfortunately falls into the trap of formulaic writing of a romance. The scene with the glowing fish and the ship is very imaginative, but it's just plopped in there because Emma wants to show it to him and it serves zero purpose in the greater plot. Emma being 90 years old and Jacob 16, though icky, doesn't bother me as much as the idea that they would fall in love in the span of 2 days, when Emma seemed to have a real connection with his grandfather and is mourning his loss. How cool would have been if the narrative played up the twisted and sad aspect to Emma/Jacob's affair, using it to display the trauma that both are suffering? But it misses a good opportunity and seems to want the reader to take their love as legitimate and something to root for. Not to mention that the photos are of very different women - the last one looked like she was in her late 20s. It almost seemed like a placeholder photo or something you'd put on an inspiration board to describe the feel of something, but then swap it out later for something more consistent.
Other characters are brought in and described, but are never used in the story. Like Jacob's only friend at the beginning of the story, who seemed actually well-developed but then who never appears again once Jacob goes to Wales. And Victor, the dead boy in bed. I kept thinking there must be a really cool back story there, and that he would definitely serve some mysterious purpose, but he didn't at all. Unless I was reading it wrong and it was a different character, he gets blown up at the end and they just bury him before heading out. Even Mrs. Peregrine, who seems like she's going to be a formidable presence, shrinks from her full potential and ends up a quite lackluster babysitter, so that when they need to save her, the reader doesn't care as much whether they do or not. I guess for me it came down to the preconception that this book is about a group of amazing kids with equally amazing abilities, but I didn't really feel like I cared and perhaps that's because there were so many characters thrown in that none of them got to really shine and latch on.
The extreme open-ended plot doesn't work in fiction. In TV Shows, absolutely. Even in film, you can cut to black. But not in fiction, even with a sequel coming out. If it at least could have wrapped up some of the questions brought up in the first book, then the second one could bring in entirely new plot elements.
I feel like I completely annihilated this book in this review, but there were also some things I enjoyed. I liked the portrayal of the Welsh town and I thought the beginning of the novel was great, as were the moments when Jacob was thinking about his grandfather and dealing with his guilt over not believing him. In the end though, I was very surprised after reading it, that it was on all those must-read lists and bookstore front shelves. An excellent marketing campaign and concept for a meh novel. It would be hard for any book to live up to that incredible cover and the hype.
I picked this book up after being third party to my boyfriend and father's conversation gushing all about it and I just had to know what the big dealI picked this book up after being third party to my boyfriend and father's conversation gushing all about it and I just had to know what the big deal was. While I don't think I am as in love with this book as they are, I still had a great time reading it. Douglas Adams is extremely clever and, for me, that is the best thing about this first installment. It takes big existential concerns and makes them hilarious. One of my favorite bits was the missile that turns into a whale and has only seconds to contemplate its existence before falling to the ground. And the Vorgon's poetry being "read at people" as punishment. Excellent. There were so many hilarious sections. His prose flows effortlessly and I found myself very attached to the fate of hapless Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect.
At times, the book's irreverence was a little too much for my taste. I wanted to linger a bit longer on the relationships between the characters, but it was quick to move from one ridiculous situation to another, leaving little time for delving into the bigger issues it introduces. But if it had done that, the book's tone would have been completely different and maybe the worse for it. It is not meant to be a deep, philosophical diatribe. It's a rocking space adventure, so I tried to keep that in mind as I read. The section with the improbability drive is an example of where I think it just got to be too much silly for me to grab ahold of. It is how I feel about Kurt Vonnegut too. I can appreciate what they're doing, it just doesn't push my buttons in the way some authors do. All in all, a highly enjoyable read....more
This is my first book by Diana Wynne Jones and I feel the need to seek out more. What a magical, creative story. There was an interview with her at thThis is my first book by Diana Wynne Jones and I feel the need to seek out more. What a magical, creative story. There was an interview with her at the end and I was particularly interested to find out that the idea of a moving castle came from a little boy...it does seem the kind of idea to be sparked in a child's mind but it's Wynne Jones's mind that brings it to life.
Sophie is an extremely sheltered, nonadventurous girl who is turned into an old woman by a witch's curse, prompting her to venture out into the world to seek her fortune.
There's a balanced amount of detail, enough to fully round out the characters and events without going overboard and becoming too absorbed in it and becoming boring. I was rooting for Sophie the whole way. Howl, in my opinion, is the best character in the book. I love the way he pretends to be completely vacuous and shallow, but in the end he does care and he always knows more than he's letting on. He reminds me of David Bowie in the Labyrinth, spandex pants and all. I'm not embarassed to admit I can add him to my list of fictional crushes.
Calcifer, the fire demon, and the long suffering magician's apprentice, Michael, are also wonderful characters and full of personality. My favorite aspect of the magical moving castle is the portal: one door that opens on 4 different places depending on which knob is turned. I wish that existed in real life.
The only fault I had with the novel is that it resolves a little too quickly and neatly at the end. I would have liked a few loose endings or for the final battle to drag out a little longer, but with a book for kids, I guess it makes sense to have a speedy action bit and a neat conclusion.
I've been reading a lot of children's fantasy because I'm writing one, so I say it's for research but really because I enjoy them and with Diana Wynne Jones, there's so much to love.