Jennifer Morrill's Reviews > Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
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's review
Aug 02, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by: Some girl at Borders
Recommended for: Fantasy Fans
Read in July, 2008

** spoiler alert **
I was given this book by a friend who had not read it yet. She went on a shopping spree at Borders and ended up with more books than she intended to buy. She offered this one up to me for a read.

I have to say, it took me a while to get into this book. I found the language in the first few chapters choppy, and I was honestly bored. As I read on, the character of Sophie became really endearing and I actually cared about what happened to her.

The story begins with the story of Sophie, the oldest of 3 sisters. Her father dies and while her sisters are sent off on apprenticeships, Sophie, being the eldest, is left to work with her step-mother in the family hat shop.

Sophie tries to make the most of her tedious life and talks to the hats. It soon becomes clear she has a real talent and her hats become in high demand. Unfortunately, the Witch of the Waste also visits the shop and casts a spell on Sophie.

Sophie is transformed into a 90 year-old woman and under the terms of her curse, she cannot tell anyone she is under a spell. Sophie decides to leave the hat shop and seek her fortune elsewhere.

Along the way, she meets up with the Wizard Howl, a character she was afraid of as her former self. Being a 90 year-old woman gives Sophie new confidence and courage and she no longer cares about what the Wizard Howl might do to her.

The Wizard Howl seems intrigued with Sophie’s brazen personality and tolerates her presence. Sophie tries to make herself useful to avoid the prospect of being homeless again. Sophie meets Michael, Howl’s apprentice, and Calcifer, a fire demon in a secret contract with Howl.

Calcifer sees through the Witch’s spell and offers to help Sophie, conditionally. Sophie agrees without fully investigating the terms of the deal. Calcifer wants Sophie to break his contract with Howl, but he cannot tell her what the terms of the contract are.

Sophie, Howl, Calcifer and Michael are involved with a search for the King’s brother, Prince Justin, which sends them into the Waste of the Witch, a dangerous place indeed.

The end of the book ties up all loose ends, but really felt sloppy to me. It seemed like the author tried to cram everything into 4 pages. The result left it feeling kind of like a hokey ending. It wasn’t a bad ending… it just seemed rushed.

I have not seen the animated picture version of the movie created by Hayao Miyazaki, but I will be interested to see how it follows with the book. Overall, on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the lowest, and 5 being the highest, I would rate this book a 3.75, only because I didn’t care for the beginning or ending. Or a B-.

Howl’s Moving Castle DVD By Hayao Miyazaki

Well, the movie started out pretty much the same as the book. Sophie working in the hat shop. Going to visit her sister Lettie in the bakery where she runs into Howl. Howl, however, saves Sophie from some unwelcome attention with a bit of flying and jumping on rooftops.

The Witch of the Waste comes to Sophie’s shop as in the book and turns her into an old woman. Sophie finds the scarecrow along the way to Howl’s castle. Much of this part of the book is the same, with Howl being into himself and Sophie cleaning like mad. One of the things missing out of the middle of the story is Martha and Lettie and the love story between Howl, Michael and the two Letties.

Something that really bothered me about this adaptation is the futuristic approach to it. I imagined a horse-drawn carriage type world instead of airplanes and flying machines.

The trip to the castle was the most confusing to me. Sophie goes as Mrs. Pendragon and meets up with the Witch of the Waste. It is all a ruse to strip the magicians of their powers plotted by the Wizard Sullivan. The Witch of the West is stripped of her power and ‘beauty’ and taken in by Howl, Sophie, Michael and Calcifer.

Howl and Sophie have a very romantic moment in which he gives her the garden and they share how much they care for each other. Then Fanny shows up out of the blue with the quickest, most uncomfortable, ‘hi I haven’t seen you in forever I was so worried, okay then good-bye.’ But it is all a plot to leave a listening device in the place where the castle has moved.

Howl somehow keeps turning into a bird-thing and Sophie seems to keep switching back from young to old, without any one noticing. There is WAY more of a love-story between Howl and Sophie than in the book. To me it just seemed wrong. Howl was not as much of narcissist as he should have been. OH, and Sophie is friends with the turnip-head scarecrow instead of being terrified of him. Sophie does not show any of her mysterious magical talents in the movie. Unless you count her ‘superhair’ turning Calcifer into the super-man of fire demons.
The Witch of the Waste tried to directly steal Howl’s heart from Calcifer. Then she decides to have a change of heart and give it back “as long as you take care of it.” Hmmm not every wicked for some evil witch. So then the scarecrow man saves them and his pole broke. Sophie kisses him and he turns into a handsome prince. We are told that the spell could only have been broken by a kiss by his true love. But then Sophie runs to Howl’s side and kisses him. The Witch of the Waste says, “well I guess your true love is in love with someone else.” To which he responds, “Yes then, I’d better be off home to get this war stopped.” Calcifer makes a brief reappearance as his former star self.

It ends with the castle flying off into the air.

Now I read the book and I was confused by the whole plot. I live the movie a C- and I think I am being generous.

By the way, it also took me 4 sittings to get through it all. I kept falling asleep. Something I have never done while reading a book. Hmmm. Not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but not even close to being there with Harry Potter which offended some die-hard fans by being so far off the book, but made for a decently exciting movie.

Also…what the heck happened to Wales and Mrs. Whats-her-name the English teacher who was really the witch’s demon?!?! I liked that part.

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