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Howl's Moving Castle #1

Howl’s Moving Castle

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Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

329 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 1, 1986

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About the author

Diana Wynne Jones

150 books10k followers
Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an educational conference centre. There, Jones and her two younger sisters Isobel (later Professor Isobel Armstrong, the literary critic) and Ursula (later an actress and a children's writer) spent a childhood left chiefly to their own devices. After attending the Friends School Saffron Walden, she studied English at St Anne's College in Oxford, where she attended lectures by both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien before graduating in 1956. In the same year she married John Burrow, a scholar of medieval literature, with whom she had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin. After a brief period in London, in 1957 the couple returned to Oxford, where they stayed until moving to Bristol in 1976.

According to her autobiography, Jones decided she was an atheist when she was a child.

Jones started writing during the mid-1960s "mostly to keep my sanity", when the youngest of her three children was about two years old and the family lived in a house owned by an Oxford college. Beside the children, she felt harried by the crises of adults in the household: a sick husband, a mother-in-law, a sister, and a friend with daughter. Her first book was a novel for adults published by Macmillan in 1970, entitled Changeover. It originated as the British Empire was divesting colonies; she recalled in 2004 that it had "seemed like every month, we would hear that yet another small island or tiny country had been granted independence."Changeover is set in a fictional African colony during transition, and begins as a memo about the problem of how to "mark changeover" ceremonially is misunderstood to be about the threat of a terrorist named Mark Changeover. It is a farce with a large cast of characters, featuring government, police, and army bureaucracies; sex, politics, and news. In 1965, when Rhodesia declared independence unilaterally (one of the last colonies and not tiny), "I felt as if the book were coming true as I wrote it."

Jones' books range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation (Changeover is both), to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless (though not unaffectionate) critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.

The Harry Potter books are frequently compared to the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Many of her earlier children's books were out of print in recent years, but have now been re-issued for the young audience whose interest in fantasy and reading was spurred by Harry Potter.

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She was friends with both McKinley and Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman are fans of each other's work; she dedicated her 1993 novel Hexwood to him after something he said in conversation inspired a key part of the plot. Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.

For Charmed Life, the first Chrestomanci novel, Jones won the 1978 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime award by The Guardian newspaper that is judged by a panel of children's writers. Three times she was a commended runner-up[a] for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book: for Dogsbody (1975), Charmed Life (1977), and the fourth Chrestomanci book The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988). She won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, children's section, in 1996 for The Crown of Dalemark.

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5 stars
150,285 (50%)
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3 stars
37,846 (12%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 23,566 reviews
Profile Image for Cara.
280 reviews700 followers
July 14, 2014
Honestly what made me want to read this book was the movie. *gasp* I know, I know shouldn't do that. The movie was good (I am a fan of Hayo Miyazaki's films) and I wasn't disappointed in the book. As always much of the book wasn't put into the movie, but it was understandable because I imagine it would be hard to piece together a movie with all the components this story has.

To really grasp and understand the book I would suggest that it be read twice I think. Since I did watch the movie I wasn't as shocked at things, but I was so impressed about how the author intertwined all the strands of the story together. If you have a chance definitely read the book first. The author did an impeccable job of piecing things together to get a wham-bam of an ending.

Ok quick summary: Our main character is Sophie. She is the oldest of three girls and works in a hat shop. Things change when the Witch of the Waste (evil bad women) puts a spell on her that makes her old. She meets the infamous wizard Howl (great character) and it takes off from there. Make sure to pay attention to ALL DETAILS to get the ending.

(Sorry if the review isn't that great. It's the first time I'm trying something like this, so I'll apologize now for all the confusion I may have caused, and the errors in the review.)
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 74 books50.5k followers
January 18, 2022
I read this to my daughter, Celyn (10 at the time), who is too disabled to read books by herself.

I had seen some of the anime film version years ago but remembered basically nothing of it.

I found the whole thing original and refreshing. The point of view character (Sophie) is engaging and no-nonsense with a very capable can-do attitude. The story moves along at a good pace and the whole moving castle / multiple doors thing is a great idea and used well.

The Welsh connection is well-played, and the continuing reveals keep everything interesting.

My only complaint is that the end seemed rather tortured with so many story-lines converging in ways that felt rather unsatisfying / hard to believe. The part, for example, seemed to come out of left-field and made very little sense to me.

If I were a touch harsher then that ending would pull this down to a 4*. But Celyn loved it. I enjoyed reading it. And I'm in a good mood. So 5*!

I can see why it's a classic, and if you have a 10 year old, point them at it! We may well pursue the author's other works.

Edit: We've now finished the trilogy!



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Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews109k followers
November 9, 2021
Buddy reading this with Howl's Moving Castle fans helped me get more pumped up for the story. I enjoyed the whimsical atmosphere, the simple charm of the protagonist, and the quirkiness of Howl. As I got to the second half of the book though, it was hard to maintain interest due to not much happening. I think if it weren’t for me projecting the Miyazaki characters onto the text, I’m not sure if I would enjoy the book as much by itself. That being said, if there were more romance, I would have been more shamelessly into this regardless of plot!
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.4k followers
March 15, 2019
I came in expecting a novelization of the movie (one of my favorites), but what I got was even better.

Good news: The atmosphere and characterization is extremely similar to the Studio Ghibli film. I absolutely loved practical, stubborn Sophie and vain, dramatic Howl as well as the overall concept of the story. Those were the reasons I wanted to read the book in the first place, and luckily it delivered.

The book is simply more. We get more insight into Sophie and Howl's backstories and strong personalities, more time in different worlds, more characters, more factors working against our protagonists, and more explanation of how magic works in this universe. As someone who loves to completely understand fantasy worlds and how they work, I loved it. Since there were so many factors introduced throughout this novel, the ending felt a little rushed. I loved it just the same!

The movie is a great movie, and the book was a great book. They are two very different experiences, but work perfectly hand-in-hand. I would recommend it to all fans of the movie and YA fantasy!
Profile Image for Robin Hobb.
Author 268 books96.3k followers
June 5, 2021
There is, of course, a wonderful anime about this book, with the same title. But as is true of many, many books and movies, I found the experience of reading to be very different from that of viewing.

In my opinion, any movie based on a book is really a movie about one reader's reaction and interpretation of a book. In this case, it's an enjoyable one, but I felt that it missed many of the nuances of the story that made it such a great read.

I've yet to read a book by Diana Wynne Jones that did not enchant me. But among her books, this one is special to me. Every character is engaging. The world and situation is unique. There is a thoughtful thread that runs through the story about how we see ourselves and how we see others. Appearances can be deceiving, and not just to people outside ourselves.

There are magics here that are both gentle and profound. Definitely a book that can be enjoyed more than once.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,368 reviews9,435 followers
May 5, 2018
I have to say I love Hayao Miyazaki's movie better because come on, it's an awesome movie. (Although, Spirited Away is my favorite movie)



There were some differences in the book but the movie was based off the book and it's not going to be the same. All that matters is they both were awesome and the author loved the movie too.

I absolutely love fantasy worlds that are way out there.


Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐾🐺
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,208 followers
December 10, 2019
this is the most magical story I have ever read
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
732 reviews5,003 followers
January 15, 2023
Doors are very powerful things. Things are different on either side of them.

If the whimsy for a magical adventure oozing with charm and full of unforgettable characters ever strikes you, might I direct your attention to the Diana Wynne Jones’ endlessly entertaining Howl’s Moving Castle. It is a story where assumptions are tested and often overturned and the characters are full of as much nuance as they are personality, making for an engaging read that will keep you on your toes. Sure, there is the Miyazaki film adaptation, but the two are different enough to each stand on their own and this novel is such an fun-filled event I stayed up far too late to finish the book but do not regret yawning my way through the following workday. Howl’s Moving Castle is a quirkily endearing coming-of-age story in a fanciful realm of magic and mystery that explores ideas of freedom, family and that appearances can be deceiving.
48B2D854-3BB4-4BDB-9CD0-093D7F6C7E9E
The film adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli

What really sticks this story straight into the readers heart are the characters that populate the magical realm of Ingary. Jones creates a world that is adjacent to our own, with characters such as Howl’s sister Megan still residing there (her frustration with her brother often hinging on not knowing he is in fact a magic user in Ingary instead of pursuing a job). The story follows Sophie, the oldest of three sisters and ‘it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst.’ A run-in with the Witch of the Waste leaves her cursed to have the body of a frail, elderly woman, but Sophie is a fiery and determined woman who seeks an end of her curse and forces herself into the employment of Howl, a wizard with a dangerous reputation who roams the countryside in…you guessed it, a giant moving castle.

'My shining dishonesty will be the salvation of me.'

Howl is an absolute delight as a character, and also rather insufferable (which is half the fun). Appearing at first to be a villain, the more we learn about Howl the more endearing and completely aggravating he is. To the reader and especially Sophie. Prone to tantrums (he trashes the castle over a bad hair dyeing), being overdramatic (‘I'm going to bed, where I may die,’ he says of a minor cold), and reckless womanizing that leaves behind a string of broken hearts, Howl is ‘fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,’ says Sophie. He is a ‘slitherer-outer,’ with his cowardly side keeping him from action, yet there is another side of him that makes him shockingly likable. Jones jokes in interviews that when girls say they are in love with Howl she says to not do that as he is awful, joking that in response to them saying they would like to marry Howl she says 'Howl would be one of the most dreadful husbands one could possibly imagine.' But his duality gives him charm and a weight as a character that is rather infectious, and, yo, this dude is supposed to be HOT so I get it.
Half the time I think he doesn’t care what happens to anyone as long as he’s all right— but then I find out how awfully kind he’s been to someone. Then I think he’s kind just when it suits him—only then I find out he undercharges poor people.

Howl is a perfect representation of how appearances can often be deceiving in this novel, and Jones writes really excellent gray characters that were fairly nontypical for the children’s fantasy novel genre in 1986 when it was released, which is part (along with the great humor for sure) of what makes this just as engaging for an adult to read. Sophie looks old and frail, but is determined, the fire demon Calcifer looks ‘extraordinarily evil’ but he is an anxious and charming, even the castle seems like a massive evil building but is actually just Howl’s home bewitched to be able to move about without ever actually leaving. This latter example plays into another theme where the character’s homes tend to represent them, Howl’s being a wandering sort that is actually all just smoke and mirrors or the Witch living in the middle of nowhere as a representation for her isolation from everyone.

A heart's a heavy burden.

Every character seems simple but are always hiding a tangled web of motivations beneath the surface. Howl and the Witch also tend to take advantage of their appearances in order to get what they want. This contrasts well with Sophie, who is prone to brash action without thinking. The catch in the book, however, is that one’s identity often becomes a sort of imprisonment to them. Destructive patterns get them into trouble, Howl’s good looks play havoc on his relationships and Sophie’s lack of self-esteem is a major obstacle for her to overcome throughout the course of the book. This also plays into overcoming expectations, such as the curse placed on Howl using a John Donne poem about impossible tasks. The ultimate task, to find a 'woman true and fair,' does smack of some misogyny that Jones delights in overturning, but overturning and subversion is the name of the game here. This is a world where nothing is impossible, and if we let ourselves be stopped simply by expectations, what are we missing in life? In what ways are we self-sabatoging?

It is impossible to not think of the Miyazaki version of this book when, to be fair, it is what lead me to reading Jones’ original. Being loosely based on the book and taking it in different directions, I feel the two are easily enjoyed separate from each other and I never feel compelled to “prefer” one or the other. I do enjoy how the movie takes a much greater anti-war stance, something that Miyazaki often features in his film and is vocally anti-war in his personal life. He did not attend the Academy Awards when his film Spirited Away won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and told the LA TimesThe reason I wasn’t here for the Academy Award was because I didn’t want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq.’ Diana Wynne Jones enjoyed the film, saying ‘I was thrown back in my seat with amazement’ (there is a good interview of her talking about the film you can watch here), and had made special requests of Miyazaki to not change anything of Howl’s personality. Howl’s love of all animals and refusal to kill is emphasized well as a theme of pacifism in the film.

Howl’s Moving Castle is destined to become a classic, and is effortlessly charming and nearly impossible to put down. It is a wonderful statement about moving away from our defensiveness and out of the prisons of the self we either self-impose or have assumed of us based on appearances. This is a story where the only thing to expect is the unexpected and it makes for a fun and often very funny ride. Definitely would recommend.

4.5/5

I think we ought to live happily ever after.
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16k followers
June 26, 2010
For some reason I've been reading a lot of really great books lately. I feel that itch to find something I can tear apart and relish in the destruction. However, Howl's Moving Castle didn't provide me with that opportunity.

It is an amazing and fantastic book. The characters are so very different, funny, quirky and lovable that I was sucked in right away. The storyline was intriguing and fun to read. The writing was quite good and the world was utterly fascinating.

If you've watched the movie then you needn't worry about being spoiled of the book or ending. They are actually nothing alike. The movie, whilst I really enjoyed it, to the original premise and basic character traits and made its own story from there.

Sophie is hilarious. She almost makes me want to be an old lady, just so I can be cantankerous and boss people around. Howl is funny and sweet as the brilliant yet vain, thoughtless, mysterious wizard. The whole story is great and I highly, highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
October 22, 2021
Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1), Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle is a fantasy novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones, first published in 1986.

Howl's Moving Castle is the first novel in the series of books called the Howl Series. This series also includes Castle in the Air, published in 1990, and House of Many Ways, published in 2008.

A young woman named Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters living in the town of Market Chipping in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where many fairy tale tropes are accepted ways of life, including that the eldest of three will never be successful.

Sophie is able to unknowingly talk life into inanimate objects. As the eldest, she is resigned to the "fact" that she will have no chance of finding her fortune, accepting that she will have a dull life running the family hat shop. One day, however, the powerful Witch of the Waste turns her into an old crone.

Sophie leaves the shop and finds work as a cleaning lady for the notorious Wizard Howl. She strikes a bargain with Howl's fire-demon, Calcifer: if she can break the contract between Howl and Calcifer, then Calcifer will return her to her original youthful form.

Part of the contract, however, stipulates that neither Howl nor Calcifer can disclose the main clause of the contract to any third party. Sophie tries to guess the specifics of the contract, while Calcifer supplies frequent hints which she usually does not pick up. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «قلعه متحرک»؛ «قلعه‌ ی متحرک هاول»؛ نویسنده: دیانا (دایانا) واین جونز؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش چهاردهم نوامبر سال 2012میلادی

عنوان: قلعه متحرک؛ نویسنده: دیانا (دایانا) واین جونز؛ مترجم: شراره صدیق؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، کتابسرای تندیس؛ سال1381؛ در302ص، شابک9789645757357؛ چاپ دوم سال1382، چاپ سوم سال1389؛ چاپ چهارم سال1396؛ چاپ پنجم سال1397؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: قلعه‌ ی متحرک هاول؛ ن‍وی‍س‍ن‍ده‌: دای‍انا وی‍ن‌‌ ج‍ون‍ز؛ مترجم: نیلوفر رحمانیان؛ ویراستار مریم قهرمانی؛ تهران، علمی فرهنگی، سال1397؛ در390ص؛ شابک9786004367523؛

داستانی عاشقانه، بین دختری هجده ساله، به نام «سوفی»، نفرین شده توسط جادوگری، و دربند شده در بدن یک پیرزن، و یک شعبده باز، به نام «هارو» است؛ «سوفی» بخاطر طلسم، به دنبال سرنوشتش میرود، سرنوشتی که او را به قلعه ی متحرک و عجیب «هارو»، هدایت میکند؛ در قلعه، «سوفی» با دیوِ آتشِ «هارو»، «کاریشیفا» آشنا میشود؛ «کاریشیفا» به او قول میدهد، تا طلسم را از روی او بردارد، و او را به هجده سالگی برگرداند، ولی تنها به شرطی که ....؛ در این پازل جادویی، هیچ‌ چیز، و هیچکس، آنچه به نظر می‌آیند، نیستند؛ سرنوشت‌ها به هم گره خورده و هویت انسان‌ها با هم عوض می‌شوند

نقل از متن کتاب «قلعه متحرک»؛ (البته «سوفی» همان موقع هم، کلاهدوزی را به خوبی بلد بود؛ از وقتی بچه‌ ی کوچکی بیش نبود در کارگاهی که در حیاط خانه قرار داشت، می‌دوید و بازی می‌کرد؛ در آنجا کلاه‌ها را خیس می‌کردند، و سپس روی قالب‌ها شکل می‌دادند؛ گل‌ها، میوه‌ ها و دیگر تزئینات را از موم و ابریشم درست می‌کردند؛ او مردمی را که آنجا کار می‌کردند، می‌شناخت؛ بیشتر آن‌ها از وقتی پدر او پسر بچه‌ ای بیش نبود، در آنجا کار می‌کردند؛ او «بسی» را می‌شناخت تنها کارگری که، هنوز در مغازه باقی مانده بود؛ او مشتریانی را که از آن‌ها کلاه می‌خریدند، مردی را که از خارج از شهر کلاه‌های خام و حصیری می‌آورد، تا روی قالب‌ها شکل بگیرند، و دیگر کسانی را که مواد کار می‌آوردند را نیز می‌شناخت، و می‌دانست که چگونه برای کلاه‌های زمستانی، نمد درست کند؛ در واقع تنها چیزی که «فنی» باید به او می‌آموخت ترغیب کردن مشتری‌ها به خریدن کلاه بود؛ «فنی» گفت «عزیزم تو باید آروم آروم به کلاه مناسب برسی؛ اول کلاه‌هایی رو نشان بده، که زیاد مناسب نیستن تا به محض اینکه کلاه مناسب رو به سر گذاشتن متوجه‌ی فرقش بشن.»؛ در واقع «سوفی» زیاد کلاه نمی‌فروخت؛ پس از یکی دو روز کار کردن در کارگاه، و سر و کله زدن با تاجرین پارچه و ابریشم، «فنی» او را به کار تزئین کلاه‌ها گماشت؛ «سوفی» در اتاق کوچکی در عقب مغازه می‌نشست، و گل‌های رز را به کلاه‌های بی لبه، و تورها را به کلاه‌های مخمل می‌دوخت، همه‌ ی کلاه‌ها را با آستری از ابریشم، می‌پوشاند، و با مهارت و زیبایی، گل‌ها و میوه‌ های مومی را، همراه با روبان به آن‌ها وصل می‌کرد؛ او در این کار مهارت داشت، و از انجام آن لذت می‌برد؛ اما احساس انزوا و کسالت می‌کرد؛ مردمی که در کارگاه کار می‌کردند، زیادی پیر بودند، و با او مانند فردی غریبه، رفتار می‌کردند، که روزی صاحب مغازه و کارگاه خواهد شد؛ و ...؛)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 29/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Nataliya.
713 reviews11.3k followers
May 23, 2020
The first time I read this book was on a tiny phone screen in the scattered quiet minutes of a night shifts week. I loved it so much - I thought maybe partially because of sleep deprivation brain fuzziness that can give a good book the shimmer of that happy giddy feeling. But now I reread it with brain well-rested — and the magic still holds.


Sophie, the eldest of three sisters and therefore *clearly* doomed to failure, is an old soul. Enough of the old soul that, after unwittingly upsetting the Witch of the Waste, she is perfectly fine unexpectedly finding herself turned into a crone. And then she makes her way to Howl’s Moving Castle, “far too tall for its height and not a very regular shape”, makes a questionable alliance with the trapped fire demon Calcifer () who’s eager to be let out of its contract with Howl, and sensibly gets the place in the order it so desperately needed.
“Annoyed?” said Sophie. “Why should I be annoyed? Someone only filled the castle with rotten aspic, and deafened everyone in Porthaven, and scared Calcifer to a cinder, and broke a few hundred hearts. Why should that annoy me?”

Sophie is quite mistrustful of her new employer — the wizard Howl (), the rumored devourer of young girls’ hearts; fickle, vain and mercurial — and kind to those in need of assistance, and prone to overcharging the King for his magic spells while undercharging the commoners. He can be quite exasperating, yes he can.
“Well, he’s fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,” she said. “Half the time I think he doesn’t care what happens to anyone as long as he’s all right— but then I find out how awfully kind he’s been to someone. Then I think he’s kind just when it suits him—only then I find out he undercharges poor people. I don’t know, Your Majesty. He’s a mess.”


Or maybe it’s just that Sophie tends to judge too quickly sometimes.

Maybe there is more to the world than meets the eye. Maybe first impressions are misleading and really getting to know someone allows surprising things to shine through. Maybe there are fallen stars and stolen hearts and traveling scarecrows and cowards that are brave and slither-outers who are honest and seeming shallowness that has new startling depths, and annoyance that grows into affection.

Is it a children’s book? I don’t know. It’s simple and sweet and yet can be complex in unexpected ways. It sure spoke to this adult over here. Its humor is kind but at times also a bit quirky. It delightfully turns familiar tropes upside down and makes me happily smile again and again. It makes my inner cynic slink away in shame.

I love it.

5 (falling) stars.
———————

Oh yeah, and I must be that one person who never saw that Studio Ghibli film.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,878 reviews22.6k followers
April 14, 2020
Howl's Moving Castle, for whatever reason, totally failed to engage me the first time I read it several years ago, but it worked so much better the second time around. I really felt for Sophie, the main character, who feels so timid, trapped and hopeless that when she's (unfairly) hit with a curse that turns her from a young woman into an old crone, it actually frees her in more ways than one. She leaves her dead-end job in the village and, for lack of a better option, moves herself (without bothering to ask for permission) into the oddly mobile castle of the Wizard Howl, where magic and cobwebs fill the air. Obviously the young wizard needs a housekeeper, after all. The fire demon in the castle's fireplace mysteriously challenges Sophie to break "the contract" between himself and Howl, and she hopes that maybe Howl and the demon can help break the curse on her as well.

The nature and use of magic in this story were quite creative. As a former English major, I really enjoyed how John Donne's poem "Song" ("Go and catch a falling star") was worked into the story.

The plot was occasionally confusing, and I wished some things had been explained a little better. I also thought that the wrap-up at the end was a bit too hasty. But overall it was a charming and fun read, and it gets bonus points for an unusually high degree of originality.

Upping my rating from 3 stars to an enthusiastic 4.

description

Original review: On paper I should love this book, but it just didn't grab me when I tried to read it about 10 years ago,* and I ended up skimming half of it. I picked it up again at the library the other day and I'm going to give it one more shot.

*I was being kind-hearted when I gave it 3 stars, or was overly swayed by the book's reputation. I would be meaner if I were rating it now, but I'll wait to do that until I've re-read it.
Profile Image for human.
628 reviews931 followers
January 2, 2021
Turns out that the movie was way different than the book. But that's okay, because I'm a Howl simp first, human second it was soo good! Very tempted to go watch it again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASKJDLAKSJDAKLJDSL IT'S HEEEEERRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Update: I put this and other Studio Ghibli movies on hold at my local library.
Now it's time to wait.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This book was so charming and wonderful, therefore I don't think I will ever be able to properly review it.
(That sentence took me 5 minutes to type. I am shooketh.)

I loved everything about this book, from the way that the simplistic writing made me feel immersed in the magic to the characters (but especially the characters. Can I marry Howl? Although, I feel like that will interfere with my ship because you knOW I SHIP IT LIKE CRAZY WITH HOWL ALWAYS BEING ADORABLY MELODRAMATIC AND SOPHIE BEING SO MATURE AND RESPONSIBLE AAAAHHH SOPHIE X HOWL OTP OTP OTP OT-)

*ahem*

(sorry you had to read that)

But seriously. These two are couple goals:

aaagaghg stop too cute too cute too cute

I really loved the characters' dynamic and the way that they were like a family (I'm sorry I'm soft for that trope I can't help it), and also the way that appearances were portrayed in this book overall.

And while I've never watched the Studio Ghibli version (I promise that I'm remedying that VERY SOON), I feel like I'm obsessed probably from the fanart intake, and experienced a bit of nostalgia while reading this. It was probably just the longing to live in this world, though.

I. JUST. LOVED. EVERYTHING.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH I'M IN LOVE
RTC BECAUSE I HAVE FANART TO SCROLL THROUGH
Profile Image for [ J o ].
1,934 reviews425 followers
January 22, 2023
I have been wanting to read this book for a long time, so decided it was about time I just jump straight in. My deepest heart's desire was that I'd find the female-equivalent to Terry Pratchett, but sadly that is not the case.

It was written so well and Diana has an amazing imagination that makes Neil Gaiman look normal. But sadly the characters were flat and I felt nothing for any of them, though I think Howl was the most wonderfully developed of the lot. They were all a little bit "I'm only here for this one bit then I'll leave", which is often the case with background characters but not the main, plot-fuelling ones. And the plot: I did enjoy it to some extent but I got lost a few times and wasn't really sure why certain things were happening. I think she tried to cram in so many wonderful things that often happen in to fantasy books in to just this one that it slightly ripped at the seams.

The world was a lovely thing to be introduced to, but I can't get over my disappointment in the castle. No spoilers, but I was expecting a lot more than what I felt we were given, particular since the thing is in the title. It was rather clever, but not what I wanted personally. However, the world still felt quite small despite the various places visited. There didn't seem enough given to link all the places together and they invariably ended up becoming just the one place after a while.

Despite not quite enjoying this particular book, I do want to read everything else Diana has written, because you can clearly see her amazing imagination and clever storytelling prowess from this book. I think the fact it was a children's book really let it down.
Profile Image for Nicole.
370 reviews12.6k followers
April 6, 2022
Przeczytałam całą i dalej nie rozumiem o co w niej chodziło.
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,088 followers
April 24, 2019
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones opens in a picturesque little village, in a country and a world where magic—gifts and curses, fairies and witches—are not just real, but taken for granted. The people around them manage to have almost tediously normal lives.

Our protagonist, Sophie Hatter, is the eldest of three sisters, so she knows her youngest sister will have luck and adventure while she herself will have a dull and obscure existence, probably as an old maid tending her father’s hat shop. At nineteen, Sophie is clever but painfully shy.

On a festival day she dares to leave the hat shop and is pursued by a handsome youth she has never seen before. Irrationally frightened, Sophie flees the young man’s advances, only to irritate a mysterious old woman—and suddenly Sophie herself is transformed into an infirm old hag.

Unable to explain her metamorphosis and afraid to approach her family in this altered form, Sophie decides to leave town in pursuit of the one person who can help her: the great wizard Howl, whose moving castle recently appeared as an ominous blot on the horizon.

Why ominous?

Because Howl is said to kidnap beautiful girls and eat their hearts, or perhaps their souls.
No longer young and never (to herself, at least) beautiful, Sophie reasons she has nothing to fear.

Setting
Jones sets the stage early on, as much with her narration as with her description. The narrator is an arch observer in the tradition of Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery, and the world she describes could be any rural town and surrounding countryside in the eighteenth or nineteenth century—with the small addition of magic.

Magic here is a respectable enough line of work, usually, but a powerful witch or wizard is still feared.

Propriety is of utmost concern in the land of Ingary. Out-of-towners are not trusted, and the wizard Howl, whom no one in the village of Market Chipping has ever (as far as they know) laid eyes on, is particularly suspicious due to his mode of travel and the scandalous rumors that run before him.

Howl’s Castle itself, where most of the book takes place, is a marvel of imagination, but I will say no more. It’s not a plot spoiler per se, but I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s delighted surprise at the thing’s operations and abilities.

Plot
Once installed as the moving Castle’s housekeeper, Sophie befriends Calcifer, the fire demon whose energy sustains the building. From Calcifer she gathers hints of a terrible secret about Howl. She spends most of the book trying to piece together the nature of her own curse, and the secret that Calcifer cannot fully reveal.

At first Howl, a handsome but rather foppish young man, appears to enjoy a carefree existence of fine clothes, using magic for fun, breaking the heart of every girl he meets, and shirking the responsibilities that come with his accomplished wizard status. He repeatedly clashes with this apparently random old lady who barged into his house demanding a job, but as he gets to know her, he begins to suspect she might not be so random at all…

Meanwhile, the King’s younger brother is missing, as is one of Howl’s high-ranking wizard colleagues, and a powerful being from Howl’s past is scheming to destroy him, but if I elaborate on any of this, it will ruin the fun.

Characters
If you were starting to think that all YA heroines are either brassy Amazon warrior princesses or sniveling Bella Swans, allow Sophie Hatter to break you out of your funk.

Sophie starts out as a painfully timid girl who wears only plain, grey dresses and rarely ventures outside the family hat shop. She is so convinced of her own plainness that when a handsome stranger approaches her on May Day, she assumes the young man is mocking her and runs away. I think a lot of us can relate to this.

As an old lady, Sophie takes about twenty levels in chutzpah. She is assertive, no-nonsense, and occasionally cantankerous, but never truly unkind. She becomes the only being in the universe who can make Howl Pendragon obey.

For Howl is a flighty, easily-frightened creature, who has built a fearsome reputation for himself in the hope of avoiding conflict. He is the most accomplished wizard in the land—since Suliman disappeared, at any rate—but he shirks the responsibilities that must inevitably come with that status. He craves love, but flits from one girl to the next with no intention of settling down anytime soon.

He is also vain, compulsively dying his hair, only wearing the finest (re: flashiest) clothes, and pitching epic tantrums when his beauty regimen is disturbed

Then there’s Calcifer—a snide, secretive little lump of talking flame in a fireplace, who has a hilariously close-but-vitriolic friendship with Howl. I can’t say much more about Calcifer without giving the whole thing away.

The other characters:
• Lettie, Sophie’s vivacious and magically-gifted sister
• Martha, Sophie’s stepsister
• Fanny, Sophie’s kindly stepmother
• A sentient Scarecrow who follows Sophie around
• An enchanted dog
• Michael, Howl’s fifteen-year-old apprentice
• The King of Ingary
• Mrs. Pentstemmon, the great witch who trained Suliman and Howl
• Megan, Howl’s disapproving sister (who lives in Wales. Howl comes from our world!)
• Neil and Mari, Howl’s nephew and little niece
• Miss Angorian, Neil’s pretty teacher on whom Howl has a crush
• The Witch of the Waste, a sinister and powerful being who makes her home on the edge of Ingary

All the supporting characters are engaging. One gets the impression that they are all fully formed characters, but we don’t see all the facets of their personalities because this isn’t their story.

Content Advisory
Violence here is mild and mostly symbolic.

Howl makes a lot of “conquests” among the local girls, but it is never stated how far he has gotten, if you will, with any of these conquests. Given that

Howl goes back to Wales to attend a rugby event, at which he so drunk that he is unable to properly climb into bed upon returning to the Castle.

Calcifer is called a fire demon—although nothing about him suggests the diabolical.

There is no harsh language.

The Movie
A lot of people only know about this book because of Hayao Miyazaki’s 2004 anime film adaptation, which was well-received by critics and audiences alike. Before I say anything more, I should note that this is the only anime I have ever watched all the way through. I know nothing about the conventions of the genre.

That said, I thought the movie was a beautiful piece of visual art, with stunning panoramic shots (we forget how gorgeous well-done 2-D animation can be), lovely music, and high-quality voice acting.

There’s only one problem: it has almost no connection to the book it’s supposedly based on.

Granted, there is a shy young hatter named Sophie who is cursed into the form of a crone. There is a dashing young wizard named Howl who lives in a castle that moves. There is a snarky fire demon named Calcifer who keeps the castle moving.

And that’s about it.

The movie’s characterizations—except Calcifer and Old!Sophie—are far off-base. Young!Sophie is sweet and mild-mannered. Howl has one or two memorable outbursts, but is far more subdued than the drama king of the novel. The Witch of the Waste turns out to be mostly harmless, and Suliman is an older woman—in the book he is a strapping fellow, only a few years older than Howl.

Also, movie!Sophie is brunette. She is drawn with long braids and a hat, so maybe they changed her red hair brown so she wouldn’t be mistaken for Anne Shirley, a hugely popular character in Japan. But then the movie keeps Howl’s accidental red hair tantrum,

But these are minor quibbles. Miyazaki completely changed the emphasis and conflict of the story. Drawing on the Iraq War, the pacifist Miyazaki extracted a hint from the book (literally one sentence long) about a war between Ingary and a neighboring country and turned it into the main plot. The King wants Howl to fly a bomber or something, but Howl, now transformed from a vain and lazy guy into a noble conscientious objector, would rather turn himself into a man-sized black bird and attack both sides’ fighter planes. (The presence of airplanes in the first place is jarring). Then there’s a subplot about how it gets harder every time for him to turn back from bird to man.

I respect Miyazaki’s antiwar beliefs, and of course, as the director of the film, he has the right to take the story in whatever direction he wants. But I personally wish he had expressed them in a different film.

Howl’s Moving Castle isn’t about war any more than Mansfield Park is about slavery—another case of one sentence of the book devouring the plot of the movie. (The MP movie also had a lot of other problems, but that's a story for another review). War is awful, slavery is evil, and happy romances about shy girls in grey dresses and handsome young men (who may or may not be wizards) should be allowed to remain happy.

But that’s my opinion. Yours may be entirely different.

Conclusion
A treat for everybody ages 10 and up—and younger as a family read-aloud—Howl’s Moving Castle delivers adventure, magic, mystery, romance, and humor in a literate, subtly detailed style. It’s a timeless story that begs to be reread, and will surely join The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Dark is Rising series as classics of the genre.

There are two indirect sequels that feature Howl and Sophie, though they focus on new main characters and different settings. The first is Castle in the Air, an Arabian Nights-style adventure that might partly be a stealth parody of Disney’s Aladdin. The second is House of Many Ways, which read like a first draft (albeit an intriguing first draft from a deft and seasoned writer) to me, but a lot of other people enjoyed it.
Also recommended:

• The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery—not a fantasy, but Anne and Sophie have much in common

• The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis—a similar mix of fairytale tropes, space/time-bending adventures, and down-to-earth protagonists with a witty narrator

• A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket—also features a witty narrator, a mock nineteenth-century feel, and delightful poetry quoting and literary references

• The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Not superficially similar, but Howl and Eugenides are soul brothers. These books are violent and complicated. Teens and up.

• The Crown & Court duology by Sherwood Smith. Also features a courtly, long-haired hero, a redheaded spitfire of a heroine, a touch of earthy magic, and an industrial truckload of snark.

• The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. Similar fairytale parody with a spunky heroine and very English sense of humor. These books contain some off-color humor. Teens and up.

• The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud. A much darker—although similarly humorous—look at a human and magical-being partnership like that of Howl and Calcifer. These books contain both violence and off-color humor, and are also extremely long. Teens and up.

• The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale. The tone of these books is more serious than HMC, and the plots are more straightforward—but they share strong, feminine heroines and organic magic. These books can get dark. Teens and up.

• The Secret Country trilogy by Pamela Dean. Similar wit, character development, and inter-world travel element.

• The Safe-Keeper’s trilogy by Sharon Shinn. Similar faux-English feel and small-town courtships with a hint of deception and magic. Some mature issues including rape, murder, and various forms of child abuse are referenced, though never seen. Teens and up.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. A Cinderella story of similarly blithe heart and subtle snark.
Profile Image for Riley.
422 reviews20.5k followers
March 25, 2016
This was such an enchanting story!
Profile Image for Isabella.
558 reviews11.7k followers
December 18, 2021
rare case of the movie being better than the book T__T
Profile Image for Emma.
2,801 reviews350 followers
March 2, 2018
Before Hayao Miyazaki made "Howl's Moving Castle" into a feature length animated film in 2006 (2004 if you saw it in Japan), it was a book written by Diana Wynne Jones in 1986. Due to the inherent difficulties of creating an animated film, Miyazaki greatly abridged and adjusted the plot of the novel for his movie. I happened to enjoy both film and novel but after reading the book I realized that the plot is extremely different in the novel--enough that the book and movie become completely different viewing experiences.

Anyway, that's all I'm going to say about the movie. On to the discussion of the book:

Sophie lives "in the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility exist." In other words, all of the traditional fairy tale stories are real. Not so bad, except that Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters, which everyone knows means Sophie is doomed to failure should she ever set out to seek her fortunes. Sophie is resigned to her fate--living obscurely, and less than successfully, working in the family hat shop. Except that this is not a traditional fairy tale and events soon intervene to set Sophie on a very unexpected course indeed for an eldest daughter.

It all starts in the hat shop after some interesting things begin to happen when Sophie talks to the hats she trims. Interesting enough to attract the attention of the dangerous Witch of the Waste. When her encounter with the Witch of the Waste leaves Sophie cursed in the body of an old woman, she has no choice but to go out and seek her fortune in hopes of breaking the curse (even if she is an eldest daughter).

Along the way, Sophie comes upon a mysterious moving castle that has taken up in the hill's of Ingary. The castle belongs to Wizard Howl "who was known to amuse himselv by collection young girls and sucking the souls from them. Or some people said he ate their hearts." Either way, he was not anyone Sophie expected to ever meet let alone move in with. Until she does. Adventure ensues as Sophie tries to break the curse and help Howl with his own uniquely magical problems.

In terms of fantasy novels, "Howl's Moving Castle" is one of my favorites. The world Jones creates is fully realized without ever getting boring or limiting the reader's imagination. The tone of her narrative is also spot on. Readers of Jane Austen's novels or the "Sorcery and Cecelia" series will notice a similar narrative voice. Although this novel is largely timeless, the prose has a charmingly Victorian tone--taking its time to arrive at the action, the better to familiarize readers with the characters involved and show the readers just how fantastic they (and the story) really are.

I also adore this story because it is romantic, thrilling, and completely absorbing. Even at 329 pages, the novel is far too short. Happily, Diana Wynne Jones follows up "Howl's Moving Castle" with "Castle in the Air" (1990) and a brand new book featuring Sophie and Howl ("House of Many Ways") is due out in May of 2008.

You can find this review and more on my blog Miss Print
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 27 books5,589 followers
June 2, 2020
One of the best fantasies, and a clever mystery besides. Read it, for probably the 10th time, but this time I read it aloud to my 7yo. He loved it, though I did have to explain a few things. I would love a Calcifer of my own.

2020: read this beautifully illustrated edition to all three kids, who loved it. (Of course.) One of the best books of all time? Indeed.
Profile Image for Gillian.
100 reviews119 followers
November 26, 2022
4.5 stars!

This was a fun and magical young adult fantasy about family, courage, and learning who you are. Howl's Moving Castle follows Sophie, a hat maker who is transformed into an old lady by the Witch of the Waste. To break the spell she makes a deal with a fire demon, has to deal with Howl, a heartless wizard and fight the Witch of the Waste. During her journey she learns more about herself and discovers that Howl is a nice person.

This book was so good!! The world building was awesome, I loved learning about this unique world of witches, wizards and demons that the author created. I was completely immersed in this intriguing world from the very beginning although the pacing in the middle was a little slow. The plot was so interesting and I loved the funny moments in the book. The characters are so fun and complex. I love Sophie, she is tough, stubborn, nice, brave and helpful. I love Howl, he is funny, charming, sweet and stubborn. I also really like Micheal, he is helpful, dependent, reliable and fun. I also really liked the side characters especially Calcifer and Sophie's sisters Martha and Lettie. The character development was excellent, I loved watching Sophie grow into a strong and brave person. I also loved that she learned more about herself and her worth. I loved the banter between Howl and Sophie. The ending was so good! I'm so glad it ended on a happy note!

I recommend this book to anyone who loves young adult fantasy, fun characters and excellent world building.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews913 followers
May 30, 2017
I am so pleased to say I loved this book!

This was exactly what I needed to read right now. My year thus far has been full of more serious books with heavy content, but this was a perfect balance of fantastical and lighthearted.

Sophie and her two sisters work in a hat shop with only their stepmother for company since the unfortunate death of their father. Being the eldest of three, she has accepted that she is destined for a life of utter mediocrity.

When the infamous Witch of the Waste curses Sophie into the body of an elderly woman, she accidentally finds herself in the middle of an adventure that is anything but mediocre.

I just want to say that I do not usually enjoy Middle Grade Fantasy.

There is normally an odd quality to the writing style of Middle Grade. It's crammed full of ridiculous scenarios that end up feeling like it's just a competition of who can be the weirdest.

I can see why others enjoy this, but it's generally not my style. Especially The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I just couldn't get into that book to save my life, so I generally stay away from this genre except on recommendation.

BUT THIS!

Cutest. Book. Ever.

Sophie is such a delightful character. I loved watching her deal with the craziness in this book! She's clever with a kind heart, and a wonderful role model for children.

I also really enjoyed all of the secondary characters in this book, it was totally a cast of kooks. Calcifer and Howl had me laughing out loud, and even little Michael gave me a cackle now and again!

In this case, the strange writing really played to the story's advantage. It was just odd enough give me that whimsical, spellbound feeling.

I would recommend this for people of all ages! It absolutely meets the goal it sets out to achieve. I am very excited to watch Miyazaki's movie adaption now that I've read the novel.

Buddy read this with my girl Celeste!
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews751 followers
April 20, 2016
After finishing Howl's Moving Castle I immediately Googled “Diana Wynne Jones” to see how many more books in this series I can look forward to. The first thing I noticed was
“Died: March 26, 2011”. My reaction was “WTF? And we are just getting acquainted!”

The book starts off charmingly with:
“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.”

This misfortune falls on 18-year-old Sophie Hatter, who is introduced while helping her mother to make hats for selling in their hat shop*. She is feeling lonely while making these hats and talks to them like Tom Hanks talks to his volleyball, Wilson**, in the movie Castaway. Soon a witch visits her shop and promptly turns her into a very old woman (a “terrible old biddy” even) for no apparent reason. Initially accepting this ghastly state of affairs with strange equanimity (due to shock) she soon leaves her mother’s shop to find some way of lifting the curse. She ends up practically forcing Howl the wizard to take her on as his housekeeper for his “moving castle”, so-called because it is constantly roaming the country.

“It was odd. As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said. She found that a great relief.”

They keyword for the appeal of Howl's Moving Castle is charm. I am usually reluctant to read YA books because the “Y” part of it is a (un)fairly distant memory for me, and I have had enough of books about sexy teens fighting Dystopian governments. However, I was intrigued by Studio Ghibli’s 2004 animated film adaptation. The director Hayao Miyazaki is a legend among anime fans and a spectacularly gifted artist, whose works are always brimming with unique and astounding visuals. So if he deems a book by an English author I know nothing about worth adapting then it must be something special.

Howl's Moving Castle is whimsical and charming in the way that reminds me of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. However, Howl’s Moving Castle is aimed at somewhat younger readership, the prose is less Austen-tatious (to coin a word) and is much shorter. It has weird, wonderful and wacky characters with amusing idiosyncrasies that stop short of being cartoonish. Beside the two central characters Sophie and Howl, I absolutely love the character “Calcifer” who is a literally fiery demon who functions in the castle as a fireplace and a cooking stove. Of course, he is already interesting by nature, but he also has wonderfully quirky personality.


The castle itself is a fascinating invention, its ability to move is not even its most remarkable feature. The front door opens to different locations, depending on the position of the colour-coded doorknob. Even that is not the weirdest thing, the interior of the castle is located in a different part of the country while simultaneously being the inside of a moving castle. The mind boggles.


I have to admit that initially while reading this book I missed read something more “edgy”, adult, dark, brooding and bloody; something to satisfy my mean streak. Ah, but Diana Wynne Jones charmed me into submission, I was half in love with her by page 70. This book often brought a smile to my face and if you are looking for some way to turn that frown upside down this is just the thing.
_________________________

* Unfortunately the word for a hat shop is not “hattery” as I had hoped but “millinery”.
** Tennis ball volleyball, thanks Skip!

A Word about the Anime
The anime film adaptation is a beautiful work of art, intricately hand drawn and fluidly animated. In this age of computer animation like Toy Story and Shrek, Studio Ghibli’s beautiful, meticulous artwork is something to be treasured. As an adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ book, it is—in my estimation—about 60% faithful to the source material. Ms. Wynne Jones was well aware of this and heartily approved, as mentioned in an interview at the end of Howl's Moving Castle. She understood that movie is a different media and some alterations must be made.

Certainly it is a very good anime, but it is substantially different from the book. There is a steampunk styling to the eponymous castle that is not in the book, and the main characters behave somewhat differently from their book counterparts, especially the antagonist “The Witch of The Waste”.

Also, Miyazaki's Howl is much less flamboyant than Ms. Wynne Jones', and has a tendency to brood. The anime is much more romantic and sentimental, yet it is also darker in some instances and less comical. I don’t think the changes improve on the book, but they don’t need to. I think that you should read the book first to appreciate all the nuances. In any case, both the book and the anime are wonderful in their own ways and I am happy to own a copy of each.

_________________________

More quotes:

“Tidying up is what I’m here for!” she shouted at Howl. “Then you must think of a new meaning for your life,” Howl said.

“Sophie was suddenly overwhelmed by the fact that she was standing talking to the King. It was, she thought dizzily, as if the man sitting there and the huge, important thing which was kingship were two separate things that just happened to occupy the same chair.”
Profile Image for Celeste.
870 reviews2,308 followers
March 3, 2022
Rereading this book was just as wonderful as experiencing it for the first time, if not even more so. While I’ve loved the Miyazaki movie for well over a decade, I only first read this book in 2017, though I dearly wish I had read it sooner. Wynne Jones is an absolute treasure, as I should have known from Neil Gaiman recommending her every chance he gets. Below is the review I wrote in 2017, and I stand by everything I wrote then.

I adore middle grade fantasy fiction. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book that ever made me cry, and I still get emotional when I reread it. The Phantom Tollbooth remains one of the funniest, cleverest books I’ve ever read, though I didn’t read it until I was in my twenties. A Wrinkle in Time changed my view of the world and helped me embrace myself for who I was and still am. The Little Prince gave me a lot of deep, philosophical fodder for discussion with my family. And Harry Potter remains one of my favorite series, and shall forever be. Always. Now I have a new book to add to my long list of middle grade favorites. Howl’s Moving Castle is utterly delightful in every way, and I wish I had read it sooner.

Sophie Hatter is the oldest of three sisters, which means that she’s not going to amount to much. Striving to be content with her lot in life, Sophie encourages her sisters to find their fortunes and sets out to be the best hatter she can be. But when her hats become too popular, the Witch of the Waste barges into her store and turns poor Sophie’s life completely upside down. But, by the end of the story, Sophie wouldn’t have traded her altered life for anything.

The characters in this tiny book are so well developed that they now feel like old friends. Calcifer is the cutest demon in the history of ever, and I couldn’t help but hear Billy Crystal’s voice whenever he spoke. He was grouchy and sarcastic and a much bigger softie than he let on. Michael, the Wizard Howl’s assistant, is a scatterbrained sweetheart. Howl himself is vain and lazy and self-absorbed and more honorable than he wants to be. He is also one of the biggest drama queens I’ve ever come across in any fictional setting. And then there’s Sophie. Sophie, who was dealt a bad hand and managed to win the game anyway. It wasn’t until she was cursed that Sophie grew into the person she always wanted to be, and proved herself to be invaluable to everyone in her life.

I just want to say, middle grade books do a much better job with love stories than YA books, in my opinion. The love story here was a slow burn, and both involved parties fought their feelings tooth and nail. But when those feelings were finally admitted and embraced, I melted. Seriously, the feels are real. I will go down with this ship.

*end fangirling*

The book and movie differed on multiple plot points, which surprised me. However, I now love the book just as much as I love the Miyazaki movie. If you love the book and have never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. If you love the movie, you should read the book. You’ll be in for a treat if you do.
Profile Image for Gail Carriger.
Author 53 books14.8k followers
November 21, 2014
Howl's lingers with me because of the humor, because of the perfectly executed twisting plot, because of the snapping dialog. Diana is possibly the best writer of her generation but because she wrote mainly YA in a time before HP she was disregarded. You want to know what I think a book should be like? Read this one.
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
514 reviews109 followers
May 2, 2019
This was awesome. It's delightful, thoughtful, and funny. The language is fantastic, with tons of witty turns of phrase. I liked Sophie's down-to-business attitude and perspective a lot. There are fun crossovers with our world and endlessly refreshing magical mischief. And all the moving pieces come together in one sweeping ending, which, just wow.

I'm also not sure that this book could get published today. It's clearly middle grade but the character ages are all over the place. The main character, who is probably in her late-teens, spends most of the book as an old woman.

Now I want to see the movie. My edition has a funny interview with the author at the end that was a nice way to end the book. Dianna Wynne Jones seems like she was amazing. I'll be reading more of her books soon!
Profile Image for Melindam.
607 reviews254 followers
July 18, 2022
Ahhhh, the wizard Howl... I mean THE WIZARD HOWL.. Drama Queen of drama queens.

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This is such a delightful, entertaining, original and imaginative story. I have never read it as a kid, but I just loved it as an adult. I also happened to love Diana Wynne Jones's writing style: simple, powerful & competent, without fuss and there is definitely magic there, even though it not obvious at first sight (just like her heroine, Sophie).

“In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

Sophie Hatter, the heroine of this book, happens to be the eldest of three girls so she does not expect much out of life. She is working with her stepmother in the family hat shop and has no idea of the powerful magic that she possesses, namely, to talk inanimate objects into life or to give them strong magical attributes at least.

One day, the Witch of the Waste enters her shop and lays a powerful curse on her turning her into a crone. An extra downside is that she cannot tell anyone about it. Sophie, instead of getting desperate, decides to leave her family behind and finally ends up in the infamous wizard Howl's moving castle as the housekeeper-cum-cleaning-lady despite her misgivings about Howl's character.

Once in the castle (the door of which is a portal to 4 different places), she makes a deal with Howl's fire demon, Calcifer: he lifts the curse off her in case she manages to break the magical contract between him and the wizard...


I think that Sophie is one of my favourite heroines. She is such a wonderful character: nice, competent and calm, yet she is amazingly strong-minded and courageous. The fact that from a young woman she gets turned into an old woman, does not seem to faze her, on the contrary! The disguise seems to set free the inhibitions she have had and it is wonderful and hilarious to see, how she mercilessly bosses around Howl, his apprentice Michael and even the fire demon. So in a way Howl is right when he says to her:
"You're a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman. Control yourself. You're victimizing us all.”

And there is -of course- Howl himself. He is the character who would probably drive you mad in real life, but delights your heart & soul in print (or on screen).
He is Sophie's opposite: showy, fussy, an unparalleled drama queen who spends hours in the bathroom every day to groom himself for his numerous courtships and shirks his responsibilities (he makes Michael to spread the vicious rumour that he sucks young girls' souls to avoid work & and so that he can go about courting his ever-changing paramours).
And when he gets a cold.... :)

“I feel ill,” he announced. “I’m going to bed, where I may die.” He tottered piteously to the stairs. “Bury me beside Mrs. Pentstemmon,” he croaked as he went up then to bed.”

And just when you think his character cannot get any worse, you realise that behind all those shows and tantrums he cares deeply for Sophie all the time .

Their relationship is a bit like that of Beatrice and Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing. The get on each other's nerves, but they keep challenging each other all the time and they seem to enjoy all this immensely.

“I think we ought to live happily ever after," and she thought he meant it. Sophie knew that living happily ever after with Howl would be a good deal more hair-raising than any storybook made it sound, though she was determined to try. "It should be hair-raising," added Howl.
"And you'll exploit me," Sophie said.
"And then you'll cut up all my suits to teach me.”
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