K. O'Bibliophile's Reviews > Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
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's review
Mar 17, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Recommended for: Fantasy and fairy tale fans
Read 2 times. Last read April 22, 2009.

When I recently picked up Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones, I was actually rereading it. I first read it a couple years ago, wanting to read the book before I saw Miyazaki's movie. Back then, I was of the opinion that this was one of the rare instances where the movie was actually better than the book. Which is not to say the book is bad--far from it, it's quite good. But it also requires careful paying attention to details or, if you're like me and get so lost in a story that you tend to speed through it, a bit of re-reading.

What I found: it was much better the second time through. Part of this is because after watching the movie, I had images of people and things already fixed in my mind, and no matter how they changed, I at least had a basis. Case in point: Calcifer. In the movie, he's a cute little orange ball of fire. In the book, he's "a thin blue face, very long and thin, with a thin blue nose" and curly green flames as hair. He has purple fire for his mouth, two green flames for eyebrows, and orange flame for his eyes (Wikipedia). Hard to imagine, even with the illustration on the cover, right? The movie gave me the basis for what he was and how he moved and everything. Much easier to imagine Sophie and Howl as well.

The story is fantasy, with a definite fairy-tale flavor, but it never reaches the point where it feels like a full-out fairytale, a good blend for the novel. The main characters are all very easy to keep track of and are very distinct, and in addition they are also engaging and fun to read about; Howl and Sophie play off one another perfectly and often had me giggling aloud.

However, some minor characters like Prince Justin and the Wizard Suliman are often difficult to recall who they are and what their purpose is or was. Luckily, though, they are very minor characters. It was also confusing to remember which place was which: Porthaven, Kingsbury, Market Chipping, Upper Folding; they start to blend together after a while if you don't pay careful attention.

HMC is incredibly addicting. If you like fairy tales or fantasy, I definitely recommend reading it. The writing is full of wit and the character acknowledgment of stereotypes was funny without being over-the-top or breaking the fourth wall.

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