Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones


Title: 
Howl's Moving Castle

Series: Howl's Moving Castle Series
Book #: One
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Release Date: 1986
Source: Local Library 
Format: Hard Cover

Add on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Author's Website

"How about making a bargain with me?" said the demon. "I'll break your spell if you agree to break this contact I'm under."

In the land of Ingary, where seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility do exist, Sophie Hatter catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste, who puts a curse on her. Determined to make the best of things, Sophie travels to the one place where she might get help - the moving castle which hovers on the nearby hills.

But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the hearts of young girls... (taken from goodreads.com) 
I first decided to read Howl's Moving Castle after watching the enchanting, brilliant movie adaptation by Studio Ghibli. As dorky as this may sound, I adore the film. The animation, story, romance, characters, everything. I've probably watched it half a dozen times now. Part of my obsession is my enormous crush on Howl. The rest is all due to the magic of the story.

However, the book differs from the movie quite drastically. The story is similar in the basic ways (Sophie is turned into an old woman and Howl is under a curse), but the majority of the plot is completely different. In the movie, a war exists between two kingdoms, and Howl often disappears to fight or check up on the battles. There is no such war in the book. Also, the Witch of the Waste isn't an ugly old prune in the book like she is in the film. Instead, she is an extremely beautiful and powerful sorceress searching to destroy Howl and claim his heart. Even the aspects of Howl's curse are completely different. There's no molting black feathers or transformations here.

This is one of the first times I've ever read the book after watching the movie. Usually I do it in reverse. I hate to judge the book based on it's deviations from the movie, but I can't help it. The book didn't impress me as much as the film. The novel's complexity confused me at times, and the characters aren't as endearing as they are in the film.

I have a not-so-secret crush on the film's Howl, but in the novel, Howl is greedier and more immature. I never developed feelings for him, and Sophie didn't strike me as courageous or selfless like she is in the movie. I feel terrible about judging a book in comparison to it's movie, but I swore to my followers that I'd always provide an honest review.

I still have to give Diana Wynne Jones some credit. Without her, the ingenious idea of a moving castle occupied by a charismatic wizard wouldn't even exist. When you get to the core of the story, it really is a brilliant tale. I'd recommend it to true lovers of fantasy, but I'd recommend the movie even more. I love it. As a matter of fact, I'm off to watch it with my sister right now. 


Rating: 3.5 Stars