Series: Howl's Moving Castle #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on April 1st, 1986
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
"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...
I’ve loved the movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle since I first saw it years ago, so I was really happy when Daph suggested this as a book club pick. It’s one of those books that I was meaning to read sometime, but I needed to be reminded and given that extra push, since it is a pretty old release. So I am glad that I finally got to reading this, and I did enjoy it, but it didn’t have a wow factor.
What I truly love about Howl’s is the beautiful writing style. This is regarded as somewhat of a fantasy classic, and it’s easy to see why. She’s an absolute masterful storyteller. Not only is the prose charming and fluid, but her imagination is amazing. The kind of fantasy she writes is just so unique and vivid. It makes you wonder, how did she even come up with these things? A moving house, with one door leading to multiple places. A fire demon who entered into a contract with a wizard. A girl who is bewitched to become a 90 year old woman – and is rather okay with that for the most part. It was easy to get sucked into such a unique world.
I love how magic is woven into this world and the characters in the story. Calcifer, the fire demon, is absolutely adorable, even though he’s mean to bacon. *cough* I adore Sophie. She’s so awkward but kind. However, the third person narrations, which I usually prefer, did keep me from connecting to her a bit. Howl was a laughable drama queen. It was hilarious how upset he got about tiny little things. But that also got tiring after a while. On the other hand, the magic he did was definitely charming.
Where I think Howl lost a few points is in the lack of shippy feels until the end. I mean, Howl and Sophie, there was a lot of potential there (as evidenced by the movie), but it didn’t actually happen until the very end. It was still adorable, but there could have been more of a build up. Also, it was much more middle grade than I expected. I found this in the Children’s section in Waterstones, which should have been a giveaway, but many people still classify it as young adult. Although the main character is 16, at least at the start, the story is much more a detached adventure story than a character-driven young adult novel. Surely, if I had read this when I was 9 or 10, I would have been all over it, but now it just felt a bit below my level. However, it still was truly charming.