Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle / Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle / Diana Wynne Jones

Is it bad to say that my favorite character in the story isn’t even in the book?  Well, he kinda is but I like the movie version better.  The asthmatic dog, Heen, seems to be equivalent to the dog-man Percival from the book.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.  That cover looks scary, right?  But don’t let that discourage you.  This is one delightful and magical book, very much like the movie.  It’s kind of like a fairytale but leaning towards older kids.  It has magic, wizards, witches, enchantments, evil, spirits… all that good Harry Potter-sounding stuff.  (This was released a goo 2 years before HP so don’t get any ideas.)

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. — Goodreads.

I watched the movie before I even knew that there was a book, let alone a trilogy.  It’s a feast for the eyes.  Hayao Miyazaki is a genius.  But of course, I can’t praise the movie without giving credit to the source material.  Diana Wynne Jones paints such a rich and colorful world.  Usually, when I read a book after watching the movie adaptation, the pages tend to fly by faster.  But it wasn’t the case here.  I hung on to every word to get all the details, to get the full picture in my head.  Yes, I had an idea what it would all look like thanks to the movie but I found out that there are a lot of changes made.  In fact, you can watch the movie and read the book without getting spoiled.  The book ends up being a slightly darker than the film.

I found that sort of May-December “relationship” between the young-looking wizard Howl and the Sophie magicked to look like a 90-year-old so cute and endearing.  It never felt like a mother-and-son love.  They bickered and cared for each other like a young couple.  Sophie’s voices as an old lady and as a young woman are so distinct but you know that the same person/character is talking.  Sophie is not a Katniss but definitely a strong female character.  She’s the eldest of three and she put other’s needs before hers.  When Howl started to pursue her, she didn’t really believe that he’d go after someone like her.  But Howl saw her beauty even under all that magic.

The random cast of characters make the story that much more colorful.  We have Markl, the keeper of the Moving Castle when Howl is away.  The castle itself is run by a fire demon called Calcifer, which is HILARIOUS in the movie.  There’s a Turnip-head, a dog-man, and the Witch of the Waste.  It’s like Harry Potter and the Wizard of Oz put together.  The idea of an actual moving castle is fascinating.  Had I read the book before watching the movie, I’d be so excited to see how they will make that work.  Would they use magic?  Mechanical means?  They ended up using both and that castle is so ugly and charming at the same time!

The movie is a dream.  And a great deal of fun.  Everything about it is so gorgeous.  I’ve watched it both subbed and dubbed and I must say, I slightly prefer the dubbed version for a change.  (I’m a dub snob, fyi.)  The English-speaking cast made me so giddy.  Back then, I didn’t think much of it.  But now… oh my!  Christian Bale as Howl, Jena Malone as Lettie, Sophie’s sister, and lookie here, Peeta… I mean, Josh Hutcherson as Markl.  You’d never know just by listening to that voice. 😉

I’ve loved Studio Ghibli movies.  I think they’re wonderful.  Howl’s Moving Castle is definitely one of my favorite animated films.

Rating: 5/5.  For both book and movie.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

  1. Pingback: TOP TEN TUESDAYS | Books in a Series | Shelf Pickings

  2. Fantastic review! Howl’s Moving Castle has been on my TBR for over a year but I’ve been scared to read it lest it ruins my love for the movie (that sounds dreadful doesn’t it?) I heard that the book and movie were starkly different and may not appeal to the same fans… After reading this, I feel like I shouldn’t be worried.

    Liked by 1 person

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