Publisher: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1991
Book Blurb: Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did – especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.
As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father’s hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.
Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for…
My Opinion:Unlike most people I have encountered, I did not see the movie before picking up the book of Howl’s Moving Castle. Though I had heard of it. So I had no preconceived notions of what the story would be. I like that better… I would rather go into a movie with the preconceived notions than a book, personally. But I digress.
This was a delightful book. If I didn’t have so much going on, I probably would have read it all in one sitting. The story flowed fairly well, though the writing style took some getting used to for me. Diana Wynne Jones has taken on a particular tone with her writing in this book that I have labeled as “detached third person”. While all third person is detached, I can just imagine this entire book being done as a voice-over, probably in a delightful British accent. It lacked warmth and familiarity with the characters. While I liked the characters and the setting, I never felt supremely attached to any of them.
The plot of Howl’s Moving Castle is really quite intriguing. I keep picking up these small books, expecting small stories. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Things kept happening, and yet, nothing really happened. Some of the twists I saw coming a mile away, and some I only got partially right. And some blind-sided me completely.
The characters in Howl’s Moving Castle were really interesting, and I wish the book had been longer so they could have been explored more. In a book of just over two hundred words, the author has to make a choice between characters and back story and the plot moving forward. Any author worth their salt (which Diana Wynne Jones clearly is) will make the choice to keep the plot moving and sacrifice a bit in the way of characters. I want to know more about The Witch of the Waste, and Howl, and Sophie. We get glimmers, but I want the whole damn light bulb!
I am interested to see how the rest of the series goes, because everything did tie up pretty nicely at the end. The big climactic moment was not all that climactic, thus earning it a lower star rating on Goodreads. But overall, enjoyable.
Bottom Line: Enjoyable fantasy book that will keep you engaged with its twisty plot. Be warned though, it is a short book, and the end will come all too soon.