Hi everyone! These posts are becoming more sporadic in the recent months. Apparently, I write a blog post whenever I like it. But that’s okay, because this is what I love to do when I have down time and it is a hobby. It’s like coming home to a warm meal and company of great family. And with this book that I am about to review, it does feel like coming back to a world I’ve always come to love ever since I discovered it.
Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Edition/Format: Trade Paperback, 448 pages
Year Published: 1986
Synopsis: Sophie is the eldest of three children, of kind-heart and beauty, she grew up with a surmountable amount of insecurities just because she is the eldest. One day, under mysterious circumstances, she meets the Witch of the Waste. The witch casts a spell on her, making her look like an old woman. Sophie flees her old life and ventures in an enchanted moving castle and enlists the help of the heartless and harsh mouthed Wizard Howl and his weird assortment of company to break the curse. She takes refuge in Howl’s magical castle, while arguing incessantly each day with Howl. However she discovers that they may be more that meets the eye to the Wizard she came to know.
What I think about it:
It feels good to be reading a DWJ story again. Every time I pick a new story from her, whether it would be multiple lives, parallel universes, wizards, witches, magic, there is always something exciting about her stories that you can’t really find in other books. Reading a DWJ story is like coming home to a world that you always yearned to come back. It definitely feels like you’ve come HOME. This story is even more special since it was also adapted in a an animated feature film by my all time favorite Japanese film maker: Hayao Miyazaki.
As much as I adored the film, I think DWJ story is a lot more funky and light-hearted than Miyzaki’s take on it. That’s not to take anything from the creative licence that Miyazaki took with the story, but I much preferred that Sophie and Howl’s characters in the original where much more hilarious and at times,ridiculous in the book. As with any other DWJ story, the plot is full of complex twists and turns in each chapter, that when the time comes that you have to put them together during the final act, it’s such a satisfying paying off. One thing I’ve noticed though is that the middle act seemed to lag for a bit, because Jones’ needed to give each character a little background behind there motives. Although, it’s entertaining to read about Howl’s origin, where he comes from and how he landed himself in the land Ingary, which wasn’t featured in Miyazaki’s film. DWJ writes fairy tale stories that are unconventional and whimsical in its own right. She features a lot of multi-verses in her books, where characters are able to access different portal that bends time and space making her books, so entertaining to read even as an adult already.
Howl’s character in the book is much of a drama queen than that in the film. He is fickle minded sometimes, definitely a whiner and can sometimes be mistaken as belligerent teenager. Definitely, his nervous breakdowns every time Sophie does some shit, like mess up his shampoo or being dumped by a certain girl, is such a hilarious read. I think that’s why he and Sophie are always meant to be together because Sophie is the kind of girl that doesn’t take shit from anyone. Throughout the story she gradually overcomes her fear and insecurities and become a powerful and confident individual. We realize that Howl has something to do with that, because even though he is such a drama queen, he always comes through for Sophie. You see there connection bloom into a mutual respect for each other and I totally loved that. However the main star of the book is Calcifer!. haha.. Man, this character is just awesome. You’d have to read the book to know what I mean.
“Everyone gets over things in the end, you know”
My only tiny gripe about this book is its magic system. DWJ always manages to confuse me with her magic system. She never really lays down steadfast rules on how her magic wielding characters use it, if there are any limits or boundaries that are not be crossed when they use it. Nothing is ever really explained immediately but then the magic is written in such a way that it envelopes the story. It isn’t the front and center, but you get the feeling that it fuels the plot altogether
In the end, the book is filled with themes that deals with self identity, feminism and appreciation for self-worth. It also deals with prejudice and how first impression can always be change if you just take time to know the person.
So, have you read the book? Which do you prefer, the film or the book? What are you thoughts? Just leave a comment below and let’s discuss!