Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1) by Diana Wynne Jones
Published August 1st 2001 by Harper Trophy (first published April 1986)
Source: Audiobook gifted
Rating: ★★★★☆

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.

“Well, he’s fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical… He’s a mess.”

This was magical.

Howl is the most extra, sullen drama queen – “Help me, someone! I’m dying from neglect up here!” – thoughtless and vain yet sweet and thoughtful; Michael is a good, sweet little bean doing his best amidst the chaos; Calcifer is a sulky, grumpy fire demon, ready for said chaos; Sophie is self-deprecating but headstrong and savage, self-asserting and a bit of a busybody, independent and no-nonsense and, honestly, the best; together, they were the best kind of messy, and I‌ love them all.

“She felt he ought with that face to have been more unsure of himself”

And, honestly, I’m not just saying this because I‌ loved the Ghibli movie. In fact, they’re rather drastically different:‌ the movie is innocent and dreamy and sweepingly romantic, whereas this is far more whimsical, Sophie much more nosy and snarky, the plot chock-full of sentient objects and muttering fire-demons and the dreaded green slime. The book and movie are like… distant cousins? with elements of the same thing, but diverging executions, and utterly engaging in their own ways.

I love the subtle magics, and the little pieces of foreshadowing – the hats, the stick, the skull, the dog, the door, and so on – that come together so easily and perfectly, and the seemingly effortless depth and sprawl of the worldbuilding.

If I‌ had to point out a weakness, I‌’d say that the writing style can lean toward distant or stiff at times, but is revived with sprinkles of Sophie’s upright but wry sense of humor.

Howl’s Moving Castle is fantastic, and the audiobook version just as so. If you’re even the slightest bit interested in reading this, I’d highly recommend you do!

“I think we ought to live happily ever after.”

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