Book Journal: Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones

Mini-Summary: Sophie, a young girl placed under an aging spell by the Witch of the Waste, travels with the Wizard Howl, his fire demon Calcifer, and his apprentice Michael in their Moving Castle. Along the way, Sophie encounters all kinds of magical happenings while learning about herself and uncovering Howl’s deepest secret.

Some Themes: Identity, Good v.s. Evil, Friendship, Trust, Love, Family, Wealth, Vanity, Jealousy, Magic

Characters: The Wizard Howl, Calcifer the Fire Demon, Sophie Hatter, Michael, the Witch of the Waste, Martha, Lettie, Fannie, Mrs. Fairfax, Scarecrow a.k.a. Turnip Head, Mrs. Pentstemmon, Miss Angorian, Percival,  the King, the Wizard Suliman

Some Thoughts (Spoiler-ish, fair warning):
Such a delightful story! After watching the movie (about a dozen or so times), I knew I just had to read this book. So glad that I did, too.

The plot is similar to that of the movie, but there are some major differences, especially in the end. What I will say is that I liked the movie’s ending better, but I loved the actual “meat” of the book since it is a great deal more descriptive and detailed than what’s in the movie, though that’s usually the case with book-to-movie adaptations.

I adore the Austen-esque tone of the narrative; it has a very timeless or transcendent quality and quite obviously British. The prose is charming and actually really humorous, which I wasn’t expecting. The chapter headings are cute and clever. Some examples:
  • Chapter 6, In which Howl expresses his feelings with green slime
  • Chapter 10, In which Calcifer promises Sophie a hint
  • Chapter 13, In which Sophie blackens Howl’s name

Upon learning that there are two more books in the series, I was this close to ordering them on the spot, but I was glad I did a bit more research first; the next two books aren’t directly about Howl and Sophie, though both of them play a part in the next two books. I’m sure the other two books are just as beautiful as this one, but I wanted more of the characters I fell in love with. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be swept off their feet in a sweet and magical story.

Favorite Quotes:
“She watched Howl being restlessly busy in order to hide his discontent. That was something Sophie understood rather well” (78).

“’It’s just a tantrum,’ Sophie said. Martha and Lettie were good at having tantrums too. She knew how to deal with those. On the other hand, it is quite a risk to spank a wizard for getting hysterical about his hair. Anyway, Sophie’s experience told her that tantrums are seldom about the thing they appear to be about” (93).

“Calcifer went to sleep, in the way fires do, sinking among the logs until they were rosy cylinders plated with white ash, with only a hint of blue and green deep underneath” (102).

“’So you won’t go?’ Howl said. And the turnip head slowly moved from side to side. No. ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to,’ Howl said. ‘You scare Sophie, and there’s no knowing what she’ll do when she’s scared. Come to think of it, you scare me too’” (113).

“Getting into Mrs. Fairfax’s conversation was rather like getting into a turning skipping rope. You had to choose the exact moment, but once you were in, you were in” (124).

“It seems as if those of high ability cannot resist some extra, dangerous stroke of cleverness, which results in a fatal flaw and begins a slow decline to evil” (180).

“’Go to bed, you fool. You’re drunk.’ Calcifer said sleepily. ‘Who, me?’ said Howl. ‘I assure you, my friends, I am cone sold stober.’ He got up and stalked upstairs, feeling for the wall as if he thought it might escape him unless he kept in touch with it. His bedroom door did escape him” (288).

“Then she had suddenly been afraid she was just like Sophie: old, for no reason, and nothing to show for it” (294).

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Information about my copy for my own records:
Publication: First Harper Trophy edition 2001, Originally published 1986
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s/Young Adult, Steampunk-ish
ISBN: 9780064410342
Page Count: 329

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