YA Friday: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Friday, July 27, 2012

Title: Howl's Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Series: Howl's Moving Castle #1
Genre: Middle Grade, YA, fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, 2001
Source: Library
Read for: Fun, FYA Book Club

Sophie has heard of the wicked wizard Howl, a man who lures young women to his moving castle and eats their hearts. However, when another wicked and magical enemy, the Witch of the Waste, casts a spell on Sophie, she finds herself coming to Howl for help. She doesn't realize just what she is in for.

I'm not exactly sure why, but when I read Howl's Moving Castle it was absolutely the right book at the right time for me. Ordinarily middle grade fiction doesn't do much for me, and in addition this book was about as random as a book could possibly be. But for whatever reason, this book was comfort food at a time when I really needed it.

I think a large part of this book's appeal for me were the whimsical, charming characters. Each character is completely unique and quirky. We have Sophie, who talks to inanimate objects and feels the need to bustle and help people like a mother hen, Michael, who is hapless but desperate to make something of himself (especially in order to impress a certain young lady of Sophie's acquaintance), and Howl, who spends hours in the bathroom making himself look attractive and yet can't bear to have the spiderwebs cleaned out of his bedroom. In addition we experience such characters as a scarecrow that won't stop pursuing the castle, a fire demon that wants to be released from a binding contract, and a man that turns into a dog. See what I mean by random? However, the characters' interactions and quirks were nothing short of delightful.

The plot was every bit as random as the characters. Each chapter brought new episodes of strangeness and magic, from a "Waste" populated by abundant flowers to an irritated Howl expelling green slime all over his castle. Everything was absolutely bizarre, but completely entertaining and enchanting for me.

I can't quite pin my finger on why Howl's Moving Castle was so right for me at the time that I read it. Perhaps it was just masterful writing and world-creating. No matter the reason, this book absolutely delighted me despite being a style of book that I do not usually enjoy.

4 stars

Warnings: Mild magical violence


  1. This is one of those books that I can't believe I have never read - because I hear about it all the time. I always WANT to get to it but I never do. I like the whimsical aspect of it, and I think there are times in my life when that would be "just right" too. :)

    1. I really loved it. It might be a fun one to read to your kids, too... it isn't an "immature book" or anything but one that I think would appeal to any age.

  2. This really does sound interesting. When I couldn't get to it in time for book club I figured I just wouldn't read it. But since you and Karen both liked it, I'll have to give it a look. :)

  3. I love this book, too! Without really knowing why :-) I think it's just so much fun and very light-hearted. I prefer it greatly to the movie version, which is all about war and such.

    1. I'm glad I am not the only one who can't quite define it! I haven't seen the movie version but I've heard that it is very different.

  4. I have read every Diana Wynne Jones book. She's my favorite author, and although I don't think this is the best of her books, I do really like it. The House of Many Ways is a recent one of hers that guest stars Sophie, Howl and Calcifer. It's pretty funny too.

    1. I'm planning on reading The House of Many Ways! I haven't read anything else by her, and I am looking forward to discovering more of her work.

    2. You definitely should do it. Fire and Hemlock and The Dalemark Quartet are on the top of my favorite YA list. She was an amazing writer. She really understood children and how they felt.


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