Howl’s Moving Castle
By Diana Wynne Jones
Howl’s Moving Castle has been on my list of books to read for a long time, too long in fact. I finally got around to reading it and found a lovely story complete with fantasy, magic, and wonderful characters.
Sophie Hatter lives in a small town called Market Chipping in the land of Ingary. Market Chipping is not far from the land of the Witch of the Waste, a very spiteful and mean witch, and Wizard Howl’s moving castle which roves around the mountainside outside of town.
Sophie is the oldest of three daughters of a well to do family that owns a hat shop. Sophie knows that as the oldest she will be the one to fail first and is happy to see her sisters seek their fortunes instead of herself. When their father dies many things change for the small family, and with her sisters set up in safe places where they will be able to find happy futures, Sophie stays to work at the hat shop. She unknowingly sells a hat to the Witch of the Waste who turns out to be an unhappy customer and returns to turn her into an old woman. Disgusted with her new situation, she decides to set out and seek her fortune. As an old lady she figures she has nothing left to worry about. With Wizard Howl’s castle in her sights, she chases it down and settles in making herself indispensible to Howl, his assistant, and the fire demon that inhabits and powers the castle fireplace.
When I started this book I was a little put off by Sophie who was content to be last and willing to believe that she shouldn’t have a good fortune awaiting her. She’s down on herself, has no confidence, and while talented when it comes to designing and decorating hats, she thinks nothing will come of it. Being an old lady makes her drop all inhibitions and she begins to speak her mind, take chances, and look for opportunities. She becomes infinitely more likable when she’s old. Howl is also an interesting character and not at all what everyone thinks but the most likable character for me was the fire demon Calcifer who Sophie befriends, mostly by bullying him into doing what she wants.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a great warm-hearted fantasy. There are characters to get attached to and the story of these people thrown together and tormented by the Witch of the Waste, all for different reasons and all unaware of the others’ problems, is a good tale. In the end, everything that Sophie thought she could never have because she simply didn’t feel herself worthy, changes for her and she sees herself, her family, and her friends in a whole new way. Happy endings sometimes are the best.
I’m a repeat reader of authors that I like and Diana Wynn Jones will become one of those authors that I repeatedly re-read.