Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones. 1986/2001. 329 pages. [Source: Bought]

 First sentence: In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.

Premise/plot: Sophie Hatter is the oldest of three sisters. (Her sisters are Lettie and Martha). Sophie fears this means she is fated to failure. What fairy tale ever has the oldest daughter succeeding at having a grand adventure and living happily ever after?! She should be thankful that she's not ugly--after all she is a stepsister to the young Martha. When the novel opens, the stepmother, Fanny, has arranged apprenticeships for all three of her children. One will be apprenticed to a local bakery. One will be apprenticed to a witch. And Sophie, the oldest, will remain as apprentice in the family's hat shop. But it isn't Sophie's fate to remain in that hat shop and make hats.

After becoming CURSED by the Witch of the Waste--her curse changes her into an OLD WOMAN-- Sophie finds herself wandering about and in need of refuge. She finds that refuge in Howl's Moving Castle. She joins his household as a cleaning woman. The other residents are Michael, Howl's apprentice, Calcifer, Howl's fire demon, and Wizard Howl himself....

Her quest is to break the curse of Calcifer so that Calcifer can in return break her curse...but neither can discuss their own curse...that's part of the curse. 

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love, love this one. It isn't my typical read in many ways. I don't particularly seek out books with wizards, witches, curses, spells, enchantments, etc. But the characterization is super-fun and the writing is delightful. This is the third time I've read the novel, I believe. I think I love it more each time.


  • Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success!
  • Nobody can buy a hat without gossiping.
  • Sophie talked to hats more and more as weeks went by.
  • As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said. She found that a great relief.
  • “Everyone knows you’re a wizard, young man,” she said severely. “But that doesn’t alter the fact that your castle is the dirtiest place I’ve ever been in.”
  • “If you knew the trouble we’ve had because Howl will keep falling in love like this! We’ve had lawsuits, and suitors with swords, and mothers with rolling pins, and fathers and uncles with cudgels. And aunts. Aunts are terrible. They go for you with hat pins.
  • On the other hand, it is quite a risk to spank a wizard for getting hysterical about his hair.
  • Sophie’s experience told her that tantrums are seldom about the thing they appear to be about.
  • “Did he forget to spend at least an hour in the bathroom this morning?” Michael asked. “He was in there two hours,” said Calcifer, “putting spells on his face. Vain fool!” “There you are, then,” said Michael. “The day Howl forgets to do that will be the day I believe he’s really in love, and not before.”
  • The King was smiling. It was the slightly uncertain smile that went with the person he was, rather than the king he ought to be.
  • “People who are appointed to do something by the King and go courting in the rain instead have only themselves to blame.”
  • Howl’s voice was presently heard shouting weakly, “Help me, someone! I’m dying from neglect up here!”
  • “I’m dying of boredom,” Howl said pathetically. “Or maybe just dying.”
  • “Because there is no cure for a cold,” Howl said dolefully. “Things are going round and round in my head—or maybe my head is going round and round in things.
  • Sophie knew that living happily ever after with Howl would be a good deal more eventful than any story made it sound, though she was determined to try.             

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Alyssa Nelson said...

YES! This book is one of my absolute favorites. Diana Wynne Jones is such a treasure for writing this story. <3 So glad you love it too. :)

Michelle Ann said...

Like you I'm not normally a fan of witch and wizard books, but as I am the eldest of three sisters (and my father is not a woodcutter!), the first sentence made me laugh, and had me hooked!

Jean said...

An old favorite of mine too!

Lois Tinúviel said...

I just read this one recently too. I was so pleasantly surprised.