For this monthly Bago Book Review, I continue though the fantasy genre by looking at the infamous Howl’s Moving Castle novel from Diana Wynne Jones. When most people hear the words ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and their minds immediately go to the Studio Ghibli film. What many have missed or long forgotten was that the story of Howl and Sophie was originally a book published in 1986. Jones’ novel holds a few secrets not featured in the Ghibli film. This alone makes reading the book worth is for those who have seen the movie but want to experience even more of the story and characters. Jones did a fantastic job writing an inspiring story about a powerful wizard, an unassuming girl and those connected to them. Her characters are colorfully crafted into outlandish yet believable people that progress into their final forms beautifully.
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three girls and believes since she is the elder of the siblings, she will not find a fortune. After her father’s death, her step-mother signs the two youngest girls up for apprenticeships and leaves the hat shop work to Sophie. If this is beginning to sound like a retelling of Cinderella, the book most certainly is not. Sophie ends up in between extraordinary events yet she acts in such a level-headed way. She is a such a practical creature that Howl’s Moving Castle takes on a quiet comical form. After a drastic aging spell is casted on her, Sophie simply accepts it. Her personality is completely opposite of Howl’s whose actions reflect a spoiled-heartless Casanova.
His reputation of eating girls souls is close to the truth. Howl woos girls until they love him only to dump them afterward. Sophie doesn’t necessarily get angry over this yet it bothers her as it would a grandmother. Sophie acted much like a old woman before the spell took hold and she is very comfortable with her “new” life. The author weaves these two characters into an inter twinning web from two completely separate threads. Howl’s actions tend to have indirect effects on Sophie and the same goes for her actions. One major theme of Howl’s Moving Castle is actions cause ripples that spread outward. Every main and side character intertwines with each other. Jones was thorough with her writing. For the most part character backstories are sprinkled throughout the story and the reader has the pleasure to piece them together.
Many concepts and ideas of our own world mean nothing in this book. The country of Ingary houses witches and wizards among more “normal” folks with ordinary occupations. The monarchy often requires Howl’s magical skills yet Howl keeps himself at a great distance even while working with the King and his men. Jones depicts her story’s setting with beauty. The multiple lands and towns the castle, powered by Calcifer a fire demon, has access too are each given their own unique characteristics. Porthaven as a poor town features residents who need Howl’s spells to survive yet who cannot afford the proper payment. Michael, Howl’s wizard apprentice, explains to Sophie that Howl doesn’t charge enough for his work.
The depictions of the swamps, gardens, towns and plant life all add color to imagining Howl and Sophie’s world. Readers can practically see the blue skies or darkening clouds and hear the bird calls or smell the honey used for spells. The country once thought of by Diane Wynne Jones comes into existence in the reader’s mind. Jones’ captured her audiences’ hearts with her story of spells adventures and hearts. The characters were wonderfully written with such personalities that are comical, romantic and highly entertaining. The only disappointment of this book is that you will find yourself never wanting it to end. I dare all fans of the film to pick up a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle and experience the magic for themselves.
If you would like to read a review about a certain manga, comic, or novel feel free to leave your suggestion in the comment section below or let us know on Twitter @BagoGames. For my next Bago Book Review, look forward to my opinions about Wizards of the Coasts’ Magic the Gathering comic book series.