Buddy Read: Howl's Moving Castle, a YA fantasy story
Howl's Moving Castle #1 by Diana Wynne Jones
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published 1986, 429 pages
Our first read together in our relaunched Buddy Read efforts, Donna (my sister) picked this book. Thank goodness the libraries are open again. Though I have plenty of books on my shelves, I felt so restricted by not being able to use the library!
I found this book just okay. The premise is really interesting - a castle that moves around and the front door can open onto different locations depending on how the handle is pointed, plus the idea of a fire demon and magic - it seemed there are lots of good elements. And there are. But. Somehow it just never grabbed me. I think it reads younger than a YA book - maybe more like a upper middle grade book.
I had a few problems with word usage like this: "The castle was uglier than ever close to. It was far too tall for it's height and not a very regular shape." "Far too tall for it's height"? Isn't tall and height the same? A few of those in a book and I find myself irritated.
I did love Calcifer, the demon fire who is under a spell and wants Sophie to help release him from the spell. He is funny and clever and the way his emotions are handled is very clever. Howl is an odd little guy and his personality a little hard to pin down - a good guy or just a flake who dabbles in magic? I did like Sophie in her old lady spell - a spunky girl who kind of pushes everyone around, or more like, nudges them. She's fun.
"It was odd. 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."
It's a quick, lightweight read. There's no dark magic or violence - even the 'battle' between Howl and the witch is described very mildly.....lots of wind and tossing about, etc. It has a tidy, happy ending. If you're looking for something to finish over a weekend and not have to puzzle over any part of the story (except the occasional weird word usage), this could be your book. Or, maybe you're looking for something to read with a middle grader or read to a younger child, this could be your book.
What a wonderful book with clearly defined characters! When young Sophie is turned into an old woman by an evil witch's spell, she actually embraces this turn of events. Her relationships with Calcifer (a demon fire) and Howl (the over-the-top dramatic wizard) are terrific. She more than holds her own with both of them and is not afraid to give them a piece of her mind which is often amusing. The moving castle (run by Calicifer) is a character all its own.
There are trials and tribulations - the King wants Howl to find his brother that has been taken by the wicked witch, Sophie is being chased by a lively scarecrow, and Howl keeps falling in and out of love. Through it all, this unlikely band of mismatched characters become friends and get through it all.