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Sunday, September 17, 2006

cover of Howl's Moving Castle

I've been wanting to read this book for a while now-- ever since I heard that the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki had made a film based (loosely) on this book by Diana Wynne Jones, an author whose work I have enjoyed before (Deep Secret is fun; the Chronicles of Chrestomanci & Dogsbody are even better). It's a delightful, entertaining book that is well-worth reading.

The story centers on Sophie, a young girl who happens to be the oldest of three in the kind of fairy-tale kingdom where the youngest is the one who always has the adventures (remember all those fairy tales where the older siblings do terrible things and the youngest always wins the day?). Because she is the oldest, Sophie knows she shouldn't even bother to seek out her fortune, so she spends her time working in her mother's hat shop and talking to the hats she makes because she is so lonely. Soon the dreaded Witch of the Waste comes to Sophie's shop and curses her to be an old woman, because the Witch didn't want any competition. Sophie had unknowingly been working her magic on the hats she made, just by talking to them.

It's interesting how being turned into an old woman sets Sophie free in many ways. She finally ventures away from home-- not really intending to seek her fortune, but that's how it turns out. She is more able to speak her mind and do what she pleases, as an old crone, and seems to worry less about what people think of her.

Old Sophie quickly falls in with the young wizard Howl-- rumored to be very wicked and dangerous-- and assumes the position of housekeeper in his crazy moving castle (which is ensorceled to move around for his protection, since Howl has also been cursed by the Witch of the Waste). She befriends Howl's apprentice Michael and his fire demon Calcifer, and still manages to look out for her two younger sisters. She has quite a few adventures and sort of grows up in the process, discovering her own powers and eventually becoming young again at the end.

A delightful story filled with wonderful, memorable characters. So engaging & fun that I read it in a single weekend.

Title:Howl's Moving Castle
Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Date published:1986
Genre:Young Adult Fantasy
Number of pages:212


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