Children's Literature · Modern Fantasy · Review

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesSynopsis from the Back Cover:

In which a witch bewitched the hatter’s daughter—and then some….

Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did—especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.

As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father’s hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.

Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for….


Sophie and everyone else in Market Chipping knows the rule about three siblings: the eldest is the first to fail, the middle child will be the least successful, next to the eldest, but the youngest will be the most successful and be able to find her fortune. After a long day of hat-making and wondering about seeking her fortune, Sophie serves the Witch of the Waste, who came into the hat shop to buy a bonnet. Not finding what she looked for and being refused service due to her attitude, she turned Sophie into an old woman. Now, she has to leave Market Chipping to find a way to remove the curse, which means going to the only other magical person who is as equally powerful as the Witch of the Waste: Wizard Howl.

Howl’s Moving Castle has been a favorite anime movie of mine for years. I learned a few months ago that the movie was adapted from a book, a book that wasn’t manga. After buying and reading it, I discovered that it’s the first in the World of Howl series, written by the late Diana Wynne Jones. I enjoyed this book, although certain elements are very different from its film adaptation. Here is a quick list of the differences: characters (ages, names, gender, personality, etc.), plot, and magic. Now for the rest of the review.

The cover of the copy I read (shown above) is beautiful. It cleverly presents some of the characters, the setting, and the genre of the novel. I love the depictions of Sophie, Calcifer, and the scarecrow. I wish the scarecrow’s head looked more like the turnip it is, but it works.

I found character development mostly in Sophie and some in Howl. Sophie realizes that she can seize the future, that she can be the eldest and find her fortune. Howl, on the other hand, chooses to face trouble instead of run away. Each character’s distinct personality made the story and their dynamic sweet.

The world was introduced at the right times. As Sophie starts visiting new places, the towns are described. I also like how the “real,” modern England is introduced. It is another dimension, and I thought it was great that our world did not require a detailed description from Howl or Michael. Sophie was confused, yet she rolled with it.

Howl’s Moving Castle is classified as a children’s book, but it fits more into an all-ages category because it does not strike me as targeted at children. I recommend this to fantasy readers of all ages, anime fans—namely, the ones who watched the film.

Genres: Fantasy, Children’s fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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