By Sam Fleury ’10
Spells, witches, wizards and castles are all the telltale signs of a fantasy novel.
Diana Wynne Jones has all of these in “Howl’s Moving Castle.”
This was the Literati’s book of the month and it was a relaxing read. The Literati is Brophy’s book club and about every month a book is chosen to read and discuss.
The story starts with a young girl, Sophie, who is the eldest of three with a stepmother and no father. Much like the stereotypical Cinderella story, there are hints that the stepmother doesn’t care for the children.
Early in the book the three are separated and Sophie is all alone working in the back of her stepmother’s hat shop.
It seems that no adventure would reach Sophie in her cloistered world but she is quickly bombarded by the Witch of the Waste, the antagonist, who turns her into an old woman. This starts the adventure. She wants to find a way to be normal and her stepmother would be back at anytime. So she sets out to the hills.
Soon she meets Howl the wizard who, according to rumors, is evil. His character has some very peculiar traits, for example he tries to have women fall in love with him and then dumps them once they do.
The story, as you can derive from the title, is set in a moving castle. There are other towns that are visited but the castle tethers the story together.
The relationship between all the characters develops. Sophie and Howl grow closer. Soon they must face the Witch of the Waste, who has cursed Howl and Sophie.
The characters in this book are interesting and not usually what is found in other fantasy novels. That is why it stands out.
It is worth a read. With regular reading it shouldn’t take too long but it’s not a short book by any means at 329 pages.
Seeing the movie, released in 2004, is not a suitable alternative for the book because the director changed the plot quite a bit. In the movie, themes were changed to reflect an anti-war message.
However, I think the themes, if any in the book, are focused on character flaws and changes.