Howl’s Moving Castle

Our rating: ***

Sophie Hatter runs the hat shop in the town of Market Chipping. That is, she does until the spiteful Witch of the Waste casts a spell on her, turning Sophie into an old lady. This decidedly unlooked-for event leaves Sophie with few choices but to go and seek her fortune—which she does—and ends up as a cleaning lady in the moving castle of the disreputable wizard Howl (other occupants include the apprentice Michael and the fire demon Calcifer). Life there is far from simple, and Sophie is swept into adventures involving a missing prince, a dangerous contract, and an impending curse.

This is the first book I’ve read by Diana Wynne Jones, and for one thing, I greatly enjoyed all the references to the old fairytales (Brother Grimm and the like), such as Sophie being sure it would be useless to seek her fortune because she’s the eldest of three sisters. Sophie herself is quite a fun character, and her spunky attitude toward life makes her interactions with Howl all the more amusing. I must say, though, that the structure of the story was considerably more rambling than I’d expected. There are several plot threads running through it, some of which I failed to see the point of, until they tied up quickly at the end. Altogether, Howl’s Moving Castle is an enjoyable book, but it doesn’t go very far beyond entertaining.