FINAL RATING: «««««
Original review from April, 2013: A very good fantasy book with a lot of witty humor.
UPDATE FROM SEPTEMBER 2016: Ohmygodunwaffles this book is phenomenal! Screw the stereotype of emotionally unstable teenagers who are usually the dumbest pieces of elephant poo who fulfill their prophecies. We need experienced old, badass women who seriously don’t take a crap from anybody! Why aren’t there more books like this? I have no clue. It’s amazing, nonetheless.
So I think almost everybody has seen the movie and knows the plot, so you all know Sophie, the main character, starts out as an 18-year-old girl who gets turned into an old woman by a witch. She ventures out and stumbles across Howl’s Moving Castle, who discovers a fire demon who will break her curse if she can break his curse on him. She complies, and a bunch of wacky and awesome stuff happen afterwards.
This has got to be one of the best fairy tale parodies ever written. While mostly an original story, there are some parts quoted from older stories that are mocked. Instead of Howl (who is a naive 20-something year old guy) automatically sweeping Sophie off her feet due to his charming looks, gets annoyed by him and calls him out on his bad behavior. Diana Wynne Jones was just thinking to herself “Y’know what?! Enough with that sappy Disney BS with the girl being swept of her feet and marrying a guy she barely knows. We are going to show Howl how and who he really is and Sophie is NOT going to be his caregiver.” I could honestly say this book is kind of like a “progressive” fairy tale that is honest to god HILARIOUS at times.
While Howl himself is probably one of the biggest brats ever conceived in literature history as well as being kind of an ass, you realize that he’s a pretty smart guy, as well as also really, really funny at times. Something about him tells me that he is actually kind of scared of Sophie (not in a bad way, of course), which I think was part of Sophie’s goal.
I think my favorite character in the book (and the movie) was Calcifer, Howl’s fire demon. There’s something about him I just love. Part of it has to do with being half the time he’s talked about he’s always flailing his arms around or over-reacting to something most people would just shrug off. While some people think he’s mean-spirited, there’s something underneath all that grouchiness. I personally think, while he does bitch a lot, a pretty good pal of Howl. He was after all the one who had to run hot water for Howl’s 2 hours baths every morning as well as cook the food, move the castle, etc all while being stuck in a fireplace grate. I really can’t see how Calcifer lost his sh*t doing that. Even though I won’t spoil this big part, Calcifer did a lot of “wandering/flying” before he met Howl…and being stuck in a grate for him would be like putting and elephant in a living room and forcing it to stay there. This demon deserves more love.
Wow I talked about Calcifer way too much.
All and all, this book is very memorable and can be extremely funny and clever at times. I’m going to admit, this book was confusing the first time I read it. Some people asked me how I felt about the Miyazaki adaptation. Here’s my response to that:
I mean the animation was wonderful, but the weird war propaganda the film tried to incorporate as well as some very MAJOR changes so the plot made this movie for me well, not so great.
But I can definitely see how people could enjoy it.