This book is: light and dreamy.
Other elements: hats, magic, sisters, love, green slime.
Read it: if you like whimsy and aren’t in the mood to think.
Overall rating: 6.5/10
This book is very light and easy on the brain. Reading it is like drinking lemonade on a hot day: it’s refreshing and exactly what you want at the time, but you’ll still be hungry later.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a lovely story. I didn’t have any deep thoughts after reading it, and none of the characters ever felt like real people. But that’s also fine; books like this have their place, and more than a few of them have their place on my own bookshelves. I enjoyed reading it. It only took a few hours, I read the whole thing in one sitting. There were one or two plot points I didn’t entirely follow, but it was still pleasant to float along in the story, so I didn’t mind.
I must confess: I saw the Hayao Miyazaki movie of Howl’s Moving Castle several times before I even realized there was a book. Reading the book didn’t change my feelings about the movie; I think it’s a great adaptation. It simplifies the plot, but the way it does so makes it feel like a movie inspired by the book rather than an inadequate copy, which I think is the best thing a book-movie can hope for.
Please do read this review with a grain of salt: I know the movie better than the book. And I’m surprised to say that I think I prefer the movie. The book didn’t feel as alive to me, and I couldn’t get into the majority of the plot points that the movie had eliminated. Sohpie’s sisters’ trickery confused me, as did all of Howl’s romance triangles (or octagons). I don’t know if this is because I first experienced Miyazaki’s version of the story and now that feels truer to me, or because the book just didn’t speak to me, but either way that’s how I feel about it.
I’ve heard that Howl’s often considered to be a bit of a heartthrob. I actually sought out this book after Howel was mentioned repeatedly on my Book Riot post about potential husbands from YA fantasy novels. But I thought he was vain, slovenly, and self-absorbed. I know, I know – he explains the way he’s been acting at the end of the book. But I don’t think saying “here’s the really good reason I was being a pain in the butt!” makes up for being a pain in the butt. There are more books in this series, so perhaps in those books Howl behaves like the charmer I’ve heard he is, rather than the selfish, sloppy, womanizer he appeared to be.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did, but the love just wasn’t there for me. I think I’ll stick to Diane Wynne Jones’ (many) other excellent books.