Sophie is the eldest of three daughters, and therefore destined to fail first and worst. Soon enough, her stepmother sends her sisters off to safe places, and Sophie has been cursed by a witch. She takes refuge in the castle of an infamous wizard, and things get stranger from there.
I’d only heard of Howl’s Moving Castle in recent years, but I’d heard only good of it. So much so, in fact, that I was sceptical, as I tend to be about anything with lots of hype. Diana Wynne Jones’ book, however, was one of those exceptions to the rule. It’s as good as I heard, and much better than I’d feared.
Howl isn’t a perfect book – it follows a standard fantasy romance trajectory – but Jones both acknowledges the formula, and has fun with it. In fact, the defining characteristic of the book is its light-hearted fun, never taking itself too seriously, but never forgetting to tell a good story. It’s a story that ends well, but not necessarily one I’ll follow, for all the good writing. I’m not confident of the story stretching well enough to cover two more books. While Jones writes well, she also takes some shortcuts with the plot. For example, we’re introduced very early to an urgent and important bargain between Sophie and a fire demon. Then the bargain essentially disappears, except for sparse and cursory reminders that it’s there, and that Sophie has no plans to do anything about it. It’s an unfortunate gimmick that undermines the otherwise credible action.
I enjoyed the read, and am pleased to have (quite late) discovered Ms. Jones’ work. The edition I bought includes excerpts of three other works, of which only one interested me, so I’m not sure that I’ll be diving into Jones land soon. This book, however, was a whole lot of fun.