book-reviews

Howl's Moving Castle

by Dianna Wynne Jones

Rating: ★★★

I came to Howl's Moving Castle via the Studio Ghibli animated adaption of it. After watching the animated film, I mentioned to someone that it reminded me of a certain class of fantasy novel. A little bit of research later, and I was at the Amazon product page for Jones' novel, thinking 'why not?'.

Reading a book and comparing it to a movie adaption is always a bit troubling, and this was no exception. Small things change and you've no idea why. In Jones' novel, the wizard Howl actually has an alternate life in Wales, in our world. That life is excised from the movie entirely. Conversely, the flying machines which buzz overhead in the movie have no basis in the book.

The focus of both book and movie is on a girl who has the misfortune to be born first of three children in a storybook universe where the received wisdom tells her she'll always fail. Resigned to her dutiful role working in a hat shop, she one day becomes accidentally embroiled in a magical conflict, and is transformed into an old woman. Cue a somewhat charming adventure where she good-naturedly bullies her way into a magician's house in the search for a cure.

The story is, however, nothing fantastic. A couple of amusing and confusing tropes don't manage to lift this book much out of a typical fantasy romance, and the Byronic nature of the central Howl makes it hard for you to sympathise with anyone who likes him. Worth a glance if you liked the film, above average fare for the young teenager, but not all that compelling for other audiences.