Posted by greysprincess | Filed under Book Reviews
Hello, world. I promised a while ago that I would explain my obsession with Howl’s Moving Castle, and that time has come.
I suppose the best place to start would be with how I came to discover the movie. A friend of mine had provided me with a Hiyao Miyazaki film to watch, and had gotten me hooked on his films. As such, when I was in anime club a little later, and Howl’s Moving Castle was one of the options for us to watch, I voted for it simply because it was a Hiyao Miyazaki film.
I loved the movie. I mean, I absolutely loved it. My affection for it was instantaneous. I couldn’t even be so patient as to wait for the next week’s anime club to finish the movie. I went home and watched it.
I had known for a long time after discovering the movie that it was based on a book. I had seen it in the credits, and I had a friend that had read the book and liked to discuss the differences between the movie and the book. I always promised myself I’d read it sometime, but that’s about as far as it ever got.
Until I found out the author.
I was in Barnes and Noble when this revelation occurred, browsing the children’s section with my mom to help her come up with Christmas gift ideas for me. “What about this one?” she had asked. “You really like Diana Wynne Jones, don’t you?”
She handed me the book with the back facing up so I could read the summary. I’m not entirely sure how far I got into the summary before I made the connection and began to get very excited. Diana Wynne Jones, one of my favorite authors, had written the book one of my favorite movies was based on. I realized then that I had to have that book.
I didn’t get it for Christmas.
I survived a while, never quite having money enough for the book when I was at the store with everything else I would buy. But at the end of this past school year, it finally got to me, and I requested it at the public library. The next day we went to the library, and I checked out the sequel (actually the third book in the set) so I’d have it to read when HMC came in.
Two weeks pass. The copy of HMC I requested does not come in.
My friend texts me to ask if I want to go to Barnes and Noble with him. I have nothing better to do, and I decide I’m sick and tired of waiting for the library book to come in, so I go and buy the book (Finally!). I get home, and decide I’ll sit and read a couple of chapters before getting back to matters at hand (namely, the bedroom cleaning that was underway).
I’m still reading the book at suppertime, and have to be dragged away from it to come eat. I inhale my food, clear the table quickly, and get back to the book the second I get the chance. I have it finished by the end of the evening.
I start the third one the next afternoon. It’s finished by the time I go to bed that night, as well.
The next day, the copy I requested at the library comes in. I rejoice that I bought the book, seeing how wonderful it is.
Once I check out the second book in the series, I read it in one day as well.
All of this, of course, is mere background information. Time to get to the good stuff: my official review. It will cover my opinion of the series as a whole (Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways). Spoilers might abound, and such.
Quick Read: If you didn’t read my explanation above (I don’t necessarily blame you), I finished each book on the same day I started it. We’re talking 400 page books here, mind you. Now, I know I read faster than most, but the point is, the story drags you in and keeps you attached.
Character Flaws: Perhaps one of the best things about this series is that the characters are flawed. I mean, really flawed. Take Howl, for example: he’s vain, he’s fickle, he’s a pigheaded coward who gets head colds like a drama queen, if you leave him alone for more than five minutes he literally screams for attention, he throws temper tantrums that terrify an entire town… Each character has a list nearly as long as this. And yet, despite all their flaws, it is impossible not to fall in love with the characters. In fact, I’d venture to say that their flaws make them more relatable, drawing the reader to them.
Satirization: Good news- that’s actually a word! Anyway, Jones has an amazing talent for taking the standard conventions of fantasy and poking subtle fun at them. Sophie is a girl with a stepmother and two stepsisters (Well, okay. One’s her full sister and the other’s a half-sister. If the cliche fits…), and yet she gets along quite well with all three of them. The genie hates the world. The magic carpet is activated by snoring. The otherworldly wizard’s other world happens to be Wales. SPOILER!! In what I happen to believe is the best use of classic poetry known to man, an entire curse is crafted around the words of John Donne. End Spoiler The point is, the satire is wonderful, and makes for a delightful tone.
“Happily Ever After”: Ah. Sophie and Howl. These two could not get more hilarious. They’re probably the last thing I’d think of if you said “true love”, and yet they’re one of my favorite fictional couples. There is so much wrong with their relationship from the traditional standpoint, and that’s what makes them so great- despite the fact they argue all the time, they make it work. It makes their romance that much more real. Add to that the handful of tiny details I delight in, such as Howl’s hilarious profession of love at the end of the first book or his reaction upon first meeting his son, and you’ve got the makings of a “One True Pairing.”
Ending: This is more of a personal preference thing, but I love how there’s hardly anything between the climax and the end of the book. It just ends. It’s kind of refreshing.
The DWJ Effect: I suppose I have to put something for cons, and this is what I’ve come up with. Personally, this is something that doesn’t bother me in a bit, but it has the potential to drive people crazy. There is this thing I like to call the “Diana Wynne Jones Effect” that seems to be standard for any series she has written. The definition of “series” tends to be fairly loose when it comes to her books. The main characters are rarely the same from book to book- instead, there will be some characters that return in supporting roles throughout the series. What can make this even more frustrating is the instances in which she wrote the books in an order other than in-story timeline order, such as with the Chrestomanci Chronicles. Now, this kind of thing could go either way- it gives the reader a little bit of freedom to read out of order or start in the middle. For example, I actually read the third HMC book before the second because I didn’t know the second existed. However, it could drive the kind of person who likes a well-defined series absolutely bonkers.
Well, obviously I love this series. It is my absolute favorite. There’s not much else I can truly say here without raving on the virtues of the amazing author. Diana Wynne Jones, if you ever see this, I would like to thank you for producing such brilliant works of art. Also, if anyone locked me in a closet with Howl for any period of time, they might not live to see the next day. That is all. Thank you, and good night/morning/mid-afternoon/general state of being.