Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Like many, I was first introduced to Howl and his moving castle through Studio Ghibli, the animation studio responsible for other vivid and imaginative creations such as Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro. It is no large wonder why Studio Ghibli chose to make an adaptation of this book. The author, Diana Wynne Jones, writes with a curious and unique imagination reminiscent of the other stories that the studio animates. Unpredictable and wondrous.
The tale takes place in the land of Ingary, where falling stars are, in fact, demons undergoing their death throes, wizards eat hearts (or so rumor says), and witches cast enchantments on hats, even if they are merely murmuring nonsensical things to them in lieu of having friends to talk to.
One such witch is Sophie Hatter, who is cursed by the Witch of the Waste with old age, though she is in actuality only a young adult. This causes her to seek out wizard Howl, but upon finding him, it becomes evident that he is in just as much, if not more, of a predicament than she is, having been cursed and bound to a fire demon named Calcifer. In the chaos of a war and a budding love mingled with hatred, they attempt to decipher the bindings of their curses to free themselves.
This book is alight with the comfort of childhood tales, but remains fit for adult readers because of the depth in the characters. Where it may lack in complexity, it makes up for with imaginative imagery and Jones’ ability to be honest with the heroes of her story.
When you pick up the book, you are at first isolated with Sophie. As the story goes on, you are adopted into Howl’s family, much in the same way she was, and by the end, it feels like you belong in the strange place of Ingary just as much as Jones’ characters do.
Still, there is an underlying darkness to the cute air of the story. It contrasts with the simplicity to give the readers something to chew on as they go through the pages. A fast, entertaining and colorful read, replete with adorable and heart-warming moments, accented by a few dark shadows of human nature. An adult story illustrated with a childlike imagination, and well worth the time.