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4.8 out of 5 stars113
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2005
You may be reading this because you've recently watched the Miyazaki interpretation of Howl's Moving Castle. If you're wondering whether or not you should bother to read the book, the answer is YES!! This is an excellent book, one of my favourites. Miyazaki only skimmed the surface of its depths. He also altered the story and some of the characters so read with an open mind and prepare to fall in love with Sophie, Howl, Calcifer (who, by the way is blue not orange), Michael (not Markl and actually a teenager), and all the magic that goes with them.
Diana Wynne Jones is much more subtle with her lessons in the book than Miyazaki is in the movie so don't expect the "war is bad" and "love is good" lessons to be thrown in your face. In fact, there isn't even a war in the book! That was something that was added in the jump from page to screen.
Quick, go read the book! (The sequel is Castle in the Air... also very good and ironically the title of another very different Miyazaki film.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2014
Here's the thing, I really did enjoy the book. It was well written and the story line was very well thought out in most parts. However I found myself feeling while I read that the author was skipping important steps and information somehow. As if there were chunks of information that she obviously knew, but didn't include into the story. This occurred mostly towards the end of the story, as if she were rushing to the finish line.

I would also just like to mention that if you've heard of this story because you are a Hayao Miyazaki and a Studio Ghibli fan, then you will most definitely find the story to be different than the animated work. This is the original story created by Diana Wynne Jones, the animated motion picture created by Studio Ghibli is simply a rendition of the story and changes a lot of the plot line in order to shorten and to uphold to their traditional style of work. My point being, that if you go into this book, expecting the same story as the movie, then you will either be disappointed, or thoroughly surprised.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2012
In 2009, for the first time, I saw Hayao Miyazaki's rendition of Howl's Moving Castle and I loved it. It was brilliant and funny, and beautiful to look at. Then my friend told me it was based on a book; an English book no less. A Japanese film based on an English book? That was weird.

That same friend read the book and eventually bought the whole series. I didn't attempt to read the book till spring of 2011 when I found myself working in a library. I searched but they didn't have it. It didn't enter my head again until January of 2012 when that same friend was talking about doing a 100 Book Challenge. I thought of all the books I owned (nowhere near 100) and as I ordered some books off of Amazon, Howl's Moving Castle fluttered across my mind. On a whim I bought it.

Once it arrived in my hands I finished reading it in 8 hours. I couldn't put it down! Over the next two days I re-read it again to make sure it was as good as I thought it was -- and it sure is! It's funny, well written, engaging and wholly original - which it funny because of all the wonderful references to other famous works in it (ie Hamlet, Lord of The Rings, Wizard of Oz etc.). I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys Magical fantasy!

If you have seen the movie and that is your only basis for reading, be prepared for a surprise! The movie is a wonderful film, but only has a few things in common with the book (main characters and setting) - the plot is totally different!

The book itself had lovely cover art and is a good size print. I found that the paper cover felt a little floppy, and was worried that the spine might rip as I was reading. I would love to one day own a hard cover copy.

I enjoyed the bonus material at the end of the book (some reading questions, a discussion about the film and a short interview with the author), and I am pleased with my purchase.
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HALL OF FAMEon October 7, 2006
A fantastically funny tale of witches, wizards, demons and magic, all rolled up into an entertaining book for all ages. If you've seen the movie of the same name, you should note that there were many changes in the story on the way to animation, but the book remains the better version.

Sophie Hatter has the misfortune of being the eldest of three sisters, and in her mind she is resigned to spending her entire life in the hat shop, talking to the hats. One day she incurs the wrath of the evil Witch of the Waste, who casts a spell on Sophie, turning her into an old lady with an attitude.

As the story goes, Sophie takes off by herself before anybody sees her wrinkles or hears her joints creaking, and ends up installing herself as housekeeper in the weird castle belonging to the Wizard Howl, whom it is rumored eats the hearts of beautiful young women. Here she meets a fire demon named Calcifer and strikes a bargain with him regarding breaking the spells that hold them both captive. She also meets Michael, Howl's young apprentice, and between them they keep the castle running (sometimes literally) while the vain and fickle Howl prowls about his multi-dimensional domain, courting various young ladies who catch his fancy.

When a prince goes missing, the King orders Howl to find him, as well as another missing wizard, and while he's at it, to kill the Witch of the Waste. Howl is reluctant to extend that much energy, and besides he has personal reasons why he shouldn't go anywhere near the witch, so he sets up Sophie to pose as his mother and make excuses to the king why he isn't the wizard for the job.

To make a long story short, his plan backfires and Howl realizes he has his work cut out for him. Sophie also has to figure out how to free Calcifer, and get back her girlish figure, while the moving castle keeps doing its thing.

Highly recommended for young readers with imagination.

Amanda Richards
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on June 27, 2004
Well then. Since you are reading this review, I can only assume that you are on the book's page. My advice to you is: Scroll up, add it to you cart, and buy immediately! I got it at the library a couple of days ago, along with Castle in the Air, knowing by now that it's best to get any Diana series all at once or you will be itching for the next one as soon as you're done with the first. I swear to you, I have not laughed so hard or read so avidly over a book in a LONG time. The humour is perfectly placed to make you give a shriek of laughter at just the right moments. My family was looking at me rather strangely by the time I had finished. I liked the atmosphere of Howl's Moving Castle, and the characters just seemed to mesh so well with the surroundings and plot that if it weren't for the regrettable nessecities of meals and sleeping, it's quite probable that any reader would jump into the book headfirst and not come up until it's over. Anyone who liked Charmed Life or any other of the Chrestomanci books will love this and the sequel!
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on May 10, 2004
Howl's Moving Castle is an excellent fantasy story. It deals with Sophie, the oldest of three sisters. She believes, as the oldest of the three, she is doomed to a bad fate. One day her father, a hat seller, dies and leaves the girls with their step-mother. The youngest goes to live with a witch to learn magic. The second sister goes to work at a bakery. Sophie is stuck with the hat shop. One day, an evil witch, the Witch of the Waste, comes in and without explanation turns Sophie into an old woman. Sophie decides to leave the hat shop and find her own destiny. After leaving the town, she runs into a huge moving castle. This castle belongs to Wizard Howl who is know to steal the souls and eat the hearts of young girls. Believing herself to be too old for Howl's morbid tastes, she decides to enter the castle. Perhaps Wizard Howl can lift the spell she is under. This begins Sophie's adventure.
For fans of fantasy, this is an excellent book. Diana Wynne Jones is an excellent storyteller. Also, for fans of Japanese animation, Hayao Miyazaki's next film will be based on this book. Be sure to read this before watching the movie. I'm sure you'll love reading it as much as I did.
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on December 6, 2003
What is it that separates Howl's Moving Castle from all the other magic-driven tales out there? Well, the best answer I can supply is that it has a sort of rare, spunky quality that makes it a fairytale, just twisted around so you can relate to it. I have never met anyone who has not enjoyed this book. In fact, most people, like me, love it.
The tale can be a bit confusing, which is why it turns out all the more satisfying. This also gives it its re-read factor. I guarantee you will not pick up everything the first time you read, but after that you will discover little clues and portions you wouldn't have noticed otherwise. It also suits readers of all ages.
The storyline is bold and new, though it has the familiarity of an old fairytale. It will not bore you with never-ending descriptions of things you don't care about. You will want to know what happens to the characters, particularly Howl and Sophie, since they have such strong personalities.
All of this authors books are great, with a unique writing style that is humorous and vivid.
The only thing I can say is, if you haven't already picked up Howl's moving castle, go! Now! You won't regret it.
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Not a lot of writers would be brave enough to pen a love story between a girl-turned-old-lady and a wizard missing a vital organ.

But fantasy dowager Diana Wynne Jones was one of those brave enough to write such a story -- and not only does she succeed, but she creates a brilliantly charming story. It's crammed with complex magical conspiracies, unlikely heroines, dimension-hopping, curse and contracts, and some sly subversions of the usual fairy tale tropes (such as good things only happening to the youngest).

A misunderstanding leads to ordinary Sophie Hatter being turned into a crone by the malevolent Witch of the Waste. Finding old age oddly liberating, she wanders away from her hat shop, and becomes the cleaning lady for the powerful wizard Howl, who lives in a moving castle with his fire demon Calcifer. Calcifer strikes a deal with Sophie -- if she can break the contract between him and Howl, he'll restore her youth. The catch is, neither he nor Howl can tell her WHAT the contract is.

While assisting Howl and his apprentice Michael, Sophie discovers that Howl's reputation for wickedness is rather exaggerated -- he doesn't actually eat girls' hearts and suck out their souls, but he is a prodigious flirt who abandons girls once he gets them to fall for him. He's also kind of a drama queen. But soon Sophie finds that the powerful wizard is ensnared in a horrifying curse -- and Howl has only a little time before the curse strikes.

One of Diana Wynne Jones' favorite sources of humor was poking fun at the tropes of fantasy and fairy tales. If you've ever read a fairy tale -- "Cinderella," "Beauty and the Beast" -- you'll know that the youngest kids are always the pure-hearted ones destined for great things. So Jones obviously had a lot of fun with this idea, and uses it as the jumping-off point for "Howl's Moving Castle."

Along the way, she peppers her novel with a complicated, intertwined conspiracy that Sophie only discovers as she spends more time with Howl, involving a curse ("“Go and catch a falling star/Get with child a mandrake root..."), a lost prince, and the Witch of the Waste. The curse's slow unveiling creates a growing sense of dread without revealing much, except the awareness that something terrible is rising slowly.

But it's handled in a fun, tongue-in-cheek way, with Sophie having to deal with Howl's immaturity (he has a green slime attack when his hair is dyed ginger) as well as the woes associated with magic (the seven-league boots). And Jones clearly had some fun throwing odd twists into the mix.

Sophie is a rather timid, dull character until her unexpected aging sets her free from her unhappy life. Her sensible, assertive new self is a pretty entertaining heroine, especially as she starts feeling both exasperation and romantic interest in Howl. Howl is a delightful character -- he's fickle, immature, flamboyant, eccentric, irresponsible and has cultivated a distinct image as a wicked, heart-devouring sorcerer to keep everyone far away from him. And yet, he's oddly charming and fun to read about, especially as a foil to the sensible Sophie.

Moving castles, fire demons and an oddly charming wizard make "Howl's Moving Castle" an absolute must-read -- especially for those who like their complicated fantasies to be a little tongue-in-cheek.
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on March 1, 2003
"Howl's Moving Castle" is the best Diana Wynne Jones book I've read. She is one of my all time favorite fantasy writers. I have about 10 of her books, and I'm building up my collection. "Howl's Moving Castle" is about Sophie Hatter, the eldest daughter of three. When her father dies, her step-mother sends the other two daughters, Lettie and Martha, to be apprenticed. Sophie stays home, to help in the hat shop. (her father was a hatter)
One day, Sophie is selling hats, and the Witch of the Waste comes in. The Witch of the Waste is a terrifying old witch who lived in the Waste, a huge desert. Sophie offers her hats, but the witch is not pleased. She turns Sophie into an old lady.
Sophie does not want her mother and sisters to see her as an old lady, and she was getting tired of her life in the hat shop. She sets out to seek her fortune, and finds plenty of excitement.
She finds the castle of the Wizard Howl, a wizard with a BAD reputation. She first meets his apprentice, Michael. She also meets Calcifer, Howl's fire demon. Calcifer tells her that he and Howl had a contract, and asks her to break it: it was not good for him or for Howl. However, Calcifer can not tell Sophie what the contract is. In exchange, Calcifer will try to break the spell on Sophie.
Sophie becomes Howl's cleaning lady as an excuse to find out about the contract. She meets Howl, a funny, lazy, "slither-outer" wizard. She gradually comes to enjoy her life in the castle, despite her exasperation with Howl, which is hilarious.
I don't want to tell everyone the ending, but I'll drop some hints for the curious. Sophie finds that Howl isn't the only one with magic, learns about the contract, and eventually confronts the Witch of the Waste head on.
"Howl's Moving Castle" is one of the best books I've ever read. I lent it to all of my friends, and they all loved it too. I've read it again and again, and I still find it interesting and funny every single time. If you like the book, it has a sequel, which is called "The Castle in the Air". It isn't as good as "Howl's Moving Castle," but it's still a fairly good book. Another book that is just as good as "Howl's Moving Castle" is "Dark Lord of Derkholm" by Diana Wynne Jones, and its sequel, "Year of the Griffin".
Diana Wynne Jones is the greatest fantasy writer. I LOOOOOOOOVE her books! You have to get them!
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on January 7, 2003
Too bad I can only give 5 stars to Howl's Moving Castle; it deserves far more. I'm a voracious reader, with 20 or 30 shelves full of books, and Howl's Moving Castle is my favorite of all of them. What makes it so great? For starters, the vivid characters are wonderful. They have such strong personalities that they almost become caricatures, but then Ms. Jones tosses in a little detail that makes them human. I especially love Howl, the outrageously foppish, over-dramatic, slitherer-outer of a wizard. Another thing that is wonderful about Howl's Moving Castle is all the tiny references to fairy-tale conventions, other works, the modern world (specifically in Wales), and even old poetry. A third thing to love about Howl's Moving Castle is the sheer amount of levels. I would estimate that I've read it 50 or 60 times, and I always catch something new each time I read it. It's hilarious and sweet. Even fantasy-haters that I made read this book loved it. It's seriously for everyone. I love Howl's Moving Castle; now the wait is on for the 2004 or 2005 animated movie by world-famous animation studio Studio Ghibli!
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