Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

July 11, 2010 at 11:48 am 4 comments

Howl's Moving CastleHowl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Reviewed by Keith Low Sheng Hng (3H1)

Howl’s Moving Castle tracks the life of Sophie Hatter as she gains self-confidence and follows her destiny through many trials with an evil sorceress, a handsome wizard and a fire demon.

After being magically transformed by the Witch of the Waste from a young lady into an old crone, Sophie escapes and finds work as a cleaning lady at the moving castle of the wizard Howl. Eventually, she realises her own magical power – being able to bring life to inanimate objects, just by talking to them – and manages to remind the reclusive Howl of his humanity, an act which enables her to return to her original age.

This book revolves around the themes of youth, destiny and love. By using certain juxtapositions between each character’s different approach to several central themes, Jones draws parallels to the reality of the differing personalities and depth of character and how this might be applicable to the differing personalities we have in reality. Furthermore, the book deals with issues such as self-confidence. Sophie, who was born as the eldest of three daughters, often thinks that she is jinxed for life. On the contrary, she has skills that allow her to sew clothes that can charm anyone and talk life into otherwise inanimate objects.

Interestingly, Jones employs many references to established works. Sophie’s surname, Hatter, might be derived from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Similarly, the Witch of the Waste might be a pun on the Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Such references add colour and depth to Jones’ book, allowing the reader to fully understand and appreciate the fantastical elements that she is making reference to.

However, the reader might feel that the book’s conclusion, the last ten pages or so, is slightly rushed. In addition, it is only at this point that Jones starts to explain all the sub-plots more clearly. If the conclusion had been developed more thoroughly, it would allow the reader to empathise more clearly with the characters and the book. Furthermore, if the sub-plots were explained consistently throughout, it might have allowed the exciting plot to sink in better.

Those who have watched the movie adaptation of the same title might find the plot in the film significantly different from what’s found in the book. Expect to see a slight change in the characters as well. However, Miyazaki’s movie adaptation still proves to be equally delightful. His input of themes such as redemption and problem-solving, and the Victorian setting, add much to the film’s charm.


Entry filed under: Fantasy, Reviews.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jason Erik Lundberg  |  July 11, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Great review, Keith. I’ve seen the film, but haven’t yet read the novel, and your review makes me keen to do so. Thank you for the clear insights into this book.

  • 2. Lee Chun Yuen  |  August 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I liked the book report a lot and I think that this has really inspired me to read the book find out more. This review is detailed and clear, it can imagine myself there in the setting and feeling the things that Howl felt. I am really impressed with this report and thinks that I should use this review as a guide to how to write reviews in the near future.

  • 3. Justin Foo  |  August 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Having read the review, I would read this book. The review makes the book sound interesting. Self-confidence was brought up. It seems to be a useful book and also an interesting one. The storyline sort of attracts my attention. Self-confidence is important in our daily lives. The story is a fairytale, one lined up with lots of difficulties and obstacles. And that is what makes me want to read the book.

  • 4. Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011) « HCI Kong Chian Library  |  March 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    […] influential novel Howl’s Moving Castle was reviewed in July 2010 by the current Library Club Chairman, Keith Low Sheng […]


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