Howl’s Moving Castle

By Diana Wynne Jones

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Harper Trophy, c1986, 2001

Genres: Fantasy, steampunk

Series: Howl’s Moving Castle; 1

ISBN: 9780064410342

Intended audience: Young adult

Number of pages: 329

Setting: Market Chipping, Porthaven, and Kingsbury, Ingary & Wales

Time period: No stated time period in Ingary.  The Wales setting is a contemporary time.

Plot summary: Sophie Hatter was born the eldest of three – a terrible misfortune in Ingary.  While her younger sisters are sent off to learn magic and baking, Sophie is destined to run the family hat store.  That is, until the Witch of the Waste enters the store one day and lays a curse upon Sophie.  Sophie soon discovers that she has been transformed into an old woman.  To undo the curse, Sophie must leave the hat store and find someone willing to help her, but she won’t be able to speak of the curse.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: The steady flow of events help create a moderately quick pace.

Characterization: The story is told in third person through Sophie’s perspective.  Many unusual characters are found in this story including the wizard Howl, and his fire demon, Calcifer.

Frame: The frame is set with the first sentence – “In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three”.  Magical misfortune is the frame.

Tone: From the fairy tale beginning, readers know that things will work out in the end.  Grumpiness is diffused with laughter and the tone is kept light even in the midst of chaos.

Story line: A humorous tale which revolves around the dangers of being born eldest and finding one’s place in life.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:

Fantasy

Similar works/ authors:

David Macinnis Gill – Soul Enchilada

William Golding – The Princess Bride

Melissa Marr – Wicked Lovely

Lisa Papademetriou – The Wizard, the Witch, & Two Girls from Jersey

Terry Pratchett – Nation

Personal notes: I enjoyed this book very much and was surprised at how different it was from the movie.  The major plot elements remained the same, but the book’s plot is much more intricate than the movie’s.  There are more characters in the book and the relationships between the characters are stressed more than in the movie.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – wizards, witches, fire demons

Diana Wynne Jones’s website

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