A magical little journey that was delightful but also didn’t quite have the teeth for me to really sink in with it. I am of course familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle, but heard that the novel was quite different. And it is in some ways, but also follows a similar plot in others. It really is fun and delightful, and not too serious which was great for me to read through at work while in the midst of some personal issues. But there was something missing here which prevented me from truly loving it…
Howl’s Moving Castle deals with a young woman named Sophie, who has conceded that as the eldest of three daughters, her life is not meant to be special, as based on some strange idea or old-wives-tale perpetuated where she is from (at least, I have never heard of this before?). But of course, a curse from a witch leads her to suddenly become an old woman, and she decides that it’s a great time to leave her life behind, and perhaps find some help through a wizard named Howl, whose castle travels along the edge of her small town. From there she becomes a staple part of the life of Howl, his young apprentice named Michael, and a fire demon who wants to strike a deal with her named Calcifer. Over time, these individuals grown fond of one another, and Sophie learns about the magic and curses surrounding Howl, as well as the rumors and other twists of magic developing in the lives of her sisters.
The story itself is full of fun and magic, and made especially funny by the interactions between characters. I found it particularly humorous how Sophie is so resigned to her life that basically whenever something wacky happens she just rolls with it. She also takes to the role of curmudgeonly old woman quite quickly after changing into an old lady. But this is also a bit of a detriment in that things happen wherein a real human would react or it seems like things are just far too easily accepted and taken at face value: sure this is a world of magic but where’s the conflict? And speaking of conflict, quite an interesting and engaging tale is built up surrounding the witches and wizards of the land, but ultimately things fall flat in how they play out so simply and almost with an ease of everything falling into place. There is so much build up for a very quick resolution in my opinion. There was also a bit of a mismatch in my brain regarding the manner of writing: so straightforward and easy to follow when suddenly it wasn’t, and there were cryptic messages and riddles in there about curses on various characters that I’m not entirely sure I understand even now finishing the novel. But, maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention? I thought I was following along just fine.
In any case, Howl’s Moving Castle is sweet, fun, and easy to read. I don’t know that it is something that will entirely stick with me, though I do have a fondness in my heart for the film adaptation. So it’s a weird little dichotomy going on in my brain right now. Definitely worth a read, but sadly just fluttered on by without holding me after I finished the last page.