My first exposure to Howl’s Moving Castle was the Studio Ghibli film version., which I found utterly charming. So when the Kindle Daily Deal dangled a bargain before me, I pounced, and am pleased to say that the book is similarly delightful.
Howl’s Moving Castle takes place in an unspecified European landscape ruled by a fairytale logic, where Sophie Hatter, as the eldest of three daughters, is resigned to nothing interesting ever happening to her. It’s always the youngest of three (or seven) that has an exciting adventure that culminates in ruling a kingdom. And Sophie also knows that a girl’s degree of prettiness sets her fate, and she sees herself as plain and dull.
When a witch curses Sophie with old age and an inability to explain her new situation, she sees no place for herself in her stepmother’s hat shop and sets off to find somewhere she might fit in. She bluffs her way into a job as cleaning lady for the wizard Howl, whose castle roams the hills and has doors that open onto distant places.
As Sophie strives to break her curse, she learns more about Howl, the man behind the terrible stories of him preying on young girls to feed his magic.
While Howl, his castle, and other fantastical creatures are entertaining, it is Sophie that makes this story work so well. A young woman with few expectations struggling under a curse that she begins to find strangely liberating. Being a cantankerous old lady has a power of its own, which Sophie may be reluctant to give up if she finds a way to defeat the curse.