In a world not far from our own, Sophie has the terrible misfortune of being the eldest of three. In Sophie’s world, the laws of narrative hold, so it is the third child who will succeed, and have adventures, and marry the handsome prince.
When her father dies, her step-mother (no, she’s not wicked) apprentices out Sophie’s two younger sisters, one as a baker, the other as a witch. Sophie is to help with the hats. And help she does, until the Witch of the Wastes curses Sophie, and she flees to seek a cure – but finds instead the monstrous Howl and his moving castle.
“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 the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”
Now, I loved the film version of Howl’s Moving Castle, which was beautiful, just as you’d expect from Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. And I rather enjoyed this novel, even though some people (Love the Bad Guy, to be precise) were worried that I wouldn’t. Diana Wynn Jones has the touch, when it comes to playing with words, which is something that I adore in fiction. She also plays well with the concept of fate, and of narrative-directed worlds – even though it doesn’t turn out that way for Sophie, and her misfortune isn’t Fate but her own self-doubt and belief
in the system, which is a pretty bloody important message to sneak into the novel.
I kept imagining all the characters’ voices as they are in the film, which helped make this novel for me (I love Calcifer.) Really good read!
“He picked up the skull and knocked an onion ring out of its eye socket.
“I see Sophie has been busy again. Couldn’t you have restrained her, my friend?” The skull yattered its teeth at him. Howl put it down rather hastily.”