Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (vs. Doctor Who)
From the publisher’s website:
In the land of Ingary, where seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility do exist, Sophie Hatter catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste and is put under a spell.
Deciding she has nothing more to lose, she makes her way to the moving castle that hovers on the hills above Market Chipping. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the souls of young girls… There she meets Michael, Howl′s apprentice, and Calcifer the Fire Demon, with whom she agrees a pact.
But Sophie isn′t the only one under a curse – her entanglements with Calcifer, Howl, and Michael, and her quest to break her curse is both gripping – and howlingly funny!
Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who the whole book bloggosphere seems to love but whom, prior to joining the book blogging community, I had never heard of. So, I’d always felt a bit out of the loop but didn’t know where to start in her vast catalogue. Thankfully, Forever Young Adult made that decision for me when they selected Howl’s Moving Castle as the July book club book.
I honestly had no idea what to expect when I started, all I knew was that the book fell under the genre of Fantasy, which usually isn’t my thing. But I really had nothing to worry about as I was quickly charmed by the writing and the characters.
First off, Sophie. I really liked how Jones flipped the birth order privileges, and that Sophie, being the eldest, would have a harder time at life. And although Sophie seemed resigned to that fate, I loved her stubborn streak and her constant attempts to set things right. And Howl. Seriously, I loved Howl. I thought he was quirky and hilarious (although usually unintentionally) and definitely mad. He was a highlight of the book for me (although Calcifer was also pretty fantastic), and I’ve already gone back to re-read a couple of my favourite Howl scenes and they still make me laugh.
And this is what I enjoyed most about Howl’s Moving Castle; its lightheartedness, its humour, and its overall whimsy. Part me wishes I had discovered Diana Wynne Jones when I was younger, because, at least judging by Howl’s Moving Castle, she is such a delight to read. But I know that I would have been all “Ew! Fantasy! Where’s my Sweet Valley?!” To those who weren’t hampered by that prejudice when they were within the age group Jones wrote for, I envy you. To those who are like me and have never read anything by Jones, I highly recommend stating with this one.
But now the question remains – what of hers do I read next? I definitely want to read the other Howl books, but what should I go to after that?
An Aside: Howl vs. The Doctor
Just before I started reading Howl’s Moving Castle, Caitlin told me that when reading the book she now pictures Matt Smith (of Doctor Who fame) as Howl. Well, that got my attention. As I started to read the book, I realized that not only would Matt Smith be a fantastic casting choice, but also just how similar Howl is to the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat Doctor. I mean, Howl is also charming, eccentric, and older than he looks – and sometimes wiser, too. And, let’s not forget quirky, hilarious, and mad. He’s constantly running from something that he knows will catch up with him in the end. He may not exactly travel through space and time, but he travels through something… just space? Or through dimensions? And he also travels in something that is a different size on the inside than it is on the outside (although the castle is smaller on the inside, rather than bigger like the TARDIS). Howl obviously likes having company while he travels, even though he’ll never admit it. And although he is more than a tad vain, he is surprising in his compassion and awareness of others’ troubles.
I know that lots can be said about their differences, but I’ve starting to thinking of Howl as a missing regeneration of the Doctor.