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Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (vs. Doctor Who)

July 18, 2012

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.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2012 6:52 am

    I loved Howl’s Moving Castle. Glad you enjoyed it! Calcifer is my favorite but Howl is a riot when he gets upset. I wish I had discovered Jones’s books as a child but I’m happy to finally be reading them as an adult. The whimsy just makes me happy. I’ve only read one or two of her books in addition to Howl’s Moving Castle but I know my library has several. I just need to get to them.

    Funny, I’m not a huge fan of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who (David Tennant is my favorite Doctor!) but I can picture him as Howl!

    • July 22, 2012 7:28 pm

      I can picture Matt Smith as Howl *especially* when Howl is hilariously upset or sick :)

  2. July 18, 2012 11:03 am

    Deep Secret is definitely your next DWJ read. And bear in mind Jenny’s Law: DWJ is always better on a re-read.

    • July 22, 2012 7:29 pm

      Yes! I want to reread Howl’s Moving Castle already because of Jenny’s Law.

  3. Erika permalink
    July 18, 2012 2:22 pm

    I never thought about Howl as anyone but the slightly anime version from Miyazaki’s movie, but I can totally see him as the doctor. Or vice versa. Dang.

    • July 22, 2012 7:30 pm

      I’m watching the movie this coming week and will be disappointed when Howl looks nothing like Matt Smith. But I’m sure I’ll get over it quickly ;)

  4. July 18, 2012 3:28 pm

    Hehe, The Doctor and Howl are incredibly different, and yet, I love the idea of their similarities. Pretty apt in places, mostly I can easily picture Matt Smith delivering the bulk of Howl’s lines.=)

    • July 22, 2012 7:30 pm

      A live action movie really needs to be made with Matt Smith as Howl.

  5. July 18, 2012 5:56 pm

    I love Diana Wynne Jones and Howl is a great book of hers to start out on. I had discovered DWJ books… kind of, as a child. My favourite ever, ever, ever book when I was 9 and it is still my favourite now – is Dogsbody. Which is about Sirius, the dog star who is cast out of his sphere and sent to Earth in the form of a dog to retrieve the missing Zoi.

    What I love about DWJ is that you often feel there is a lot more to that universe or world that she is ever going to let on.

    As for what of hers to read next… if you want something similar to Howl then maybe Charmed Life, the first Chrestomanci book and another popular series of hers.

    Or start the Dalemark Quartet – 4 books. The first 3 books you can read in any order really as long as you read The Crown of Dalemark last, which I didn’t because it was the only one of her other books the school library had.In fact, my local libraries were incredibly lacking in DWJ books which is why I never really read any more of her books until I could afford an Amazon account… and well, until Amazon actually existed.

    Fire & Hemlock is another of my favourites but aimed much more at older YA readers. Wild Robert, which is a short booked aimed at children is great too. And that’s another thing I love – you just don’t grow out of her books no matter how old you are. Some kids book just feel too young, but maybe cos DWJ never talks down or treats her readers any different her books just don’t really do that. Whether you’re 5 or 50…

    • July 22, 2012 7:39 pm

      So many choices – thanks for all your recommendations! What you said at the end seems completely true, even though I’ve only read one of her books so far. And I think that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much. It didn’t feel like a simplistic children’s book, it felt like a really good, whimsical fantasy story.

  6. talesofwhimsy permalink
    July 18, 2012 7:42 pm

    I don’t watch Dr. Who but I do really want this book. So glad you dug it. It sounds right up my alley.

    • July 22, 2012 7:39 pm

      You definitely need to read it. And then read it again when Baby Whimsy is older.

  7. July 19, 2012 6:19 pm

    If you do read the other Howl books, be prepared going in for them really not to be about Howl and Sophie at all. Howl and Sophie occur but are not the point of the books. I don’t think Deep Secret is your next DWJ read necessarily! Maybe Charmed Life would be good?

    • July 20, 2012 12:01 pm

      CHARMED LIFE YES. Or like Fiona said– the Dalemark quartet might be good (though I’ve only read the first one, myself). Or that one with the griffins. The Dark Lord of Derkholm!

      • July 22, 2012 7:42 pm

        I have added Charmed Life to my official ‘to read’ library list!

        Yes, I have been warned that the other Howl books don’t feature Howl and Sophie as prominently. And may have accidentally read their wikipedia entries and had a couple plot points spoiled. But I still want to read the anyway!

  8. July 19, 2012 6:19 pm

    Oo, or The Homeward Bounders.

  9. July 20, 2012 2:49 pm

    I am glad my vision of Matt Smith didn’t throw off your reading or anything. And I’m glad you loved it.

    • July 22, 2012 7:43 pm

      It didn’t! It may have actually made me enjoy the book even more :)


  1. Book Review: “Howl’s Moving Castle” | The Cheap Reader

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