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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Castle Series #1)

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Castle Series #1) - Loooove this book. Love it. I admit that the reason I picked this up in the first place is because of the Miyazaki film (similarly, looove it). This is one of those cases where I love both the book and the film, but I can treat both as separate entities. (See also: Stardust, The Princess Bride, The Princess Diaries) The world-building and setting are wonderful. I love fairy tales and I’m a sucker for slightly meta stories. So, when I’m introduced to Sophie and I’m told that she’s the oldest of three sisters, and thus is doomed to fail, I am all ready to root for her. Hell, the opening lines hooked me right away. Diana Wynne Jones was a beautiful storyteller and she grabbed me right from the start. (Yes, unfortunately this is the only book I’ve read by her. I have Fire and Hemlock set aside, I WILL GET TO IT.) I love that Ingary is a parallel universe to ours, but it feels like the inspiration for our tales of Faerie and other fantastic worlds. I love the magic here, that it’s a profession, but there are people have a natural affinity for certain types of magic. Also, I love the use of John Donne’s ‘Song’ as the basis of Howl’s curse and how it’s woven throughout the narrative. (I originally read this book and Stardust around the same time, and was pleased that the poem shows up in both narratives, for similar plot points.) And the ending—it is a tad rushed and there’s a lot going on, but I love it for all of the chaos and Howl’s line “I think that we should live happily ever after.” It’s a perfect ending.Sophie = awesome. Yes, she doesn’t seem like she has a spine until she turns old, but Sophie does have a very snarky attitude and does get easily fed up with stupidity early on. Her characterization is so well done that I can easily see the reasons why she wouldn’t bother people with breaking her curse. And it fits the Witch’s stipulation that Sophie can’t tell anyone about being cursed. I also love that the curse is the result of mistaken identity in here, the movie was a little more overt about things. There’s also a great detail in that Sophie’s magical affinity is words of power and that it’s worked in very early on. (Also, comedic effect—the scene with the weed killer cracks me up every time.) Howl is such a smooth bastard, and I love him for it. He has reasons for being a flirt and the reputation that he cultivates, but he does care for Michael and Sophie. I really like the revelation that he’s actually from Wales, and everyone in ‘our’ world sees him as a lazy freeloader who disappears for months at time, and then in Ingary, he’s feared and respected. Also, Howl provides most of the comedy in the book. (You know the hair dye scene in the movie? THE BOOK IS FUNNIER.)Calcifer is fantastic, and I loved that his relationship with Howl is more explained here. Again, it’s a testament to Jones’s writing how subtly she works everything in without resorting to big flashing lights. I really like the parallels with their contract as compared to the Witch of the Waste and her fire demon. I loved Michael and his attempts at becoming a true wizard. (I’m sorry, I was tainted by the movie first, and I can’t help but make comparisons. Even though book > movie.) There’s even a love trapezoid between Michael/Martha/Lettie/Howl that is, again, so centered around misidentity. I love that Sophie’s family plays such a huge role, and that all three of the sisters have their own ideas about seeking out their fortunes.The Witch of the Waste feels like a typical baddie, but she’s still extremely frightening. She drives so much of the conflict and the plot, much of which you don’t even realize until later. And yet, you do feel sympathetic for her by the end, especially when you realize that’s how Howl and Calcifer may end up.And what I really love about this book is how tightly plotted it is. This is one of the few books that I wanted to flip back immediately to the beginning, and reread it to try to figure everything out. And even having reread it several times; even coming into the book knowing what some of the twists were, it’s still charming and an utter delight to read. This is easily in my top five fantasy novels of all time and one of my favorite books in general. If you only know this story via the Miyazaki version (which, while it’s a great movie, it does lose a lot of the fairy tale charm by shoehorning in an anti-war subplot), go and get this book now. E-reader, online order, driving out to the bookstore, I don’t care, read it now. (And even if you haven’t heard of the movie, still. Go read this.)