Howl's Moving Castle | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle.
To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye."
Howl's Moving Castle is the first book in Howl's Moving Castle, a fantasy series by Diana Wynne Jones.
I was excited to get into this, but also just as nervous because I love the Studio Ghibli movie. Now, I don't know if that was the biggest deciding factor for my rating, but it did hugely impact my enjoyment of the book. That is because I kind of didn't really enjoy my experience reading this.
I found myself bored, which wasn't what I was expecting from a story that I love. Take this review with a grain of salt though, because I am going to be biased by comparing this to the movie.
Let's get into the details.
The writing, on the whole, wasn't the best, but that could be more due to the time this was written and the audience it was intended for. And you know it's an older book when they still use the word queer to describe something weird or odd. The author also overused the word wicked because that kept popping up more often than I would have liked.
As I have already stated as well, the writing didn't end up enhancing the story in any way.
I was just overall disappointed with the book. Books, for the most part, are supposed to be the elevated versions of their adaptations because they go into more depth. Unfortunately, I don't think the book added anything particularly good or new and interesting. If anything, it ended up becoming so different from the movie that it felt more like a completely different novel. The storyline was more or less the same, but the details and subplots were all slightly different.
I was surprised to find that the sisters, and there are more than one, played a bigger role in the story. I would have been fine with that had it not only added romantic drama to the story that I didn't need. The main conflict of the novel was different as well which I also wasn't expecting. Some of my favourite aspects of the movie were not in the book, which was a huge disappointment for me.
On the whole, movie aside, the story was still disappointing. Part of that is because of the characters, which I will get into more later, but it just wasn't the whimsical story it could have been. The magic ended up being overshadowed by a lot of small conflicts that I didn't care about. I also found the major conflict and resolution to be unsatisfying. This is the first book in a series though, so I don't know what direction the rest of the books go in and whether or not the story is any better.
The characters in this, and I am talking about Sophie and Howl particularly, weren't particularly likable. Starting with Sophie, when we are first introduced to her she is rather meek. Somehow though, once she is cursed, her personality completely changes. It is like being aged suddenly turned her into a cranky old lady.
Not only does it not make sense for her personality to change along with her body, but it made her really frustrating to follow. While she was admittedly a little manipulative at times in the movie, it was nowhere near how often she got mad and raised her voice in the book. Howl described her as being nosy and bossy which really hit the nail on the head.
Moving onto Howl, well, like Sophie there are parts of his character that is prevalent in both the book and the movie (mainly his dramatics). Again though, he is more unlikable in the book. Not as much as Sophie, but he comes off as more of a selfish playboy in the book which ruined his character a bit.
The dynamic between Sophie and Howl was also completely different. While the romance in the movie was rather fast-paced, it made for a way better connection between the two than what we get in the book. Sophie also spends a good majority of the book hating Howl because of the rumours spread but wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt, which didn't help their dynamic at all.
I don't think you can top the movie. There is just something magical about Studio Ghibli movies that is irreplaceable. Not only did the movie make the story better with the changes it made, but it made the characters more likable as well.
Will I continue this series, no I don't think so. I will just continue to watch the movie because I find that is the ideal way to consume this story.