Saturday, March 13, 2010

One Heart Eating Wizard and an Old Lady

Howl’s Moving Castle

Written by: Diana Wynne Jones

Released: January 4, 1986 by William Morrow & Company Incorporated

From the Publisher: Sophie is resigned to her fate as a hat shop apprentice until a witch turns her into an old woman and she finds herself in the castle of the greatly feared Wizard Howl. “An exciting, multifaceted puzzle, peopled with vibrant, captivating characters.”

Ok, I admit it; I didn’t even know that this was a book until shortly before Christmas last year. It all started because I was a fan of the Hayao Miyazaki anime movie and I had watched the movie, oh, hundreds of times, before I realized that it was based on a novel. Apparently I’m just not that observant… or I always jumped to where it actually starts…

Anyways, the book and the movie are completely different and in the end I am so happy that I watched the movie first and liked it before I read the book purely so that I could enjoy the movie as well. I think that, though this is a great interpretation of a novel, there is just so much that had been changed from novel to book that I know that if I had read the book first, I would have hated the movie.

I suppose it’s because there is just so much more in the book with the characters and the plot line; there were more characters that interacted with each other and made the plot more intricate and complicated. Of course, I know that, especially with an animated film, you can’t have everything from the book in the movie; Harry Potter is a prime example. For Howl, at just over 300 pages, you could never even try to fit everything into a two hour movie, especially when it’s a Miyazaki film with his renowned animation and gorgeous scenes.

But, back to the book. Having seen the movie first, I was familiar with where it was going but I was pleasantly surprised at what else was in there leading up to it. There was more magic, confusion, laughter, and romance than I had anticipated and that made for some amazing reading where I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen next. Of course, I knew that all would end well and all spells, at least the ones in the movie, would be resolved, but I didn’t know for sure anymore how that would be accomplished.

I thought that the characters were fun and involved though a little one dimensional at times. Howl is a romancer who breaks, not eats, people’s hearts; Sophie is funny as a little old woman who wants to please people almost to a fault; and Calcifer… well he might just be the most dynamic character all throughout the book. He was definitely my favourite in both the book and movie, though I have to admit that Billy Crystal brought a lot to the character and I liked how the movie Calcifer looked better than the book one… Weird, I know.

The plot in the book was intriguing and it kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next. There was always a lot of action and mystery; it was like trying to solve a puzzle without all the pieces there at once. Even up until the last chapter there were bits of the mystery that weren’t quite complete and there was plenty of action that had yet to be resolved.

In the end, this is a book that I will definitely read again at a later date. I also purchased the other two books in the Howl series – Castle in the Sky and House of Many Ways – and read them as well but they didn’t quite hold up to the original… I think that may be just because I was such a fan of Howl before I read it and in the other two books Howl and Sophie aren’t as front and centre. I really grew attached to those two characters as I was both watching the film and reading the book. The ending of the film, though, does give a nice introduction into the next book with the castle flying off into the horizon.

I give this book a 9/10.

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