Verdict: Fun, easy and humorous read with an unfortunately vague ending.
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three, which in Ingary means she’s nothing special. She’ll never go on adventures or achieve greatness but, being shy and humble to a fault, she’s resigned to her fate. Yet, when Sophie falls foul of The Witch of the Waste, her boring future is turned upside down as she’s forced to seek help from the fearsome Wizard Howl.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a great story with a fantastic protagonist and surrounding cast of characters. An easy and pleasant read, the plot is intriguing and fun, with more than a dash of humour. Wynne Jones gives you just enough clues to work out things for yourself instead of being told step-by-step what’s going to happen, which is what I admire in novels like this.
The worldbuilding itself was vividly imaginative – and Howl is equally vividly ridiculous (but heartwarming). Sophie, however, was clearly the star of the show – I loved her. Her evolution from shy and withdrawn young woman to a no-nonsense, headstrong woman was exactly what made this book a joy to read. The book is worth reading for her character alone.
The only reason I didn’t rate this book higher was the ending. I felt there were too many characters piled into the narration at the end, which strangled Sophie’s viewpoint when it mattered the most. The way it was written – although you could tell what had happened – seemed vague, when the rest of the book had been so sharp. Sophie herself made no observations about herself at the end and her relationship with Howl was left undefined (although there were implications). I would have liked to see Sophie’s reaction to the events, as it was her voice that carried the story from the beginning. It seems a shame that such a vivid and imaginative story lacked the final punch.
Thoroughly recommended reading (but if I’m honest, I think I enjoyed the film more – *gasp*).