“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.
Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success! Her parents were well to do and kept a ladies’ hat shop in the prosperous town of Market Chipping.”
That is how the first book of the Howl’s Moving Castle‘s trilogy begins. Some of you might find this name familiar ’cause some years ago the well known Studio Ghibli released a movie, with Hayao Miyazaki as director, based on this book. The name of the movie? The same one as the trilogy, the first book and this post: Howl’s Moving Castle. As it can be noticed from the very first lines of this book, the writing style of Diana Wynne Jones is really unconventional. Even though it is a book for teenagers or young adults, its sarcastic and fun tone makes it a good read for everyone.
This book begins when, after her father’s dead, Sophie’s stepmother decides that her daughter and her two stepdaughters, who she loves as if they were her own, have to give up school and become apprentices to be able to pay her late husband’s debts. This is how Lettie (the middle sister) becomes an apprentice in a bakery, Martha (the youngest one) becomes the witch Annabel Fairfax’ apprentice and Sophie stays with her stepmother in the ladies’ hat shop, which they own, so she can help in the family business.
One day, while Sophie is alone in the hat shop, the Witch of the Waste casts an evil spell over her. This dark magic will turn Sophie into an old woman and will make her leave the shop to look for a solution to her problems. It will be then, after walking a long way for an old woman like her, when she founds the moving castle owned by the notorious Wizard Howl. It is said that Howl devours the hearts of young ladies so taking that into account and after striking a bargain with the fire-demon who lives in the castle, Calcifer, she decides to live there and hire herself as the castle’s cleaner while she looks for a way to break her spell. And this is how Sophie, Calcifer, Howl y his apprentice Michael will live a series of adventures which readers will definetily enjoy.
In my opinion, this book was a breath of fresh air not only for the peculiar way of writing of it author but also for the mere story that it tells us. It is one of those books that, once you have finished it, leaves you a feeling of happiness (something like mental peace). I’ve really fallen in love with ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and each one of its inhabitants. With Sophie and her willing and strong personality, with the egoist, vain and conceited Howl, with the lovable and rude Calcifer, with the happy and dreamy Michael and even with Sophie’s family.