19 December, 2010

Book and Movie Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Title: Howl's Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: HarperTrophy
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 329
Rating: 5 out of 5
Cover Rating: 3.2 out of 5. It's not that great--I would have preferred something a little more dynamic than an old woman and a scarecrow, although the castle in the background is good; the green and yellow face (which is supposed to be Calcifer) is strange, since they never said he had teeth in the book . . .

Inside flap:
Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did--especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.
   As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father's hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was no pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.
   Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for . . .

My expectations: High. I'd heard a lot of good things about this book (I seriously can't remember where, but oh well) and I enjoyed Castle In the Air, which is a loosely-tied sequel.

My expectations were exceeded.

About the book: First things first: I love this book. There's wonderful humor, (please see this post if you want to know my thoughts on humor), the characters are varied and Sophie was a great protagonist, and I enjoyed the setting. (I might mention that Sophie doesn't actually strike a bargain with Howl, as the blurb states; she makes the bargain with his fire-demon.)

I like Jones's writing style; it's wry throughout, and the dialogue is fun. There are a lot of adverbs (yes, those dreaded adverbs!) and she uses them with skill; despite a lot of the words ending in -ly or -ing, it felt natural. Nothing stuck out as being awkward or unnecessary.

  • Plot:
It isn't full of quests, or love triangles, or desperate lunges to save the world, which was a nice relief from the usual. It moved fast (I read this book in a matter of hours) and there were nice twists and turns along the way.

  • Characters:
I found Sophie to be one of my favorite female protagonists in a while. She's strong, and she has a level head, which is rare these days. Her attitude changes as she goes from the quiet, eldest-child to an older, snarkier old lady, and it was amusing to watch her "mouse" self become something more assertive and confident.

Howl is the wizard, of course; one of the interesting things about his character is that he knows he's a coward, and he's slapdash, and he's always going out on pointless missions to win the affections of the newest girl who's caught his fancy. The fact he was kind of a player irritated me, but at other times Howl was hilarious.

Calcifer was funny, and so was Michael, in his own way; both were good characters.

  • Setting/Elements:
Fire demons, moving castles, running scarecrows, witches turning girls into old ladies . . . what more could you want? AKA this was a fantastic setting. It was detailed, and I could picture the surroundings well.

Other: It's clean. The only thing I might mention is the fact Howl's always going after the girls.

Do I recommend this book? Yes! Absolutely.

*****Movie Review*****

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This was one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I've seen. I enjoyed the animation; part of the reason I watched this was because Kiki's Delivery Service is still a movie I like, and was directed by the same person.

One thing that I didn't like, though, is that Sophie is much more love-oriented than in the book. In the book, she's resistant to liking Howl and tries to avoid even thinking about the possibility she loves him; but in the movie, she says she does (to him, for that matter) much earlier, and is less of a strong character. That disappointed me.

In addition to Sophie's change of character, the movie seemed to be riding on the fact that the Magician Suliman, (who is a wizard, and a man, not a woman, in the book), the Witch of the Waste, Sophie, and Calcifer all have claims to Howl's heart. Which means, consequently, that there's a whole love aspect to the movie that is nonexistent in the book.

Another detail they changed is the fact there's a war going on in the movie, (there's no war in the book) and Howl's supposed to take part in it on the side of his country--but he refuses, and instead attacks and destroys many of the airships, and attempts to stop the bombs from falling on the towns/cities. He changes into a large, gray-blue bird while he's up in the air, and somehow his humanity begins to fade away the more often and the longer he changes.

Still, other details and elements were the same, and I loved the movie. There was still a lot of the light humor, and they made Calcifer much more amusing than he was in the book; it deviated, but it was effective for the movie.

Is this worth spending 119 minutes of your life on? Yes! In fact, this movie is online if you want to watch it, it's just the animation isn't in detail; I would recommend seeing the DVD instead (my library has it, which is why I got to see it yesterday . . .).

-----The Golden Eagle


laughingwolf said...

the anime version was succeeded by another film, neither of which i have seen, nor have i read the book, though i saw scenes from it in animation world magazine...

John The Bookworm said...

OMG So glad you liked the book. I've seen the movie maybe 5 or 6 times, and it's one of my favorites. The book, which I just read this past year, was just awesome. AWESOME. Totally blew me away, and is one I'll reread again and again and again.

I think you'll like Miyazaki's other movies if you like Howl's. He's a very skilled animator that does things his own way. Dianna summed it up best when she said that the movie wasn't her book exactly, but it was still a wonderful film. Try 'Spirited Away' for some heavier stuff (it's totally awesome and will capture your imagination like nothing else) and Kiki's Delivery Service or My Neighbor Totoro for something lighter. His films are *awesome*.

Old Kitty said...

I absolutely loved the film!!! I never ever knew it was a book - shame on me! This book is gonna get bought now asap - I thought the film was absolutely amazing!! So to learn there's a book.. well that just makes my christmas!! Thank you!!!!

Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never read the book, but I did see the movie - one of the better Japanese anime. (I think my favorite will always be Akira - can't believe they are making an American version.

The Words Crafter said...

I've wondered about this...I, too, have heard good reviews about both. Now, it's gotta go on my tbr list.


Elliot Grace said...

...sheesh, where have I been? Knew of the movie, but had no idea that it originated from a novel...that's me, living under a rock:)

Mason Canyon said...

I had not heard of the book but after your review, my interest is peaked.

Thoughts in Progress

Robyn Campbell said...

The movie was a book? Okay, off to buy the book. I absolutely had no idea. Thanks for the information. Great review, btw. I can't wait to read it during my Christmas blog break.

Angela Felsted said...

It's always nice when a book exceeds expectations.

....Petty Witter said...

I loved the animated version though I had no idea it was adapted from a book - I'll be sure to add it to my wish list, thanks for the recommendation.

C. N. Nevets said...

Not sure if you watched the sub or the dub, but the subtitled Japanese language version is much lighter on the lovey-dovey sentiment than the American over-dub. FWIW.

Paige said...

The book is AMAZING. After a year of having read it the first time, I'm still in love with it. It's definitely a rare find.
One of the other things I'd like to mention about Howl's character is he's very intelligent and I think that's an interesting concept given that so many male characters today are just written as bumbling idiots so they can make the female protagonist seem smarter. Howl proves himself to be very smart, having studied in uni back in Wales and he sure knows his way around the wizarding world.
I also love the way he loves children, as shown with his interaction with his niece, Mari. Thought that was cute.

As for the film--worst movie I have ever, ever seen and a complete waste of time. I was so disappointed that they ruined HMC so tragically that I was close to tears xD It was literally painful to watch, the characters, plot, and setting were all turned about and the dialogue was stuffy. Howl was extremely poorly portrayed to the point of seeming a little feministic (yuck).
The only thing I did rather like was Calcifer, they couldn't have done better with getting Billy Crystal to voice him, it was brilliant.
I could go on and on about the movie but since you seemed to like it so much, I'll zip my lips now xD

C. N. Nevets said...

@Paige - I haven't read the book, but I will tell you that when I watched the English language I was like, "Hmm, this seems like it should be better than it is." The Japanese language version is very different. Maybe it won't be closer to the book, since there's a definite Japanese cultural influence in the adaptation, but I (at least) thought it was better.

Thank goodness the DVD has both. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Laughingwolf: There's a sequel? I didn't know that! I hope they kept Sophie and Howl the same kind of character, and didn't change everything around . . . I hate it when they do that.

It's worth the read! (And worth seeing.)

John: I just reread it, too. :D

I found out my library has the other movies that he did--I'm going to take them out as soon as I can! I really want to see Spirited Away--it seems like a great movie based on what I've seen/heard.

Old Kitty: Glad you liked the movie! It really was well done.

You're welcome!

You too. :)

Alex: You should read the book!

I've never heard of Akira.

The Words Crafter: Read it! It's an excellent book.

You're welcome!

Elliot: Nah, I heard of the movie before the book, too--I was surprised as well when I learned it was based on a book!

Mason: I hope you get the chance to read Howl's Moving Castle! :)

Robyn: You're welcome!

Thanks--glad you liked the review!

Angela: I know. :)

Petty Witter: You're welcome!

The Golden Eagle said...

Nevets: Really? Oh, I should watch that then! Thanks for telling me. :)

Paige: I definitely agree with that. I was surprised, at first, since he seemed lazy-apprentice style at first, but then it turned out he'd had training and gone to university--definitely and interesting move character-wise! I appreciated it.

It's too bad you didn't like the movie--I still thought it was good. I agree about the dialogue, though; sometimes it didn't feel right.

I didn't find Howl feministic, or overly, anyway; he's kind of like that in the book.

Feel free to rant, Paige! I like it when people voice their thoughts, even when they disagree with mine.

Nevets: I really should watch the Japanese language version. :P

C. N. Nevets said...

If you hate it, G'Eagle, you can beat me up. :)

Aleta said...

It's not a book I normally would pick up, but based on your review, I'll give it a try :)

Summer Ross said...

I love Howls Moving castle. I didn't find out about it until a few years ago and my kids just adore it!

Christine Danek said...

I llike how you did this review. I will check it out (the book and the movie).
Have a wonderful holiday!

Jen Daiker said...

Though this isn't my cup of tea I have a cousin of mine who would adore it!!! I'll be sure to pass along your blog and show them all that is awesome!! Thanks for sharing it with us!

Sangu said...

This is such a great review, and it's totally hooked me onto the book! I always end up with a new book on my list after reading your reviews!

RaShelle said...

I'll def have to get this film. I think my girls will love it. Thanks for the review.

Lydia K said...

I've never read the book, but wow, your review is amazing and I'll have to check it out!
I agree about the cover art. Not thrilling, but the book itself is way more important I guess!

Lydia K said...

Oh, and btw, I blogged about synesthesia after you mentioned it on my Alice in Wonderland Syndrome post a few weeks ago. Thanks for the inspiration. I linked to your blog. Stop by and check it out!

Renae said...

That book sounds amazing! Thanks for the great review!

Brenda Drake said...

I've seen the film, but I haven't read the book. Actually, never thought about reading it until now. Great review! Thanks for sharing! :D

Angela Ackerman said...

I am probably the only person on the planet who has not read or watched Howl's Moving Castle. Maybe I'll remidy that over the holidays. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Samantha Vérant said...

You really give excellent reviews! I'm not into genre fantasy, but you kind of make me want to read this book!

Deni Krueger said...

I've never seen the movie or the book. We're sort of isolated here with our little bookstore on post. But I agree...the book sounds so much better than the cover made it look.

Jayne said...

What a brilliant review, Eagle! I love the way you have rated everything from the cover to the film. I didn't know this was a book, either, so I'll look out for that. Thanks!

Darlyn said...

i think i see this at a local bookstore. i should be buying and reading this next time! thanks!

Talli Roland said...

I haven't heard of the film or the book! But they sound very interesting - I must check them out. Thanks for the very thorough reviews.

Caroline said...

I definitely liked the book better than the movie...the bird thing with Howl was a little over the top. (And they had trains! I thought this was the equivalent of Victorian-era Britian =D) I wish it had been live-action. :(

The Golden Eagle said...

Nevets: Watch what you say around me. I might just take you up on it.

LOL. Kidding!

Aleta: If you do check out Howl's Moving Castle I hope you enjoy it! :)

Summer: Well, the movie's not that old or anything . . . came out in 2004.

Christine: I'm glad you like my review, Christine!

You too!

Jen: You're very welcome! I hope your cousin finds this review their time--thanks for passing it on!

Sangu: Thank you. :)

LOL. For books I like, I be very enthusiastic about them. :D

RaShelle: If they do, I hope they enjoy the movie!

You're welcome!

Lydia: It's a good book, and worth the read. :)


Oh, thanks for answering my question! I was curious about that . . .

Renae: You're welcome, Renae! Glad you like the review!

Brenda: You should read the book--it's better than the movie, IMO, although the movie is still quite good.

You're welcome!

The Golden Eagle said...

Angela: They're good for the holidays, actually--in particular the book. It just has that kind of feel to it. :)

Samantha: Thanks, Samantha!

I'm a lover of Fantasy, but if I can make someone want to read out of their genre . . . then I feel like I've accomplished something!

Deni: It must be so frustrating to live in a book desert . . . I'd go nuts! :P

The cover isn't terribly attractive; there are others, but they're still not terrific.

Jayne: Thank you! I'm glad you like my reviews!

I think that rating the cover, the book, and other things is important for review. Not necessary of course, but I think it makes for a good review.

You're welcome!

Darlyn: You're very welcome. :)

Talli: I hope you do check them out--both the book and the movie are well-done.

Caroline: I agree about the bird--when they first showed him flying with all the feathers I was like, what?! Wait! What's going on here?

The setting surprised me, too; in the book, it's much more . . . provincial, and there's little mention of such technology.

I like Miyazaki's animation; he does a good job! Have you ever watched one of his movies?