“The castle was uglier than ever close to. It was far too tall for its height and not a very regular shape. As far as Sophie could see in the growing darkness, it was built of huge black blocks, like coal, and, like coal, the blocks were all different shapes and sizes. Chill breathed off these blocks as she got closer, but that failed to frighten Sophie at all. She just thought of chairs and firesides and stretched her hand out eagerly to the door.”
In the town of Market Chipping, lives Sophie Hatter. She’s the oldest of three daughters and is doomed to fail in her life. Being the oldest also means she will inherit the hat shop she’s feeling she’s slaving away in while her younger sisters are either learning magic of working in a bakery. But suddenly one the the Witch of the Waste comes into the hat shop and curses the young girl to an old woman for no reason. It becomes the start of a journey that would change Sophie’s life entirely as she ends up at the moving castle of Wizard Howl, known to eat the hearts of young women, as she makes a bargain with the fire demon Calcifer.
I’ve read this book twice now, once in Swedish and once in English. I like the book in Swedish, even with the names of the characters changed in the translation. There were, however, nothing at the time that could have made me say “This book is actually super awesome”. Reading the English, original, version does give me much more reason to say this book is amazing. Things was, as almost always expected, lost in translation and it was just not as good in Swedish as in English. Naturally, there is a newer translation into Swedish which I haven’t read (I’ve read the first one), so maybe it’s better in interpreting the book, maybe it isn’t. That being said, this story is truly amazing.
The characters are human, despite this being a fantasy book. I think that is almost the most important thing in books. You need to somehow be able to understand and relate to the characters in different ways. Not necessarily their problems – it’ll be hard for most younger readers to understand the feeling of turning 90 years old all of a sudden and the aches that comes with it – but you should still understand why they do something or what caused them to think a certain way. Howl’s an oddball, so understanding him might be hard, but we have both Michael and Sophie which are easy to relate to.
There was this one thing that kept bugging me at the end though. After it all ended Sophie and Howl was very fixated at each other and smiling. I can understand Howl smiling, but I spent several hours and some more to figure out why Sophie was. I still don’t get it. I have a million theories as to why, but I personally just don’t get it. It’s not a fault, to me, it’s just something I can’t understand. I mean, I understand it fits, but I just don’t get it. Basically, it kept bugging me until I eventually just accepted I don’t get it. But have my ideas, but maybe I’ll understand it in a few years when and if I read the book again – which I am pretty sure I will.
Once again, this book is amazing. I think it’s really worth one’s time. It also gives you a different perspective on the film based on the book. Despite the film being very different in some aspects, I still think it might give a much deeper understanding on Howl as a character. Also, lol, I suddenly came to think about the horse cloak. Heheheh…
Ahem, so, I recommend it to anyone and everyone. Preferably do read it in English.
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