Contrary to my usual reading habits, I first watched Howl's Moving Castle, many years before even acquiring the book. It was weird, random, made little sense, and was absolutely wonderful. My hopes when reading the book would be that there would be some kind of explanation to the story but that it would be equally wonderful and magical.
The story follows young Sophie Hatter who is put under a curse by a witch. She sets out to discover herself and finds a new home in Howl's Moving Castle. Evil rumours are spread about Howl and so she should be wary as she enters the magical, random and utterly ridiculous castle.
The world was indeed full of magic and intrigue. There were moments where Sophie and Michael were trying to catch a falling star, they used one of Howl's inventions to travel quickly (this did not end well for Sophie!), and of people using magic to switch places so that they could follow their dreams. There was a magical contract, a disaster with slime and some terrified spiders. Diana Wynne Jones did an excellent job building the world but could have done to spend some more time on character development.
Sophie was frustrating as she seemed to have no personality about her and some of the characters were dull and flat whereas others brimmed with life, colour and energy. She seemed to have no fears or cares and just doddled about regardless of the danger she was in. Her reactions were boring and unrealistic. There also appears to be very little build up with the relationship between Howl and Sophie. There's little to no flirting, or even acknowledgement that there could even be a spark between them, and then suddenly, they're together. It felt forced and seemed to appear out of thin air.
The witch had serious issues as she had a strange Frankenstein like plan for some wizards. This side of the story would have been much more interesting had it not been revealed, and then thwarted, within a matter of pages. So much more could have been done with this plot line, but maybe then then story would have gone from weird and odd to demented and psychotic.
The resolution of the book was anti-climactic and disappointing after such a wonderful tale. A grandiose battle was expected and whereas it tried to deliver, it missed the mark. All the plot lines were tied neatly together at the end, which is always a huge plus, but it was also rather abrupt and I wasn't entirely satisfied. It ended too soon! Fortunately there are another two books in the series that will hopefully give me closure at a later date.
I had never read a Diana Wynne Jones book before and I'm glad I finally picked one up. The covers are beautiful and the stories enveloping and magical; perfect for when you want to get away into another world. I'll definitely be reading more of her books, starting with the remaining two in this series. Ideally, I would be able to read them in a house similar to Howl's castle.