by Dianna Wynne Jones (DWJ)
It would be all too easy to pick Harry Potter once again, but I promised myself I'd try not to double up more than I had to with this challenge. So instead I've chosen this wonderful piece of fiction by one of my favourite YA authors. I came across Howl's Moving Castle after I'd ripped through DWJ's Crestomanci series and it was sitting there waiting for me at a library sale. Although I had a fairly good idea that I'd enjoy it based on past experiences with DWJ I had no idea I'd love it so much.
For those of you unfortunate enough not to have read this book I'll give you a brief run down. Our dear protagonist Sophie lives in a world where magic surrounds all that live there, however poor Sophie's life is devoid of any magic or excitement, at least that's what she believed. A twist of fate places Sophie in the terrorising Witch of the Waste's path and like so many before her she doesn't come out the other side untouched. Cursed to look and feel like a woman many decades older than she is Sophie takes to the road and stumbles across the emotionally charged Wizard Howl and his moving castle. Far pushier now as an old lady than she would have ever dared to be as her true self Sophie forces her way into the house and lives of Howl, his apprentice and his fire demon Calcifer Sophie. Adventure ensues.
Ok that was a terrible synopsis, but it is such a jigsaw puzzle of storylines and characters that it's kind of hard to reduce it to a few sentences, at least without giving away the good bits! Honestly though it is hard not to fall in love with the witty, interesting and beauitful characters, they practically float off the page. The story iteself is so colourful, both in terms of plot and writing style, that it is beyond easy to submerge yourself into the world DWJ's created and find your place amongst the irridescent characters. Within a few pages of this book I find myself yearning for a world where magic was reality and there were seven league boots and houses that meandered from place to place and cloaking charms and fire demons and broomsticks and parallel worlds and dreamy wizards like Howl.
Unfortunately a world like that can only exist in my mind or the pages of a book but that doesn't matter, it doesn't need to really exist it simply needs to be available as respite from the horrors that frequent the world we live in. I'm not talking just escapism here, it is more than just some cartoonish world where everyone is happy and problems cease to exist. It is a world where your imagination is freed and anything you wish is possible, there are still trials and tribulations but ultimately it is a world of opportunity and of hope.
Luckily for me this book was made into a film in 2006 (2004 in the original Japanese) by Japanese animator Hayao Miyzaki. This film is beautifully animated and while it varies from the novel's story quite extensively It doesn't matter, it embodies the heart of the novel and the characters remain true to their novel form. I usually don't advocate for the English dubbing over Japanese films but the English voice cast for this film is phenomenal (as are most of Miyazaki's films) and includes the voices of Christian Bale (who made me fall in love with Howl even further), Billy Crystal and Lauren Bacall. I've added a clip so that you too can fall in love with this wonderful world and hopefully experience it for yourselves.