There is a unique feeling when you rediscover a book from your past and find that you enjoy it even more; almost like you’ve come home to find your house remodeled and a new car sitting in the drive way. I think my previous grudge against young adult fiction was wrongfully directed. It isn’t the genre itself that bothered me, but the type of books I was reading within that genre, speaking mainly of dystopian novels. In reality there isn’t anything wrong with them, but I could only read so many before I felt like they were all the same. Fantasy, on the other hand, is a genre I had neglected and I am once again experiencing the majesty that is a good fantasy story.
In this first book of the series, Sophie is the eldest of three sisters and as such is destined to have an ordinary life filled with bad luck. However, Sophie doesn’t realize how unordinary a life can be when luck isn’t in your favor. After being changed into an old woman by the mysterious and evil Witch of the Waste, she runs away from her occupation as an apprentice hatter, her home, and her family to find a new life. Her life takes a turn to for unsuspecting when she runs across the moving castle of Howl Pendragon, an infamous wizard who is rumored to devour the hearts of young girls, and becomes embroiled in a search to free a fire demon from a contract. Yet more adventures lie around every corner as Sophie begins to realize that she isn’t as normal as she thought she was either. Even as an unfortunate oldest sister there is more to her than meets the eye.
Howl’s Moving Castle is what I like to call an ‘every day fantasy’. This title, though it sounds drab, is used in the best possible way to describe a story one could imagine really happening. It doesn’t even take place in our world but Dianna Wynn Jones constructs people and locations that are so very similar to what we see in reality. The only difference is that her world has a variety of magical touches. It is relatively common for me to be so engrossed in a book that I feel myself taken to the authors world to live with the characters. It is less common that while reading I become so absorbed that I’m surprised to find myself no longer in the world within the pages. Howl’s Moving Castle took me out of this world into an adventure where I was everything but physically absent from this reality.
Similar to when I finished after reading the third book of this series (ignoring the societal protocol that dictates we read books in their designated order) I find little to critique. The ending to the story ends rather quickly in my opinion and doesn’t quite allow the reader to be emotionally satisfied after the climax, but she does make sure the reader doesn’t turn the final page with unanswered questions.
Dianna Wynn Jones is a master of character development. I would like to think that she writes her stories to see what will happen to the characters. While enrolled at a previous university I was told by an English professor that when writing a book you don’t originally have a concrete plan; you just keep writing until you can’t anymore, and then you start planning. This allows for a natural and convincing element of surprise within the story. When it comes to Jones’ books you never know what is going to happen, but you know that you will enjoy it when it does.