Recommended Age: All ages
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Tags: British, Magic, Sisters
- Mild violence: brief attacks and threats, allusions to war.
- Mild romance: brief kissing.
Sophie Hatter is destined for a normal life. She’s the eldest of three girls: it’s obviously her fate to be ordinary. But one day she stumbles onto a wizard’s path and it spirals her life out of control and into a moving castle. Cursed by a dangerous witch, Sophie spends her days magically crippled and old in the evil Howl’s moving castle. Except Howl isn’t so evil, and his fire demon isn’t too bad either. Sophie isn’t sure what will kill her first: the Witch of the Waste, the war, or cleaning up after the vainest wizard alive. But as she finds herself in the middle of magical messes and old curses, Sophie begins to realize that maybe adventure is her fate after all.
It’s a great tragedy that Diana Wynne Jones passed away. Her books are wonderfully quaint and magical, perfect for all ages. Her books are meant to be read while curled up on the couch with a cat and hot chocolate, preferably when it’s raining outside. All of her books are perfect for improving your faith in humanity, and are a great choice for reading with your children.
This book seamlessly combines classic British culture with magic, telling the story of a middle child destined for a normal life of responsibility and duty. But then she has a run in with a temperamental witch and eccentric wizard, as well as a cursed fire demon. And then her life gets significantly more exciting.
As much as Sophie claims to be content with her ordinary life, she secretly pushes the boundaries of her world before she even knows it. Though she spends her days alone in a hat shop, she talks to the hats while decorating them, assigning them lives she unconsciously wishes for herself. She’s a wistful character who doesn’t quite know what to do with her young self, floating around and obeying her stepmother and fussing over her two sisters. But when she becomes an old woman, she really lets herself relax. As an old crone, she no longer feels shy or embarrassed. She doesn’t feel the need to apologize for her existence, or anything for that matter. She can do whatever she wants (as long as her legs hold up) and say whatever she wants. After all, no one is going to criticize a helpless old woman.
Her relationship with her sisters Lettie and Martha is very sweet, and she’s definitely the peacemaker. When she’s not cleaning up after Howl and debating his likelihood of evil, and bickering with Calicifer over curses, she’s sorting through her sisters’ mischief and romances. Despite Michael being a child in the Studio Ghibli film of this book, he’s a teenager in the novel and dating Sophie’s sister. Between Lettie, Martha, Michael, and Howl, Sophie hardly has any time for contemplation over her own chance at romance. It has to sneak up on her, much like her destiny for a great big colorful life of mishaps and fun.
Part of their adventures include traveling to a parallel dimension: Howl’s home. Diana Wynne Jones writes her books in a connected parallel universe, where each version of Earth, there are nine, treats magic differently. Some versions, like ours, don’t acknowledge the reality of magic at all, while others, like the one in this book, live freely with the existence of magic. Howl actually comes from our version of Earth, specifically Wales.
This is a charming combination of family, love, destiny, and adventure, whether it’s proper magic for royalty, jealous curses, or traveling across the universe. Sophie is very relatable and a great example of how to accept yourself, even if you’re not cursed into a magical castle.
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