First, I found the narrative quite flat. It's a very talky book, with the characters engaging in conversations throughout the book. There weren't that many exciting scenes. For a children's book, I think it could've used more adventure and more thrills. (Is it the British way of writing that is in these pages? Well, J. K. Rowling is British and her Harry Potter novels were hugely entertaining.)
Second, I feel that there was a disproportionate number of things happening throughout the book. The first half of the book moved slowly. Now in the second half of Howl's Moving Castle, there were lots of moving parts already. Identities being switched and revealed, curses lifted, love realized, villains killed, persons set free. The plot elements seem to be all over the place.
But I have to hand it to Diana Wynne Jones for coming up with a very unconventional fairy tale. Yes, for all its high fantasy and wizardry, Howl's Moving Castle is a fairy tale in my opinion. There are beauty and the beast elements, but Jones wonderfully twists this aspect, resulting in the reader frequently guessing which among the characters is the beauty or the beast. She also alludes to the stepmother-stepsister formula. In the novel, the stepmother is anything but evil, and Sophie, the lead character, gets along with her sisters.
|Since Sophie was a hatter,|
the moderators asked the book club members
to come wearing hats to the discussion.
(Photo courtesy of R.)
I really did want to like this novel, even after the "reread." Maybe the story does get better in the succeeding books. I'm currently reading one of the sequels, House of Many Ways, and I'm finding it better and more charming than the first book. Nevertheless, Howl's Moving Castle can still captivate the reader who's looking for fantasy reads.
Read this book if:
- You're a huge fan of the Hayao Miyazake movie. (The book is quite different and is entertaining in itw own way.)
- You love your British fantasy writers.
- You like your wizards vain. (Howl apparently spent at least 2 hours in the bathroom.)