Saturday, February 9, 2013

Howl's Moving Castle Book Review

Rawr Reader,

    This is one of those rare cases where I'll post another review of a book with such a short time in between. Usually it takes me a couple days to finish a book, but I started And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones at around the same time, plus they're fairly short books, each about 300 pages. With that said, let's just right into it! Here is the synopsis given by Goodreads:

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

    Howl's Moving Castle walked into my life as predictably as the wind blows. Nooot really, my best friend introduced me to the movie by Hayao Miyazaki since she knew I loved Christian Bale and she wanted to introduce me to Studio Ghibli. I learned from there of it being based off of the book and I read favorable reviews of it. It took me a while to finally decide to read it, but why prolong the inevitable right? 

(safe for those who haven't read the book yet)
    I really wanted to like this book. I tried so hard. Beautiful scenery, colorful details of settings, moving castles, witches and wizards, fire demonsmagic, it just didn't go the way I thought it would. And maybe it was because I absolutely adore the movie adaption, so expectations may have been higher than they should have been. And it's categorized as a young adult fantasy but I think it's more directed toward young'uns. Not like early elementary but I'd say middle school.
    I found the beginning to be the most intriguing part of the book. The first couple chapters more like it. Ms. Jones isn't afraid to describe the life of a hatter, and it could be tedious at moments, but I wanted to read more despite it. For the rest of the book however, I felt differently. It came to a point I forced myself to read it.
    Throughout the story I felt like I wasn't reading it right. Particularly how I read the character's dialogue, it was sometimes opposite of how Ms. Jones meant it to be. For example, if Howl would say something and I read it as calm and friendly, in reality he would be yelling and would be angry. 
    Another thing I felt was a con about this book was that the majority of it was just huge bulky paragraphs. I'm one for fast-paced dialogue and this was more about describing everything, which made me read a little bit slower. I mean, the descriptions are colorful and give me a good sense of the land of Ingary, however, in a story I need action. And with the protagonist for the majority of the novel being about 90 years old, action isn't going to come at fast paces. (Though there were some action scenes.) 
    Another thing that bothered me about the story was that I felt like I was lost, jumping from one scene to another without clear transitions. (I'll list several examples in River Song's Spoiler section below for anyone who's read it to help me understand what happened.) I like clarity and I think Ms. Jones lacked in that aspect. When the final chapter came, I thought "Yes!―Ms. Jones is going to make the book in the end redeemable." Unfortunately, she just didn't for me. *I shed a tear―sort of.*
    I'm sorry to complain a lot, but this book just disappointed me in a way. So here's some stuff I did like. Calcifer. I love him so much. My favorite character hands down. Dialogue, from character to character (main characters that isCalcifer, Howl, and Sophie) were pretty distinguishable. There were a bunch of characters in the story that I had to reread sometimes to see who was speaking again, but I liked how Ms. Jones characterized the protagonists pretty well. The soft Sophie, the eccentric Howl, the sweet Michael, the fiery Calcifer. 

 I Give this book 3/5 stars.  I wouldn't recommend, but more suggest this book because I think someone else might enjoy it, and hopefully help me understand why this book is usually given higher reviews. 

Author's Quote:
“That's why I love spiders. 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.”
― Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle

If You'd Like to Check out my Goodreads:

Next To Read:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

River Song's Spoilers:

(unsafe those who haven't read the book yet, so don't read this section)
    Calcifer was definitely my favorite character. I just wanted to just pick him up and give him a tight hug. My favorite line from him was from chapter 7 when Sophie asked if he could reach the fire logs if she left them nearby and he proudly showed her how far he could reach. A little detail like that really made him grow from the sharp tongue, "evil" demon he was supposed to be. 
    Howl was such a baby. For a grown man at 27 and who was deemed such a powerful and potential wizard, he just showed his true character to be even more pathetic. I read the ebook and it came with some Q&A with the author about HMC and one of the questions concerned fans of the book and how―even before the book was released―loved Howl. I'm sorry, throughout the entirety of the book he was whiny and childish and he was hardly redeemable at the end.
    I didn't really find the transition for Sophie falling in love with Howl. I assumed she was attracted to him even with his foul behavior toward her. I knew for sure in the final chapters when Sophie wanted to leave because she thought that Howl was attracted to Ms. Angorian and then she revealed she wanted to leave because of that. (Oh Sophie, if you want to be in love with a man who is waay too into his appearance and excretes green slime whenever something bad happens to him, never expect a dull moment dearie.) I felt that Sophie thought everything bad happened to her because she was the eldest and for that, I sort of gave her some slack in her actions. But I still don't see why she loves him. Oh well, you don't choose these things I guess. :P
    And at first the transition between Lettie and Martha and who was who wasn't as confusing, but―I forget at which point but after half way through―somehow I became confused if Lettie was Lettie or if they meant Martha. In those times I was confused, Ms. Jones just tossed a ton of characters around and I got confused who was speaking and who was with who and so on. 
   Okay, referring to the review section above, one of the many parts I was confused about was near the end, chapter 19, when Howl and Michael try to cover up their eavesdropping on Sophie and Percival. I reread that paragraph countless times to see what I was missing when she was examining the mansion. My question is, how did that description give way to Sophie knowing she was being eavesdropped?
   Another question I have is about Percival, Wizard Suliman, and Prince Justin. How did they make one person? Like was it Wizard's body then Justin's attitude? I don't even know how to guess about that situation. 
   I couldn't distringuish character development for a good portion of the book. I know that authors don't want to be obvious about development, but I couldn't really see anyone changing until the end. Anyone else feel that way?
    And did anyone else find the end super rushed? The deaths of the Witch of the Waste and Ms. Angorian both happened in less than a handful of sentences in less than a paragraph. I felt for all the build-up of the story, now having finished it, feels tedious and uneventful with their demises so sudden. If you skipped a page or even a paragraph by accident, you missed one of the most climatic moments.
    I liked the connection from the real world to Ingary. The black-down turner near the door made it more suspicious and even in the movie it isn't clear where it led to, but I wasn't disappointed to see that it led to Wales and it gave me a deeper sense into Howl's past. And his visits back to see his niece and nephew prove, even if Calcifer held onto it, that Howl had a heart. :)

Until Next Time,
Nicole Ciel

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