Posted by: Lizzie Ross | May 23, 2010


Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones (1986), Harper Trophy, 329 pp.

In an earlier post, I reported that this book had gone missing from my vast collection (like Smaug, I know what should be there, and I become upset if even the slimmest volume goes walkabout). It has turned up, and been returned, and now I’ve reread it. It was worth the search.

Jones’ plot is full of surprises, beginning with the spell that turns Sophie, the young, clever but stubborn heroine into an old woman with grey hair, wrinkles, and stiff joints. (She’s the eldest of three sisters and so, knowing fairy tale structure, fully expects that only her youngest sister will find the happy-ever-after ending.) Howl is the magician whose floating castle Sophie invades, and the rest of the novel tells of her efforts to dismiss the spell that makes her old and to understand her unusual magical abilities.

Howl is a wonderful character–vain, devious, handsome, fickle, a true conquistador d’amor. When each woman he’s been wooing finally falls for him, he loses interest and moves on to the next conquest. Despicable. But he’s also kind, observant, and a really good wizard, so we don’t mind watching Sophie gradually move into his life.

Jones doesn’t make this easy for her readers; she doesn’t spell everything out. In some episodes, the characters were way ahead of me in deciphering clues. But I like being surprised. And the castle itself, with its fire demon and doors that open onto unexpected views, is perhaps one of Jones’ greatest creations.

For tomorrow, the sequel.


  1. Conquistador d’amor, great phrase I’ve never heard before! A fine summary, this, and lovely to be reminded you have this back catalogue of reviews and commentary I’ve not yet fully explored!

  2. Welcome and happy reading to you! For a while I was moving content from here to my current blog, but I’ve been too busy to search out good ones. Happy exploring.

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