This is one of my favorite books and a fond reread, but this audio version brought the story alive all over again. I loved it.
I read this book a number of years ago after the movie came out and loved it. Hearing Howl (Howell) read with a welsh accent made his dialogue that much more enjoyable for me, especially when he argues with Sophie! I very much enjoyed this as a way to unwind for an hour after a long day and highly recommend this book for anyone (though I think adults with inner-children enjoy this story the most!).
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the audiobook. The characters are engaging, the plot is effective, and I happen to like fantasy books. Jenny Sterlin is a great reader and enhances the experience.
I loved this book...not just a kids book. I couldn't put it down or should I say take off my ear phones....it was a little predictible, but very good narration and wonderful story telling by the author. I'm downloading the second book now!
I got this book for a recent road trip based on all of the positive reviews. I don't like writing negative reviews, but feel a need to do so when my experience is so at odds with the prevailing wisdom. I had to turn it off about 1.5 hours into the story because I was literally struggling to keep from falling asleep while driving. The story begins very slowly, and I didn't see any of the humor that other reviewers refer to. Perhaps it gets better later, but I will never find out. The reader was OK, but wasn't lively enough to make up for the slow pacing of the book.
My 12 year old daughter and my wife agreed with me. We have listened to close about 50 books aimed at children and young adults over the last 5 years, and this is the first one that none of us was interested in continuing. We turned on Divergent afterwards, and within 5 minutes were already more invested in the characters than after 1.5 hours of Howl.
Devourer of all books fantasy
I have had this book to read forever and was so excited to finally get around to reading it. I watched the movie a long time ago and enjoyed it, but wanted more depth to that interesting story. This was a well done fantasy book, that had an old time fairy tale feel to it. My main complaint that the ending was a bit rushed. There are two sequels to this book: Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways.
I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was very well done. The narrator has an English accent which fits this fairy tale type of story perfectly and did a wonderful job with the character voices.
Sophie is the eldest of three children in a hat-makers shop. As such, she feels that she is destine to lead a boring and uneventful life. Things change when she runs afoul of the Witch of the Waste while selling the Witch a hat. The Witch turns Sophie into an old woman. Sophie leave the hat shop and journeys to Howl’s Castle in hope that he can break the spell on her and return her to her youthful self.
This was a well done children's book with a fairy tale feel to it. The world is a typical olden time fantasy world with Kings and magic and castles. I loved the idea of Howl’s floating castle and the Wicked Witch of the west. This is a magical story full of lessons on life, love, and happiness.
The characters did leave a bit to be desired for me though. Sophie’s personality matches that of a cranky old woman perfectly, even before she is a cranky old woman. I think that is part of the irony in her being turned into a cranky old woman. I didn’t really enjoy her all that much. The huge decision she makes to go Howl’s castle she blames on being in shock from the transformation and to be honest she doesn’t do much but be incredibly stubborn for large portions of the book. She also is very caustic and rude to Howl throughout the whole book. She never lets him get a word in edgewise and never lets him actually explain anything. She continually calls Howl a “slitherer-outer”, which seems hypocritical to me since Sophie is constantly trying the slither out of her own live and out of making any decisions.
I like Howl’s character better but he was still hard to engage with. Howl is a first rate womanizer and (Sophie is right, he is a slitherer-outer) tries to get out of having any responsibilities at all. He pretends to be mysterious and hard-hearted but it is extremely apparent that he is not any of those things. He was a very stereotypical bachelor type character (he has a messy house, eat poorly, and is always after women).
The best character of the bunch is Calcifier, the fire demon that lives in Howl’s fireplace. He is much more fascinating than either Sophie or Howl, and I would have liked to read more about him.
Sophie’s sisters are also delightful characters. They are full of mischief and add more life to the story than Sophie ever does. I especially enjoyed Sophie’s sister’s magic teacher, she was a funny and engaging character.
Behind all of the Sophie/Howl disagreements there is a larger part to the plot. The King wants Howl to rescue his brother from the Witch of the Waste, of course HOwl is doing his best not to get involved. This part of the story was largely in the background. To be honest this portion of the story isn’t really dealt with until very late in the book. The way it wraps up is creative and interesting, but also very rushed and a bit confusing. This would have been better if Jones had taken a bit more time to explain and wrap up the mystery behind the Witch of the Waste and the King’s brother.
So to be honest, while I enjoyed this cute little fairy tale story, it didn’t awe me or blow me away. The characters left something to be desired, the pacing was slow in the beginning and rushed at the ending, also things get a bit confusing at the end and could have used some better explanation.
In addition to the above there are some mysteries around the “other world” Howl goes to that are never well explained. The “romance” between Howl and Sophie (if you can even call it that) felt forced, awkward, and rushed as well.
Overall this was a decent fairy tale like story. I enjoyed the world and Howl’s magical castle and the whimsical tone to the story. I also enjoyed Calcifer the fire demon and his sharp wit. I thought Howl and Sophie were probably the least interesting characters in the book. I also thought the pacing was off and that there were a lot of things left unanswered. After writing this review I guess I felt a bit let down by this book, my expectations were really high though....so that’s kind of my own fault. I most likely will not be reading the sequels to this book. There are just too many other wonderful middle grade fantasy stories out there to read.
Having seen Hayao Miyazaki's version of this story before I read the book, my reading of Howl's Moving Castle might have been a little bit tinged by what I already knew of the world. That being said, it was still quite an enjoyable ride.
The first thing that one should know going into this is that it moves fairly slowly, especially for juvenile lit. There are a lot of aspects of the story that are fairly deep, and I assume those will be explored more in the next book. This shows us that the world is more expansive than most others in most Mid-reader fantasy books, and gets us excited and ready to move on to Castle in the Air. Yay! The way most things work is not explained, which kind of irritated me, but I guess you can't have your cake and eat it, too.
I think characters are where Diana Wynne Jones really shines, though. The cast is fairly small, consisting mainly of Sophie, Howl, Michael and Calcifer. This lets the reader get more in touch with each one of them, in contrast to grown-up fantasy epics like The Wheel of Time. More than that, each character is quite distinct, and has their own reasons for doing what they do, which I feel is also something that lacks in some juvenile lit.
The narration was quite good--Ms. Sterlin was quite good at using her voice to get regional accents or age across to the listener, which is one of the things that makes the performance pop. Like the rest of the book, it is an experience I would recommend to someone and to kids, but it probably won't be the best audiobook experience a person ever has.
In all, the lack of real action is what kept me from rating this five stars. It was good, but it didn't move me to the point of jumping up and down wanting to read the next two. I will read them, but I'm willing to read other things and come back to them.