I waited years after first seeing Studio Ghibli's masterpiece adaptation of this book before finally deciding to give it a listen-- like most people, I was afraid it couldn't possibly live up to the movie. In some ways, it doesn't; I find the end of the film to be preferable, though the ending of the book is good. The two stories start off similarly, and Sophie is an immediately likable character (as are Howl, Michael/Markl, and Calcifer) in both, but partway through the stories diverge radically. I assume that some of the threads left hanging by the book are tied together in the sequels, which I plan to listen to later.
Diana Wynne Jones is clearly an incredibly talented writer: the phrases she uses elicit images that are fresh and magical, and the world she created in this book is one that I want to revisit over and over. The characters she invented are never one-dimensional-- just like most of the objects in Howl's castle, they aren't what they initially seem.
I recommend this book for any lover of fantasy as well as fans of the movie (just don't expect the same story), and most importantly, I recommend it for readers of all ages. This book is listed as a children's/YA novel, and while I'm sure that younger readers will love it and benefit from Sophie's understated brand of strength, reading it for the first time in my mid-twenties has given me insight into the characters and their motivations that I know I would have overlooked at a younger age.
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