Title: Howl’s Moving Castle; Castle in the Air; House of Many Ways
Series: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Synopsis: 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. (Goodreads)
I read the first book ages ago, after I saw the animated adaptation by Studio Ghibli. Of course, the animated film is quite different, but both versions are full of that magic that Jones can weave into her stories. At first, I thought each book could work as a standalone. However, over the course of the story, it can be seen that the books connect to each other and characters from previous books make their appearance. It’s actually quite fun to guess who will pop up next and what role they will play.
The characters are amusing, as they all have their own little quirks and personalities. There’s the incredibly vain Howl, the perfect foil to the more sensible and practical Sophie. It’s their dynamic that I love from this series because I find them pretty witty in their own right. What I love about all of the characters is that there’s always something more to them than they let on, and it’s always a fun read to discover what it could be.
I must say that the first book is my favourite, while I find the second book not as impressive, and the third book rather lacklustre. The first book sets the stage for Jones’ fantasy world, and the second book whisks the reader away to Rashpuht, a place completely different. The third book almost seems boring in comparison to the adventures in the previous books. I found the protagonists of the third book bratty compared to the previous sets, but was impressed by the character development. Actually, I love the character development in all the books. It just took me longer to warm up to the third set of protagonists.
Still, with a fun fantasy adventure, this series is worth a read if you want something rather light. I definitely recommend it for someone trying to get a younger reader into fantasy, but it clearly goes over well with someone older. (Okay, I’m not THAT old, I admit.)
Overall: I think this series starts out strong, and tries to putter on until the finish. Personally, not reading past the first book would have been okay with me because it ends with the loose ends tied up. The next books aren’t bad, but I believe that the first one is the best. Four (or 3.5 if I did 0.5 increments) for the series as a whole.
- Howl’s Moving Castle: 4 stars
- Castle in the Air: 4 stars
- House of Many Ways: 3 stars