Howl’s Moving Castle is a charming and nostalgic novel that I feel is highly underrated and has been forgotten in the years since it was originally published in 1986. Fancy yourself an arrogant wizard that changes hair like the seasons and has an ego that rivals the size of his home? How about a talking fire demon that resides in a fireplace? If any of this tickles your fancy, then this book is for you.

The story revolves around our main protagonist Sophie Hatter who works in – yes, you guessed it – a hat shop. Being the oldest child she thinks she is automatically doomed to fail in life, and alongside her two more successful and beautiful sisters she certainly sees this being the case. To top things off she does get cursed by the Witch of the Waste which spurs her into going and seeking her fortune away from her drab life in Market Chipping.

”Most people don’t tend to view themselves the way others do – something that is the key message in this novel”

It really is a coming of age tale, about the struggles that we all face and the world as we perceive it. Most people don’t tend to view themselves the way others do – something that is the key message in this novel. Sophie’s story takes us on a very relatable journey about self-love and discovery and how true love knows no boundaries – no matter how many spells you’re under.

”I am a big fan of Studio Ghibli and when I first saw the movie I fell completely in love”

When most hear the title their minds instantly think of the Ghibli movie it inspired rather than the original novel. That’s how I first stumbled upon this gem of a book. I am a big fan of Studio Ghibli and when I first saw the movie I fell completely in love. The plot, the  characters and even just the feel of the book are very nostalgic and remind me of the summers I spent as a wee tween gobbling up novel after novel without exams or deadlines to worry about. The book’s humour will have you laughing till your ribs hurt with its magic filled, fast-paced, comedic adventure!

”What stands out the most I think would have to be the underlying war themes that are apparent in so many of his films”

The movie and the book are very interesting to look at in a side-by-side comparison. Miyazaki, the famous film director and animator, brings the story to life with his typically beautiful art style – the rendition of the castle itself is unique as well as how he plays around with the plot. What stands out the most I think would have to be the underlying war themes that are apparent in so many of his films, as well as his love for flying, which he plays up and is not as apparent in the original novel.

All in all, I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone interested in a throwback to things a little less serious than university reading. Take a delve back into your past and enjoy this quick read, as a fellow Ghibli fan or just someone looking for an extra dose of magic in their everyday life!

Esther Kearney

Image Credit: Serena Tam

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