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Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

9/10 An endearing, amusing fantasy novel ideal for children that can be enjoyed by readers of any age

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is a children’s fantasy novel, written in 1986. In 2006 the novel won the Phoenix Award, an award which recognizes an English-language children's book published 20 years earlier that did not then win a major literary award.

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.

Many will likely already know Howl’s Moving Castle thanks to the fabulous animated film adaptation by Studio Ghibli; but readers are often pleasantly surprised to discover that the film  is based on a book.

Howl’s Moving Castles is a magical, charming and heart-warming fantasy imbued with a wonderful blend of humour and romance. At times laugh-out-loud funny, always delightful and subtle, this is fantasy with a great heart. 

This is a novel you will likely fall in love with. It has incredible characters, a superb plot, all set within an original, imaginative and well-realised world. Like all the great children’s fantasy books, it is suitable for readers of all ages, not just children.

There is very little negative to say about this novel, perhaps it is a little over-complicated and slow in places, and arguably there are passages where nothing much happens. Some readers may find the titular Howl, who is a very dramatic character, possibly overly-dramatic.

Howl’s Moving Castle is an endearing, amusing fantasy novel ideal for children that can be enjoyed by readers of any age. Highly recommended.

Diana Wynne Jones began writing fantasy novels for children in the 1970s. She won the Guardian Award in 1977 with Charmed Life, was runner-up for the Children's Book Award in 1981 and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. She passed away in 2011.

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