Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle is one of those classics that I only discovered when the movie came along. Pity, really, because I could (should) have read it sooner. It's a brilliant story, full of adventure and humour. It is also a love story, but you don't realize it till the end.
Howl's Moving Castle is the story of Sophie, the eldest sister, who is destined to be the least accomplished of all, and to have a (very) dull life. So she believes. After being cursed by the Witch of the Waste, turned into an old woman, she sets off from her home and finds herself seeking shelter in the castle of the “evil” wizard Howl, known for stealing girls' hearts. And then the adventures begin.
Although the story of Howl's Moving Castle is very good, what I really love about it are the characters, that are truly wonderful.
Howl, with all his vanity and drama queen behaviour, seems quite shallow at first, but, deep inside, is a very good person and quite intriguing. And his temper tantrums are the best, with green slime oozing out of him just to spite Sophie off.
Sophie, suddenly transformed into an old lady is very vocal and nosey. It's amazing how she acted as being 90 years old, like she had lived enough to be able to complain about everything, and be entitled to boss all the “youngsters” around, yet still shows some adolescent traits, like the way she thinks that it's not fair that she looks 90 being so young, and that the Witch of the Waste which is an old hag looks young and elegant.
Calcifer, my favourite, is a fire demon, bound by a contract with Howl, in charge of moving the castle (besides providing, begrudgingly, hot water and fire for cooking). He is the one that convinces Sophie to stay, enlisting her to break his contract with Howl, while he promises to break her curse.
I read Howl's Moving Castle after seeing Miyazaki's versionof the story. And although I truly love that movie, the book is indubitably better (as it always is). But as such, most of the plot was known to me, and I already knew which characters would be important. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. If at first the story seems to be exactly the same in the book and in the anime, soon there are little details in the story that enrich it, give depth to the characters (for example, the inclusion of Wales in Howl's world. Usually the appearance of “real” places into an otherwise fantasy world makes me cringe, look at the book with distaste and ponder never to pick it up again; in Howl's Moving Castle I found it fitting).
So, Howl's Moving Castle is going to be one of those books that I will never part with, reread until the pages are worn, and recommend to everyone I know.