Publishers: Greenwillow Books
Howl, Sophie, The Witch of the Waste,
I first read this book after seeing it beautifully visualised in Studio Ghibli’s and Hayao Miyazaki’s movie adaptation Howl’s Moving Castle. The artwork of the film was breathtaking and after finding out the author of the book was actually Welsh, I really wanted to see for myself how the Japanese movie differed from the novel.
Trailer for the movie
The book is based in a fictional kingdom called Ingary and the main character is a young girl called Sophie Hatter, who as the name suggests, is a hat maker’s apprentice. After a chance encounter with the local wizard Howl, Sophie is cursed by one of his jealous old lovers and turned into an old woman. The worst part of the curse is that Sophie can’t tell anyone that she was cursed and therefore the curse cannot be lifted.
Overcome with anger and fear, Sophie decides to leave her home town of Market Chipping and wander the wastes surrounding the city, looking for the witch that cursed her. However, what she finds is something much more peculiar; a magical, mechanical castle the roams the wastes on its own free will. Sophie is forced to shelter inside the castle and there meets the wizard Howl again. After making an agreement with Howl’s fire demon Calcifer, Sophie decides to stay on as the Wizard’s house maid, which leads her on a magical fairy-tale of love, jealousy and tragedy.
This novel is great but for the first time ever, I think I have to say that I preferred the movie more. The artwork is so beautiful in Miyazaki’s masterpiece that I think the film is one of the best ever. The book was really enjoyable too but I think Miyazaki did a fantastic job of trimming some of the fat from the novel which I think was not necessarily needed. For example, there is some inter-dimensional stuff that happens in the book which I didn’t like. I thought Jones’s world was so incredibly imagined that she didn’t need to bring the plot into our actual world. I thought doing this made the plot line increasingly confusing and killed the pacing of the novel. Almost like the weird scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke fights Darth Vader in that strange cave. As this book is part of a trilogy maybe this inter-dimensional stuff is explained in the last two novels, however, I still believe that in this novel it made no sense.
To conclude, this was an extremely enjoyable and imaginative fantasy/ fairy-tale but I really can’t stress enough how beautiful the movie is, so make sure you check it out too. I’m very interested to see what happens in the following novels in the trilogy and will hopefully review them one day soon!
For author’s official website click here.