Sophie Hatter, the eldest daughter of a hat-maker, has accepted her fate of living a meaningless life when a powerful witch puts a spell on her, turning her into a wrinkled old woman. Aghast at this new development and ashamed to let her family see her, Sophie leaves the hat shop and finds a job as a cleaning lady for the notorious Howl, a wizard known for eating the hearts of beautiful young women.
Sophie makes a bargain with Howl’s fire demon Calcifer—she will break the contract between him and Howl if he will break the spell on her. Now it is up to Sophie to figure out exactly what the contract is and how to go about breaking it. Meanwhile, trouble besieges the land of Ingary; the King’s younger brother and top wizard are missing and the Witch of the Waste is determined to wreak havoc where she will. Sophie finds herself smack dab in the middle of the land’s problems along with Howl, Calcifer, and Howl’s apprentice. She discovers she has abilities she never knew she had, along with a stubborn knack for getting into trouble.
I love this book. It is so fun and clever, and Diana Wynne Jones has a way of suffusing every sentence she writes with wonder and magic. Who says children's books aren't awesome? I certainly don't!
I would consider Howl's Moving Castle more geared towards gals than guys, as it is largely a romance. Not that guys couldn't enjoy it too, of course. It is not action packed, but Sophie's adventures, mishaps, and the mysteries she unravels caught and held my attention through every page. It's something about Jones's writing that can even make spilled tea sound interesting. I think what I liked most about the book was watching Sophie grow as a character. The supporting cast of characters were also all loveable and extremely entertaining to see develop.
I also love the movie based on this novel, but the novel is so completely different that it is silly to relate the two, so that will be a post for another time.