Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Genre: Fantasy YA
First Published: 1986
Page Count: 429
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Note: Book 1 of The Castle series
Even though the conclusion is a bit of a let down, the rest of the story is enchanting enough to bewitch any reader.
*Charming storyline *Array of whimsical characters
*Conclusion wraps up too quickly *Unsatisfying climax
“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.” Sophie Hatter just so happened to be the eldest of three sisters, and a series of misfortunes befall her after an evil witch places a curse upon her. Her fate is to live her life as an old woman unless she can find a way to break the spell. With nowhere to turn for help, Sophie takes up residence with the narcissistic wizard Howl in his moving castle in the hopes that he and his fire demon, Calicfer, will be able to break the curse.
The first sentence gave me a familiar chill that, nowadays, I only feel when I walk down Main Street U.S.A in that magical theme park or re watch those classic Disney animated films. I knew I had in my hands a story that would transport me in classic fairytale fashion into an incredible world, and my inner child leapt for joy. The author blends together her story in such a way where its intriguing enough to hold the attention of adult readers but maintains that whimsical charm that anyone would recognize from their favorite fairy tales of their childhood. A gorgeous but juevanile, vain wizard, a sarcastic fire demon, an amiable orphan, and cursed Sophie all inhabiting a roaming castle? The premise of the book is so delightfully satisfying on so many levels.
However, for all that Jones gives us in terms of charismatic characters or magical situations, the ending really disappointed me. Suddenly, in one thirty page chapter, the final grand climax the story has been building towards is swiftly concluded and the characters all find solutions to their problems with little fanfare. I don’t want to give away the ending but let’s just say everyone’s lives seemed to be fixed simply for the sake of a ‘happily ever after’ ending. All it would have taken would have been one extra chapter to create a climax to match the buildup in the story and to cleanly close the book on the lives of the characters.
It’s hard when a book’s ending disappoints you because you end the tale with a bad taste in your mouth. Luckily, the conclusion comes at the reader so swiftly that it doesn’t account for all of the fantastic elements that make up the book beforehand. There are few authors that can authentically write a story that is intelligent enough for the modern reader but contains the best qualities of the fantasy tales from your childhood. Don’t pass up this unique throwback to old-school fantasy!
*Film Adaptations: (Directed by Hayao Miyazaki 2004)