Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: Greenwillow Books (1986)
Synopsis: In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.
After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.
The Hatter sisters--Sophie, Lettie, and Martha--and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.
In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?
Star parts: Start with action, introduce your main character straight away, let your reader know what he or she wants. To be honest Wynne Jones doesn't do that. By the time Sophie had got herself into a perfect pickle I was rather fed up with her. She was a wet blanket without a ingle bit of oomph around her. Or at least that's what I thought until she picked the wrong customer to get all lippy with and as I said ended up in a bit of a fix.
Another strong point in the book are the characters. Right from the beginning Wynne Jones made the reader lost sympathy with Sophie, so that when she has to sort things out we're right there with her cheering her along, because she's finally taking some action. Her sisters Lettie and Martha are originally painted as Sophie sees them, and boy is Sophie wrong about her sisters. Michael provides some relief from all the tricky characters by being exactly what he says he is, Howl's apprentice. Calcifer tries very hard to be mean, but he just can't manage it in the end. And Howl, well you never quite know with him, although I did suspect that he couldn't be all bad.
I loved the world building in this book and then when we were unexpectedly transported back into our own world those scenes were hysterical, but I won't say too much about that. Wynne Jones' imagination keeps the reader hooked and then makes you go back through the book to catch all those little hints and clues that you missed the first time.
Black clouds: This is more of a slightly grey cloud on the horizon that can be blown away. The beginning was kind of slow and I was slightly tempted to put the book down, I'm glad I didn't. And the ending was all kind of quick. It reminded me a bit of the ending of Oscar Wilde play (I won't say which one) or a certain Shakespeare play (again won't say which one), and perhaps it was all intentional, but I would have liked maybe a page more of ending.
Do I recommend it: What do you think? Of course I do and I've got another Wynne Jones in my TBR pile.