Bookworming: Reviews of Diana Wynne Jones’ “Howl’s Moving Castle” series

Hayayo Miyazaki is well-known to borrow storytelling ideas from many different stories, especially from Europe, so it’s no small surprise that Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle was inspired by British fantasy and science-fiction writer Diana Wynne Jones. How her works actually fare on their own you’ll read about here.

Howl’s Moving Castle
(UK 1986, writer: Diana Wynne Jones, publisher: Greenwillow Books)


Young girl Sophie is transformed into an old woman by an evil witch and tries to get rid of the spell by playing housekeeper in the floating castle of the wizard Howl.

There’s certainly no small amount of imagination in the book when it comes to a talking fire demon, the castle with a personality of its own and the strange wizard Howl. The dialogue is usually quite witty, but the script itself is rather boring due to its reliance on Jane Austen-like lovey-dovey stuff. What’s also quite annoying is how there’s no real suspense and action until the end when it all comes together a bit too fast, making the plot simply rushed and unbelievable. Even if the Studio Ghibli movie at times feels rather convoluted and confusing, it’s a much more enjoyable experience with memorable moments which the original is lacking.

Rating: 6/10

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Castle in the Air
(UK 1990, writer: Diana Wynne Jones, publisher: Greenwillow Books)


Young merchant Abdullah falls in love with Princess Flower-in-the-Night and takes on a journey with a magic carpet and a genie in order to save her from the clutches of an evil Djinn.

The title might seem an inspiration for the Studio Ghibli movie Laputa – Castle in the Sky, but the book itself is very different. Not only does it have an Oriental setting, the plot and characters are also something else. Reminiscent of the classic Arabian Nights stories, but without the nudity and violence, this is a nice story to read which has some funny moments as well. Especially the relationship between the main protagonist and his uncles, aunts and other family branches makes for some enjoyable scenes, although the story itself isn’t anything particularly innovative. The inclusion of Howl also feels a bit contrived, but how the story progresses is much better realized and except for some repetitive wooing scenes, it’s much more engaging than the original and captures the ambient Orient perfectly while also adding a modern twist with a grumpy soldier and a genie who’d rather relax than granting wishes.

Rating: 7/10

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House of Many Ways
(UK 2008, writer: Diana Wynne Jones, publisher: Greenwillow Books)


Young Charmain Baker has to look after her uncle’s house who’s a wizard and tries to get rid of an evil creature called a lubbock while coping with the young apprentice wizard Peter and her job as a sort of librarian in the King’s castle.

This is the stuff education books are made of. The story is tediously slow, the main character an obnoxious little…not to use any derogatory titles, but yes, she’s a whiny, arrogant, little bitch…and there’s a constant feeling that one already knows the outcome of the story with the writer forcing morals on the reader every time Charmain does something bad. There’s certainly some immersion with the potential of doors leading to different places and times, but it’s simply not well realized. Not to mention that the main villain and creature staying too long in the background (despite the scary thought of the lubbock laying eggs in people) to become really convincing. And the less said about the rushed ending the better. It’s a shame that the plot is so dull and reliant on fairy-tale like education, because the dialogue scenes between Peter and Charmain are quite fun to read (but not her inner thoughts).

Rating: 4/10

Buy the paperbook on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every Facebook LIKE or comment is appreciated :).
Using one of the Amazon links and buying the products also helps ;).


About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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