First off, if you’ve come from a link somewhere to tell me that Howl’s Moving Castle isn’t part of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles–yes, thank you, I know.
For people who’ve been along for the ride, this month we read Howl’s by Diana Wynne Jones to see the same genre (in this case, fairy tale satire) presented from another point of view. (Also, this is one of my very favorite books and I always appreciate a good excuse to pull it off the shelf again.)
Whereas both the EFC (as I am now calling it, as I am sick of typing out the whole thing) and Howl’s purposefully twist fairy tale tropes, they do so in different manners. Both have main characters that run contrary to some trope. In the EFC, Cimorene is a princess who hates doing princess things. Mendanbar is a king who despises formality. Morwen is a young, pretty redheaded witch with non-black cats (and a major subplot of the third book is her non-traditional witchiness). In Howl’s, Sophie knows any adventures she attempts will go wrong because she’s the eldest of three siblings, and so she doesn’t bother looking until adventure finds her.
However, both stories are completely different in feel. Both stories have magic at their core, yet the execution is completely different. Also, Howl’s has a link to the real world which is explored just enough to drive you crazy trying to figure out how things work.
I have to say, after reading both, that I like Howl’s better. I think it’s a better crafted story and, while it’s based on fairy tale tropes like the EFC, there’s enough original concepts in there to make everything more interesting. (This may be because Diana Wynne Jones was further into her writing career than Patricia Wrede even though all the books came out at the same general time.) In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to extend our little readalong to the next two books in the series, Castle in the Air and The House of Many Ways. (I’ve read Castle before–it’s not as good as Howl’s, sadly, but I haven’t read the third, so that should be exciting for everyone.)
If you didn’t read Howl’s with me–you should. It’s a fun read–the characters are interesting, the banter is fun, the plot is original (how many hero/ines spend the majority of a story ninety years old?), and the magic is intriguing.
For those of you who watched the Miyazaki movie (in general or for comparison with the book)–the plot line starts out the same, and then wildly diverges about the time Sophie goes to visit the king. I adore both, but they’re very different animals in the end. Also, Miyazaki makes it an anti-war statement. The man is quite creative about getting his morals into children’s films, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
So! Castle in the Air for the end of June. I’ll see you then, Squiders! And, as always, your comments and questions are welcome in the comments.