{Guest Post} "HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE: My Perfect Fairytale Feel Read" by Victoria Hooper

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Victoria Hooper is a writer and editor living in Nottingham, UK. She’s a huge fan of all things fantasy, science-fiction, speculative, paranormal, magical, weird, mythical, and alternate history, as well as anything Ancient Greek or Roman. She loves video games and cheesy movies, and can easily be bribed with chocolate brownies. Find her on Twitter @VickyThinks, or on her blog:
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You can also find her on Fantasy Faction!


My Perfect Fairytale Feel Read
by Vicki Hooper

I adore fairytales, and I love books about them, stories that play with them or retell them, or that use fairytale elements in fun and interesting ways. There are so many great tales from our past, from all over the world, that still continue to capture our imaginations.

I have lots of favourite traditional fairytales, but today I want to talk about something a bit different. I want to talk about a novel that’s very special to me, which uses some of the common features of folklore and fairy stories to create a new fairytale, something that is modern yet feels so traditional and magical. Howl’s Moving Castle, for me, is the book for fairytale lovers. It gets everything so right that I’m as enchanted as a first time reader on every re-read.

A Floating Castle...

I mean, can you ask for a better fairytale setting? The Wizard Howl’s castle floats just above the ground, bobbing along across fields and flower-covered meadows. Outside it’s a formidable fortress – inside, it’s a comfy cottage room with a roaring fire and comfy chairs. The main doorknob can be twisted into four different positions, magically leading to different locations around the world. Since I first read it I’ve desperately wished I could have a floating castle of my own!

A Fairytale World...

The world of the book is definitely your standard fairytale kingdom. Well, with perhaps a few little differences. There are seven-league boots, magical potions and spells, destinies and curses, a king, a princess, and even a wicked witch. But, while the people living in this land are familiar with fairy story rules, things don’t always go as you might imagine. Sisters defy the fate given to them, princesses might be smaller and soggier than imagined, and brave court wizards are... well, not so brave. And prone to tantrums.

Imagine staring into a fire and picturing a face in the flickering flames, only to realise that it really is a face; imagine a falling star begging a young boy not to catch it; imagine a person with the power to talk magic into inanimate objects; and you can see why Diana Wynne Jones gets the feel of her magical and slightly quirky world so spot on.

Cursed By A Witch and Off To Seek Her Fortune...

A classic beginning. Poor Sophie Hatter is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to age into an old woman. She leaves home to seek her fortune and soon finds herself shaking her walking stick at a floating castle, bullying her way inside, and generally bossing around the fire demon and self-obsessed wizard who live there. Sophie seems to muddle through in her own personal tornado of disaster, but she has more power than she imagines. She just has to find the confidence to use it. Like most good fairytales, this is a story about growing up and accepting who you are, and about finding a special kind of power in whatever makes you you.


In my opinion, romance is so important to fairytales. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a love story (but I like it if there is one), but there has to be a feeling of romance. Thankfully, Howl’s Moving Castle has both. There is a feeling of fate bringing characters together alongside a beautifully written relationship that grows so naturally. I find it rare for love stories to capture that magical destined-to-be element with a relationship that also feels real and is given time to develop. This book does this so right; the love story is not centre stage at all, yet the whole novel is brimming with romance.

Three Sisters...

“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. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.” (First lines of the book)

Well, unless you’re the Hatter sisters – then you’re probably going to end up choosing your own destinies, messing around with magic, switching identities, and confusing a lot of people in the process.

“‘It’s not fair!’ Lettie would shout. ‘Why should Martha have the best of it just because she was born the youngest? I shall marry a prince, so there!’ To which Martha always retorted that she would end up disgustingly rich without having to marry anybody.”

Larger Than Life Personalities...

Fairytales should be full of colourful and fascinating personalities. Here, with characters like Sophie, Howl and Calcifer, you really can’t go wrong. And even better, there are so many more wonderful characters to get to know over the course of the book. For me, reading Howl’s Moving Castle again is like coming home to visit old friends.

Short and Sweet...

All good fairytales are short and to the point. Some might only be short stories whereas others are novels, but they all tend to have a great sense of pace and of events moving forward. Howl’s Moving Castle is packed so full of fairytale adventure that every time I re-read it I’m surprised at just how much is in there, and yet it is such a quick, easy and delightful read. And, like the best fairytales, it will stay in your heart long after you’ve turned the last page.

Are you looking for other modern books that recreate a traditional fairytale feel, set in a fantasy rather than modern setting, while telling a completely new story? If so, it’s definitely worth checking out Diana Wynne Jones’s other books (really, she’s the queen of fairy stories), in particular the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle Castle in the Air. Another great fairytale feel read is Stardust by Neil Gaiman. The Fairyland (The Girl Who...) series by Catherynne M Valente is a must, beginning with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. A slightly darker fairytale read that I loved is Poison by Chris Wooding. Do you have any other suggestions? What fairytale feel reads have you loved?

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Release Date: Jan. 1, 1986
Publisher: Greenwillow Books // HarperCollins

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.(


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