I just spend the whole day reading the book. Again. I just love this book, it's fantastic!
It's a shame that a lot of people don't know that there's actually a book. They only know the anime movie by Hayao Miyazaki.
I was like that, too, but then I learned that there was a book written by Diana Wynne Jones, I read it and I loved it. I read the two sequels, too. And the Chronicles of Chrestomanci by the same author (another great set of books). There's still many books by her that I haven't read, and I'm looking forward to reading them all.
In March 2011 Diana Wynne Jones sadly passed away.
I love the disctinct British touch about Howl's Moving Castle (like with Pratchett and Rowling). It's witty and funny. Things don't turn out like you'd expect them to, so it's not your usual fantasy story.
There's romance. This part is a bit cliché, with them seeming to dislike each other at first. But I enjoyed their fights too much.
The best part is the characters. Especially Howl - he's impossible in so many ways, but you can't not like him. The main characters have their bad habits, weak points and flaws. Actually a lot of things in the story happen because of them making mistakes. And even Sophie's sister and stepmother have distinct personalities, even though they're not mentioned that much.
I can't really put into words how awesome this book is. I think it's one of the best I ever read (and I read quite a few).
By the way, I love the movie, too.
A lot of people always complain about the movie being so different from the books. But it has to be! It's a completely different medium.
The movie has a very Miyazaki touch to it. You have the beautiful, detailed backgrounds, the steampunk-like fantasy setting, the wonderful soundtrack. And the pacifist morale. Miyazaki added a war that was only imminent in the book. The plot is simplified and altered quite a bit, so that even if you know the movie, you'll still be surprised by the book.
Howl's all the charming, handsome, vain young man he's supposed to be, and really like his voice. I love the scene where he meets Sophie - I like it better than in the book, actually. The castle is great, too, but it doesn't look too much like you think a castle would.
Except for the war, the movie is very much "chibi-fied", made more fitting for children. Calcifer, the fire demon, is more cute than frightening (but I love this Calcifer!). Michael, Howl's assistant, is a lot younger, and as such of course doesn't get engaged. Howl's womanizer character isn't mentioned. Then there's the dog and the scarecrow. And the biggest difference is probably the other wizards, especially Witch of the Waste, who is not the beautiful, powerful, cunning heartless person she's in the book, but rather a fat, old lady - and her fate is much better, too. This is one thing that bugs me a bit: everyone was afraid of her, but the anime movie kind of makes you wonder why. The whole end of the plot seemed kind of strange.
But Howl's Moving Caslte still one of my favourite Miyazaki movies.