Howl's Moving Castle

by Diana Wynne Jones
Series: Castles #1
448 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Jeanne

Light, hilarious fantasy with magic and some possibly disturbing elements.


Sophie Hatter, the eldest of three daughters, knows she is destined to a dull life and resigns herself to the fact. But when the Witch of the Waste takes offense and turns Sophie into an old woman, Sophie is forced to go out and seek her fortune whether she wants to or not. And that fortune just happens to involve a moving castle owned by the mysterious, dashing, and unprincipled wizard Howl...


Quite good. Howl is very childish and selfish, in an amusing way, but Sophie tempers that with her no-nonsense attitude; also, Howl's behavior is later explained and is essential to the plot. It is said that he literally steals young girls' hearts and eats their souls. Creatures called fire demons are said to have no concept of good and evil, and therefore are not to be trusted.

Spiritual Content

Magic is used by almost all the characters and is separated into good magic and black magic. One character has the power to give some life into objects. Howl and his apprentice frequently mix potions of one kind or another; for instance, one combination is meant to be sprinkled on a fisherman's boat to keep it safe in storms. They also scribble symbols on the walls of the Castle whenever it has to be moved. Howl has a collection of potions and powders to make himself handsome. Seven-league boots are used.

There are beings called "fire demons," but they are different from devils and are not portrayed as essentially evil (see Morality). It is said that wizards and witches may start out good and descend into black magic, a fate which may occur to Howl.


Howl and the Witch of the Waste have several battles using magic. Before the opening of the story, two characters have gone missing from the kingdom and it is assumed that the Witch of the Waste has killed them. Sophie is chased by a scarecrow which, although not violent, may seem disturbing; Howl also keeps a skull on his desk which chatters occasionally. Several characters are taken apart using magic and pieced together again in different forms, which is portrayed as very black magic; again, this is not violent, but may disturb younger readers.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Howl comes back from a celebration drunk. Brandy is used medicinally.

Sexual Content

Howl is always trying to get young women to fall in love with him, but once they do he goes in search of someone else (a fact explained in the plot). Several characters fall in love, but that is all.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"Curses!" is used as an exclamation.


Written in an easy, tongue-in-cheek style, "Howl's Moving Castle" is a splendid fantasy novel. It admirably combines romance, drama, and humor, and the characters - Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer the fire demon especially - are unforgettable. It does have a great deal of magic and some elements that might be disturbing, however, so it cannot be recommended indiscriminately; if those things are kept in consideration, the book is a light and enjoyable read.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Did we miss something? Let us know!

Jeanne This review is brought to you by Jeanne.
Read more reviews by Jeanne