Bookshelf of a (Maybe) Teen Author, by Emily Russell
“A wonderful blend of humor, magic, and romance.” – Publishers Weekly
After a great sleepover, during which I was introduced to the movie version of this story, I knew I simply had to read this book. So I bought it from Gottwal’s and put everything else aside to finish it.
The book is a delight to read. It seems to be written more for middle schoolers, which shouldn’t have surprised me since the movie is animated. I love that the romance isn’t the whole theme of the book; I believe a good fantasy should focus more on unraveling the secrets and learning about the magic than the emotions of the characters. However, a down-played romance can often become a neglected part of the story, which is disappointing; this was not the case for Diana Wynne Jones. The hero and heroine had time to get to know each other, and fell in love slowly. (There’s nothing I hate more than ‘Cinderella’ romances where the two meet and fall instantly in ‘love’ after one meeting.)
None of the characters were perfect; in fact, Diana tends to focus on making them over-flawed. In the interview included in this printing, she herself comments on how strange it is that, despite her creating such flawed characters, she still has a whole list of girls waiting to marry Howl. I think this isn’t really as surprising as it seems. A character must be flawed to be realistic; no matter how much a girl loves that ‘perfect’ guy, if she can’t find any flaws, he’ll eventually become too perfect (read: boring) to live with. With Howl, on the other hand, Sophie will never have a dull moment.
Most fantasies have either a generally serious tone or so much humor the story is ruined. This is the first fantasy I’ve read that perfectly balances the seriousness of the magic with the humor of the characters. This, I think, is where the movie disappointed previous readers of this book. The movie has that characteristic serious tone. While the company definitely did right casting Billy Crystal as Calcifer, there just wasn’t enough time to truly capture the author’s humorous spirit.
That said, I really have to give this book two different ratings. As the middle-school fantasy novel it was written as, it deserves all five stars. For teens looking for a fantasy romance, though, I’d give it a three and a half or a four.
Emily Rachelle is an aspiring author in love with Jesus. She’s a CLASS ‘Junphmore’ who occasionally blogs at Struggles of a (Maybe) Teen Author.
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I read the book too–and I Loved it! I’ve always been fascinated by magic and such. There are a lot of things in the movie Howl’s Moving Castle that do not capture Calcifer as this sardonic, sarcastic, and really just all “Out there” fire demon.
I agree about the flaw factor. It does allow the characters to breathe more if they do have flaws–it breathes more “real life” into them. My mom always says if you have a heroine that is so perfect that she can do no wrong–as many romances do–it becomes unbelievable and just, well, too biased in her favor.
In this story, a surprising twist is that the flaw allows the heroine to save the hero. I love this because it allows the inner strength of the woman to be displayed.
Hi Adrianna! I’m actually not into magic so much as just the fantasy genre and unusual love stories 🙂
Perfect characters are unrelatable and boring, hence why the majority of readers don’t like them. People want to read about people like themselves.