Tip of the hat to Tiff, from Book Bloggers International and Tiff Talks Books fore recommending this book to me when I put out a call for great books by women writers on Google+ in preparation for this months theme!
The story takes place (mostly) in the city of Market Chipping in the land of Ingary, where magical things, including witches and wizards, were kind of commonplace.In this city there were 3 sisters who all worked in the family hat shop, Sophie (the eldest), Lettie and Martha. The hat shop gets in a bit of a slump and can't afford to keep each of the three girls working in the shop. Sophie stays on at the hat shop (being the oldest she knows that she is doomed to failure and to a monotonous life while the other girls have better chances of marrying and well and having adventurous). Martha is sent to study magic with another witch, and Lettie is sent to apprentice in a bakery.
Sophie is lonely working in the hat shop by herself so she starts to talk to the hats as she makes them. She tells them things like "oh a wealthy woman will be so proud to wear you" and telling another "oh you're very mysterious!" What she doesn't realize is that she is somehow talking life into these objects which effects them and their wearer. This brings some negative attention on her, and she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste, who is most definitely a bad witch. Sophie is suddenly turned into an old woman, and is unable to tell anyone that she is under a curse. Unsure of what to do she immediately leaves the shop and goes to find Wizard Howl who she hopes will help her despite his fearsome reputation for eating the hearts of young girls. She figures she's an old woman so she isn't to his taste. (Pun intended).
Sophie gets more then she bargains for as she finagles her way into Howl's moving castle. There's a young apprentice, a demon that lives in the fireplace, and a wizard who spends an insane amount of time in the bathroom. He is a high maintenance wizard for sure! There are other interesting characters that flesh out this fun, fast moving, mostly light story. Though there are some dastardly villains, it reminded me of a less gritty Neil Gaiman story. I love the grittiness of Neil's stuff but it was nice to have it dialed back a little here.
A note on the movie: there is a movie. It one a lot of awards. I haven't seen it but I know people really rave about it. If you've seen it and read the book I'd love to hear what you thought!
I thought this book was very fun. I loved that the castle moved (as the title suggests, haha) and that each of it's doors open to a different place. So clever! What I didn't like was the scarecrow, he scared me. The thought of an animated scarecrow chasing me is enough to keep me out of a corn maze for awhile. I give it 3 out of 5 stars!