Just finished reading Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. This book is just so good that I want everybody to read it. Right now. Not only did I love this, not only did it make me laugh at inopportune times, but I felt annoyed when I had to stop reading and it’s just got me so excited that I want to talk to everybody else about it. I devoured it. I sat reading in my lunch time laughing and giggling and attracting some very strange looks. My colleagues, intrigued, were like ‘what you reading?’ ’Howl’s Moving Castle’, I said. ’Oh, I didn’t know that was a book!’ The funny thing is neither did I! In fact it would never have occurred to me to be honest. I love the film, I really do. Could I choose between the two? Probably at the moment I’d err on the side of the book, but that’s because it’s still so fresh and is still making me smile. I’ll have to go and rewatch the film to see how it compares. Anyway, thank goodness for Worlds Without End – without their Women of Genre reading challenge I may never have picked this book up and that would have been a damned fine shame!
The story starts with Sophie. The eldest of three sisters she is destined to fail – it’s the strange will of the fairytale land in which she lives, after all, it’s always the younger sister/princess who is the real focus of the story as we all know. Her two younger sisters experience all the fun and freedom and are even sent out into the world to gain meaningful employment whilst Sophie remains at home, working in the hat shop that belonged to her late father and seemingly becoming more diminished and shrunken as time goes on. The strange thing with Sophie though is that she seems to hold deep within herself a magical ability that allows her to imbue everyday objects almost with a life force of their own. Unfortunately, these abilities draw the attention of the Witch of the Waste and certainly not in a good way! The Witch of the Waste is a whole lot of bad, she’s jealous of any other magical ability and so she goes in search of Sophie. Of course, Sophie is no match for this wicked witch who curses her turning her into an old woman and thus starting this wonderful adventure.
Sophie sets out to make her own fortune. Or so she tells herself. In truth, she can’t face the people who she knows and loves especially as part of the condition of the curse means she is unable to tell anyone of her predicament. She can’t even be sure people will recognise her so she sets off on her lonely road. Well, it starts off lonely but doesn’t remain that way for long as Sophie helps a couple of ‘things’ in need. Finally, she literally stumbles upon Howl’s moving castle. Howl is a wizard with a terrible reputation. His magic is feared by many and not only that he kidnaps young women and eats them! Or their souls!! Now, maybe you wouldn’t fancy hitching a lift on a strange moving chimney pot where a wicked wizard lives but this seems like Sophie’s best chance for now, particularly as she’s realised just how tired and aching her very much older bones feel, and so, after a bit of a struggle she hops on board.
I’m not going to go too much further into the story. There’s obviously the wicked witch and her terrible plans coupled with the strange goings on in the moving castle – particularly Howl who seems to be far from wicked and who’s bad reputation is something he seems to have enjoyed nurturing himself! He does seem to be a lady’s man however and apparently leaves broken hearts in his wake.
Clearly this is a children’s book and so from that aspect there isn’t any really indepth world building. And, I don’t say that as a criticism but more just as a simple statement of fact. The author goes about writing the story in such a straightforward way that almost takes for granted that the reader will already be fully up to speed with the land of fairytales and will just jump right on board with ease. And that really is the case. Everything in the story is fantastical. The castle is a sort of dark chimney that travels the country. The inside is like a ramshackle cottage! The broom cupboard seems to lead to the bedrooms and the doorway opens onto four different landscapes depending on which way you open it! It’s just chock full of imagination.
On top of that the characters are brilliant. Obviously Sophie, Howl and the fire demon, Calcifer, steal the show. Howl seems to be a terribly vain and sometimes quite cool character. To all intents he seems to spend the majority of his time preening himself before he goes to woo his next victim. Sophie, who manages to stay aboard his moving home by dint of becoming his cleaning lady, spends most of her time grumping around the place and searching the nooks and crannies for the hidden souls of the girls she believes Howl has eaten! Calcifer the demon is contracted to Howl and wants to break free – he sees Sophie has his only hope and promises to help her remove her own curse in return. And, we have the wizard’s apprentice Michael who spends a good deal of his time scratching his head in puzzlement or dashing around the place as he fetches and carries for his master. Of course, ultimately, nothing is as it at first appears and all the characters will eventually be revealed in a different light. Sophie finds being cursed as an old woman very liberating. She’s no longer afraid to speak her mind. She’s curmudgeonly. She makes mistakes and then harrumphs when anybody points them out but aboard the castle she unexpectedly seems to find a whole new meaning for her life. Howl is quite far from what he seems. I loved his wit. I loved the way he treated Sophie and I think it’s great that this eventually turns into something more – a romance – totally untraditional of course.
This is such a delightful, funny and exquisite book. So many fairy tale tropes rolled out and poked fun at in a really engaging way. I don’t think it would be possible to read this without trying to spot your own favourites, for example, for me there was definitely a Wizard of Oz feel to the tale.
It’s a little bit of fantasy, a little bit of a fairy story, a romance, a puzzle and a bundle of laughs. I hope you read it if you haven’t already done so, and if you have, I hope you come and talk to me about it!
I’m submitting this review for my Worlds Without End, Women of Genre Fiction November book and also it counts towards by Classics Club list.
I’ve had such a lot of fun doing this readalong! The thing I love about it is it makes you see things in a different way, opens your eyes a bit more and take a proper look around from another perspective or just plain picks up on little nuances that you’ve missed. The discussion has been awesome and I’m sort of sad it’s over. But, moving on. The questions this week are provided by the lovely Allie at Tethyan books and need I point out that plenty of spoilers will be contained below so if you’ve not yet read this book and are planning to do so then please stop reading now! Go on, scoot!
1. The Republic of Thieves: It’s the first and final performance! What did you think of the play? Were you entertained, or eager to get on with the rest of the story? Also, how do you feel about how the play fits in the novel, in terms of the story and the characters who play the parts? Well, on the whole I’ve really enjoyed the whole theatre side of the story but by the time it came time for the first performance I was totally wound up about the whole Bouldazi affair! So, probably didn’t enjoy the show as much as I should have as I was too busy racing ahead to see how they were going to pull it all off. I think it’s great that Lynch put this story within the story though – just more of what we’ve come to expect about his attention to detail.
2. The Other Performance: Of course, the GB and company had another important performance to get through—the one that ensures none of them end up hanged! What was your favorite part of this scheme? Do you agree with their plan for dealing with Moncraine’s treachery? I thought it was inspired that they framed Moncraine for the murder – and totally justified. He left them hanging after all (or he thought he did)!! Not sure which part was my favourite – it was all a bit fly by the seat of your pants dangerous, I guess I liked having somebody else dress up as Bouldazi and appear on the stage in his clothes and a mask. When you’re in on the con and know what’s happening you can’t help thinking it just won’t work but if you were watching all this as an innocent bystander you’d have no reason to doubt. It was also interesting to see that yet again Sabetha played a pivotal role. You can’t help thinking that’s why Chains admitted a female to the gang (not for this particular scheme of course) but because they needed to be more all rounded – how very articulately phrased! NOT. I always sort of wondered if Chains meant to take on a female or not. He didn’t seem equipped to a certain degree and Sabetha was brought up in this all male environment – which was good for her in terms of competition of course – but led to all sorts of complications when it comes to ramant hormones. If you look at the schemes in Espara though, without Sabetha, everyone would have been in the dirty creek without a paddle!
3. The Election: It seems Lovaris was indeed the final trick, and the election is over. Are you satisfied with how things turned out? Do you wish that the election had focused more on the political problems of Karthain, or are you satisfied with the mudslinging and pranks that went on between Locke and Sabetha? To be honest I’m not really terribly interested in all the politics – I like that it’s included because I think it makes the whole world building more realistic but if it had been any more in depth I probably would have got a bit ‘meh’ about it. I thought the pranks and mudslinging were the best parts of the whole competition – it’s what I really get out of these books. All the different ways that Lynch comes up with new ideas for his cons. I mean, yeah, some of these were greatly simplified compared to previous books but I still loved them and there was this added feeling of camaraderie because it was between Locke and Jean and Sabetha – it just felt more playful somehow, or perhaps just less tense, especially compared with what was taking place in Espara. I thought it was great that Locke had a scheme that would make the two sides equal. Of course it would only work if Sabetha topped the poll with one extra vote but it still made me laugh that he came up with that idea – and I thought Sabetha took it really well. She felt like she’d won – even if only for a few brief moments.
4. The War: Do you have any speculation on what specific issues might have escalated the two Bondsmagi factions rivalry into this kind of violence? What do you think the surviving Bondsmagi will do next, with all their gathered money and knowledge? I don’t mind telling you that this part of the story blew me away! I was like ‘no way’. What was the competition about then – I suppose it was all just misdirection really. I think that the more conservative Bondsmagi feel really threatened by this idea that any great show of magic will bring reprisals and they clearly think the Falconer and his following would draw more attention. It’s going to be so interesting to see what happens next with this. Plus there was this whole other reference to the lights in the water again – I think when we were looking back at the Falconer as a younger boy and he was looking into the water at one point? Anyway, totally intriguing and mysterious.
5. Patience: Given the final revelation that Patience does hate Locke for what he did to the Falconer, what do you make of her behavior towards Locke throughout the book? Do you think her plan of vengeance is well suited to Locke? What do you make of the Black Amaranth story now, as well as the prophecy she threw on top? She’s basically a bloody raging hypocrite. Or at least that’s what I thought at first – I figured she was simply mad at him for butchering her son. There’s no love lost between her and the Falconer though and she wanted him to die – so I then figured that she was more pissed off at Locke for NOT killing him but simply rendering him powerless. She even had her little trapdoor to trap the Falconer when he tried to null the pain – so he would be unable to resist? You have to hand it to her really. She salved her conscience by telling the Falconer about her little prediction, which she knew he would scorn. Then she fixed it so that he’d be incapacitated. Like I say, I think she was simply massively disappointed that he wasn’t dead and was still her problem. I think she also sees the fact that Locke and Jean didn’t finish off the Falconer as a weakness and one more reason to despise them both. I just don’t know what to make of the whole prophecy thing. Part of me thinks she’s just playing with Locke but then part of me thinks she’s just arrogant enough to give him this prediction thinking that he’ll probably decide to ignore it. Unwittingly of course she could have given him a really invaluable piece of information that could just end up saving him – she’ll be a bit gutted if that turns out to be the case! And you know that saying about ‘he who laughs last’…
6. The Epilogue: Speaking of vengeance, do you think the Falconer’s vengeance against his mother was merited or excessively cruel, given the circumstances? On that note, how do you feel about the Falconer’s transformation and possible status as a continuing villain? I like that Lynch has resurrected the Falconer as the villain again. He’s a pretty impressive villain. I absolutely hate the guy – which is what you want from your villains isn’t it. No sympathy. The only thing I don’t understand about the scene with the birds at the end is that it made Patience seem weaker than she had done throughout the novel. Like, when the attack started why didn’t she do one of her mysterious conjuring tricks and simply disappear. Or, couldn’t she have used the Falconer’s name to stop him – or is it that she really didn’t know it was him behind the attack. I think that’s probably the only real scene that I had my doubts about. I wasn’t surprised that the Falconer took the action he did, I was just surprised that Patience didn’t come back with anything – she had five rings after all plus his secret name.
7. Wrapping up: Thus ends the third book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence. How do you think it compares with the first two? In the end, do you prefer the Espara storyline or the Karthain storyline, or did you like them both equally? I don’t know if I could come up with a favourite out of all the books – they all feel so different to each other. The first was obviously the introduction to them all and it’s just so clever that it’s brilliant. The second I loved all the pirates and high jinx out at sea. And now this with two fairly strong stories running parallel. So insightful into the background of the gang, plus getting to revisit the twins. I just can’t decide. Out of the two storylines from RoT I think I probably liked Espara marginally more – I think simply because it had more tension, we got to spend time with the gang again and it was insightful into the Locke/Sabetha situation.
I have to mention the picture at the end – so Sabetha and the woman with the red hair *wiggles eyebrows suspiciously*
And, I loved that little part in the book where the results of the election come in and Losari pulls his rabbit out of the hat and Sabetha and Locke are debating the merits of the situation – I think it’s Locke who says ‘one for the drunkards and philosophers’ (meaning to mull it over!) – it made me laugh because I was thinking obviously we’ll be chewing the fat over this one. So which are you – the drunkard or the philosopher (or a bit of both, perhaps you only philosophise when you’re in your cups? Or maybe you only drink when you start philosophising??)
So now we have the wait to find out what happens next. Not that I’m complaining, my mind can come up with all sorts in the meantime and when the books are this good then it’s worth it – all good things to those who wait. But, if Mr Lynch needs somebody to read over a thing or two in the meantime – well, I’m just saying. Whatever I’m doing I’ll drop it in a nanosecond. Yessiree, I’m your woman.
Just finished reading Cormorant by Chuck Wendig, the third book in the series about a psychic called Miriam, the first two books being Blackbird and Mockingbird. Seriously I love this series. It’s brutal. And, it’s grim. Miriam is no sweet and fluffy little girl and there’s a whole seedy world out there which reading her story is going to suck you right into. (Stop reading now if you’re worried about potential spoilers).
In the last book Miriam tried to control her abilities but this ended up in an explosive situation. In this instalment she’s still trying to come to grips with it, more to the point trying to come to terms with how to live with it. She’s been experimenting with the gift, trying to change the visions she sees, but fate finds ways to intervene. Death won’t be cheated. A life for a life.
So at the start of the story Miriam is barely scraping together a living and the situation is going to become worse as her flatmates have decided to throw her out of her accommodation, apparently she’s too difficult to contend with! The sugar coating is that one of her flatmates has found her a bonus. A job where she can use her special talents for a rather lucrative reward. Apparently there is a guy down in the Keys whose curious to find out about the way in which he will die, so curious that he wants to pay Miriam $5,000 to give him such an insight. And so Miriam heads out to Florida. It feels like a trap. And, that’s because it is a trap. And things are now going to go from wish you didn’t get up in the morning to absolutely wished you stayed in bed for the rest of the week!
Basically, Miriam is going to end up again following a serial killer, or at least, not so much following the killer as he’s following her. The serial killer seems to be watching her and anticipating her every move. He’s using his victims to send her messages, it’s a creepy plot line. You have Miriam, who when she makes contact with someone can see the way in which they die, and when she has this vision there’s a message there for her in the future. It twists with your brain for sure. The story is interspersed with scenes that jump backwards and forwards which seems to be oddly fitting given Miriam’s special abilities. We also, again, have the strange connection to the birds. Plus the trespasser, as Miriam has come to think of him who seems to be a spooky message carrying ghost. Miriam is stronger than she realises though, she just needs to come to terms with her own new found talents and find out the boundaries.
The storytelling is excellent. It’s gripping. It’s compelling. It’s like a train wreck that you can’t tear your eyes away from. The language is, well, let’s just be honest here, the language is a little bit coarse! But, this is Miriam and she’s a force of nature to say the least. If you’re easily offended then it’s probably best to steer clear but if you’ve read the other books you’re no doubt very familiar with Miriam already. She’s offensive but even so you can’t help liking her especially as she seems to have these moments where the real Miriam comes to the surface and you can see the person she could or would have been if her life hadn’t become so messed up.
The pace is constant as Miriam ricochets from one situation after another, barrelling out of control for a good part as she tries to come to grips with what exactly is going on as the people around her become the murderer’s next target. Miriam seems to have drawn the attention of not only some badass drug dealing gangster types and a stalking serial killer but also the FBI seem to be on her trail. I suppose you can only go for so long leaving death and destruction in your wake before you finally gain a following of sorts.
Did I mention that I loved this book? It pulled me right in and I couldn’t put it down until I reached the conclusion. It’s not like Miriam is perfect. She rushes into a situation even when its obvious that she shouldn’t. There were occasions where it was clear what would happen and you could see things would turn out badly and yet Miriam still walked into those scenes! Boldly going where no woman has been before I might add! She has such a devil may care attitude about her own safety it’s like she almost thinks shes become invincible or something or perhaps it’s just that she really doesn’t care any more. You can’t help feeling exasperated with her at certain points and yet even with that frustration the story still grabs you and shakes hard. Even as the story races towards it’s grand finale you can’t help racing along with it. I think my biggest regret is that I didn’t take a little more time to savour the story and certainly my biggest problem will now be finding the patience to wait for the next instalment.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, in exchange for a honest review. The above is my own opinion. I think this series is excellent: dark, twisted fantasy. I definitely recommend.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and Bookish is
top ten books we’d recommend to x person
I’m not going to choose an actual person – I’m going to go for something a bit different, because if I say ‘suchabody’ should read this it will be meaningless to you all. So, these are my 10 – and I recommend them to everybody:
- For beautiful writing: If you love descriptive, evocative writing: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
- Ditto the above – Witch Light by Susan Fletcher – such a gorgeous book
- Dark Fantasy – The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence
- For twisted, creepy and totally unusual fantasy – any of the books by Robert Bennett, The Troupe, Mr Shivers, American Elsewhere
- For fairytales retold – that are no longer sugary sweet – Poison, Charm and Beauty by Sarah Pinborough
- For dark, dirty, smelly evil vampires, The Danilov Quintet by Jasper Kent
- For depth, worldbuilding and characters that you love the Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch
- For phwoar factor – The Trueblood series by Charlaine Harris – I’m sorry but there are some hotties in these books not to mention a lot of fun
- For plenty of fun – The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker
- And, you know that I’m not going to forget – Neil Gaiman, for just about anything he writes!
Well folks, we’re nearly at the end. What a fantastic read so far!! So, for all the serpents in dresses and the drowning puppy eyed looking blokes out there, lets move swiftly on. Our lovely host, and provided of the questions for the week is Andrea over at Little Red Reviewer. Stop on over to join the debate! And, beware of spoilers. I’m not going to repeat it – if you haven’t read this or the prior two books then stop reading NOW. Turn back! (Okay, I repeated it a little bit.)
1. We finally know why Sabetha dies her hair, and that’s so disturbing even the Thiefmaker under Shade’s Hill was disgusted by it. Too dark for this world? Or just right? Well, it’s absolutely disgusting, but that never stopped vile things in their tracks did it. I’d say this fits into the world we’re reading about. After all, they hang children for pickpocketing and chop off a person’s hand for slapping the nobility and that’s the law abiding types.
2. The “Asino” brothers are drunken idiots, but they’re not blind. What did you think of the little rendezvous they helped arrange for Sabetha and Locke? I say thank goodness for a glimmer of sense (from the Asinos!) I mean Locke and Sabetha certainly weren’t going to take that sort of initiative were they – we could have gone back and forward for months yet. In fact, it just wouldn’t have occurred to them. I loved that the twins stepped in and organised it all. Okay, a little cubby hole with a couple of blankets might not seem like the most romantic way of getting together but I think scented candles and throw cushions were the least of their concerns at that point. Didn’t you feel a bit sorry for Locke afterwards! Seeing the look on Sabetha’s face and thinking ‘is that what all the fuss is about’!
3. Locke managed to get everyone out of the Boulidazi mess we discussed last week . . . what do you think of this latest Boulidazi complication? I love that you called this a complication – I don’t think Boulidazi would agree LOL – creative use of a pair of scissors. Well, I never liked the guy to be honest which doesn’t mean he got exactly what he deserves (although he is a total arse wipe and a raping bastard), but, Christ on his throne, has this just got major league complicated. Talk about tension and grey hair. Sabetha seems to be coming up with the goods though not to mention fairly coolly dispatching Boulidazi! *shivers*. Wouldn’t have liked to have been in her shoes at that particular moment – mmm, she can definitely be quite ruthless when needed though.
And back to Karthain (I’m jumping around in time here, leaving the most important bits for last)
4.Time is flying, and the election is getting closer. Desperation calls for cheap tricks. I think my favorite so far is Sabetha’s special roof guards. What’s your favorite election dirty trick so far? I think the old woman trick was pretty good to be honest – but, then, I was reading about a scene with Jean in it so…. Yeah, anyway, he’s a big gentle giant isn’t he – he could have picked those old dears up, carried them off that roof and put them on a luxurious ship bound to travel aimlessly around for the duration of the election couldn’t he? Although I’m sure Sabetha would have them replaced pdq but come on, how many sweet old ladies can she find willing to sit on the rooftops. I quite liked the snakes – I mean, I wouldn’t have personally liked to make their acquaintance but it was pretty inventive the way Sabetha got Locke to share a coach ride with them!
5.There’s a mole in the Deep Roots. Was that person’s identity a surprise to you? And how did you like Locke’s method of identifying the person? This wasn’t really a surprise to be honest – you sort of knew that Lynch had a reason for giving Nikoros his little addiction and the method of detection was clever and appropriate I thought.
6.What’s so important about this Lovaris fellow? The election is right around the corner, so why introduce someone new so late in the game? I detect a twist in the tale. But, I’m rubbish at guessing and also I’ve read to the end!! So, I can’t say, lips are sealed, zipped, locked and thrown away the key.
7. It’s so nice that Locke and Sabetha can finally have some nice, normal dinner dates. He even cooks her dinner! But that sneaky Patience, always interrupting everything! Finally, she promises some answers. that’s nice. what, Locke is WHO? Locke is a WHAT? How much of it do you believe? Massive spoiler alert!!!! I’m just not sure what to think of this new theory. I’ve decided not to believe it. I think Patience is just throwing in one last epically bitchy story to con the conners. Oh, I dunno. *stamps feet, chucks toys out of pram and takes bat and ball home* I suppose the good thing is, if this story is true then Locke (or whoever he is), doesn’t remember who he was so he is really who he thinks he is? Right?? Patience – you bitch. And interrupting everything as well! Total tart face.
And, what about all these eating places that Lynch has come up with – bloody hell, who needs a regular restaurant – eating in a cage – not sure I’d fancy Sabetha’s way of exiting, not after I’d just eaten some huge ass meal! Up chuck at all.
Anyway, let me get back to talking about Jean – and Jenora?? Okay, I wont’ be a stuck record on that subject but phwoar. That. Is. All.
And, what was all this about from Sabetha ‘Nothing before the Hill matters’ she said quietly. ’I was protected. Then I was an orphan. Leave it at that.’ What does all that mean. That’s a definite lure and I’ve been hooked!