First, this isn’t another Howl and Sophie story, well, not exactly. This is Charmaine’s story; a teen girl who has been raised to be respectable and as such doesn’t know how to wash dishes or to separate the washing before dumping it all into a boiling hot copper pot. So when it was suggested that she be the one to care for the house while her great-uncle was away for an operation it was seen as making her learn to be domestic and independent.
Instead, she learns about magic. Something most very unrespectable according to her mother.
Howl and Sophie and Calcifer make their presence known about half way through the book and that’s when we go from boring to hell-yes-exciting. Charmaine annoyed me greatly. She was spoilt, lazy, and useless, and uncaring, and selfish. Even though she was clearly a great lover of books (and a redhead) I found her greatly disappointing as a heroine. Only when Sophie and the rest of her family arrive do things begin. Sophie is still awesome and she snaps a lot at Howl for acting childish and annoying (which is Howl’s nature) and Howl has lost a lot of his flirt with other women and is more responsible (in his own way) and Calcifer is just beautiful (as always).
So push through the first half trust me, it does get better you must persist and wait until Sophie appears.
Overall it wasn’t a bad story. I liked the new and varied magical creatures. The landscape sounds amazing. The tone and style of writing is very similar to Howl’s Moving Castle, which was written two decades before. It’s nice to see the author also wanted to revisit her characters one last time. And the action unfolds so fast at the end… I wanted more of that and more time with the Pendragons.
This is a story filled with princes and princesses and they range from good to bad to really stupid. I make a point of mentioning this because even though there are princes who must produce heirs there are no romances in this book. In fact, Charmaine rolls her eyes at a spell for finding a prince and questioned what use she would have for a prince before continuing on with her reading. For that one sentence, I love Charmaine. I dislike her for the rest of the book, but that was great and very liberated.
In conclusion, after reading Howl’s Moving Castle I had expected more. Sure we got it towards the end, but I was nearly ready to give up at the start it was that bad. Suffer through the beginning just so you can read more Howl and Sophie and Calcifer, that’s all that can be done.