Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three, which means she will be the first to fail on any quest to seek her fortune. So when her beautiful younger sisters are sent away, Sophie settles down to work in her father’s hat shop, expecting nothing more from life.
Then the Witch of the Waste comes to town. She curses Sophie and turns her into an old woman. Sophie flees into the hills, and runs into the famous wizard Howl and his magical moving castle. Howl is not all that he seems, and with his apprentice Michael and fire demon Calcifer, Howl and Sophie must both face the Witch of the Wastes – and their own fates.
The world of Ingary where the story is set, is a place where magical things like cloaks of disguise and seven-league boots are real. It’s a place of magic, of witches and wizards, of curses and of heroes. Sophie’s quest is a journey of discovery which leads the reader to discover wondrous people and far-away places, some not so far as others.
Sophie is a delightfully strong-willed and competent heroine. The story is fast-paced and entertaining, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. If you’ve seen the movie, never fear. While the movie had a lot of elements of the book, the two stories are different enough that you can read the book without knowing what’s going to happen next. A very entertaining read. While it’s aimed at middle grade, I certainly didn’t find it childish or dull.