Sophie is the eldest of three daughters. In a magical fairy-tale kingdom this is really bad news. Everyone knows that the eldest child always fails miserably while the youngest makes her fortune. Sophie doesn’t dare leave home to find her destiny because she’s aware that it will end up being a bad one, but bad luck finds her anyway. One day while Sophie is minding the family business the Witch of the Waste comes to find her and lays a terrible curse on her. She’s transformed from a youthful (if staid) young maid into an old lady. Sophie leaves home to find someone to break the curse, but the only one powerful enough to do it is the dread Wizard Howl, who steals the souls of young women. Luckily she’s no longer one of those.
Sophie demands entrance into Howl’s moving castle and becomes his maid and cook. Howl turns out to be not quite as terrible as she expected, though he’s bad enough. Rather than being fearsome, it turns out that he’s just a proud, vain wastrel who happens to have ridiculous amounts of magical talent. When the king sends Howl out to destroy the Witch of the Waste he needs all the help he can get, and that includes the hidden talents of his maid.
This was a really cute book. I enjoyed the way Diana Wynne Jones poked fun at magical rules and expectations and the way she sprung a number of plot twists on the reader (no, I’m not going to spoil any of her surprises).
Rated: None, for zero profanity, sex or violence.