A wish come true: Howl’s Moving Castle

Illustration from Howl’s Moving Castle © 2019 by Marie-Alice Harel

For a long time, I’ve been wishing that the Folio Society would publish something, anything, by Diana Wynne Jones. And this year, my wish finally came true! Howl’s Moving Castle was the title for the 2019 House of Illustration competition cosponsored by Folio, and the winning entry has duly been published just in time for the holiday gift season. I hope you will put it on your list as well.

I’ve already written about the book itself here, and you can also read Jenny’s guest post from the first Witch Week. From these you will learn that Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the most enchanting books by one of our favorite authors, and one that we most often recommend to new readers. In his introduction to the Folio edition, YA superstar author Marcus Sedgwick agrees with us: “If a single exemplar of Wynne Jones’s life’s work had to be chosen, Howl would be a brave contender, for here we find everything that identifies her work.”

Illustration from Howl’s Moving Castle © 2019 by Marie-Alice Harel

Sedgwick’s introduction is one of the bonuses you’ll find in this edition, a concise but thorough appreciation that places the novel and its author in the context of fantasy literature, highlighting both its roots in tradition and its innovative qualities. To new readers, I would suggest saving it for after you’ve read the novel itself, because it does contain plot points that would be better discovered as they occur in the story. If you already know the story, though, it’s a pleasure to see Wynne Jones (as he calls her) given due honor by a fellow author, one who benefited and learned from her example.

Illustration from Howl’s Moving Castle © 2019 by Marie-Alice Harel

Excellent design, of course, is the main point of a Folio edition, and this one is a treat. From the slipcase with its iconic door image and occult symbols, to the clever binding design with magical silver accents, to the evocative endpapers and chapter headings, it’s a beautiful production.

The full-page color illustrations by competition winner Marie-Alice Harel are also delightful, sensitively drawn with a muted but not drab palette, and each with a detail that slyly pokes out of the picture frame. But six illustrations are not enough! What about Calcifer the fire demon, Sophie’s sisters, or the Witch of the Waste? What about the flowery countryside, the pastry shop, or the exotic world of Wales? There were so many wonderfully visual scenes and vividly drawn characters I would have liked to see, but we have to be content with what we have.

What we do have is a lovely book, and I hope you will buy lots of copies for lucky recipients, so that Folio will be convinced to publish more books by Diana Wynne Jones. Charmed Life, Fire and Hemlock, Power of Three, The Spellcoats, Year of the Griffin, Deep Secret … I can always keep wishing.

Illustration from Howl’s Moving Castle © 2019 by Marie-Alice Harel

For more information, including a  video with Marcus Sedgwick and Marie-Alice Harel discussing the new edition, see the Folio website.


15 thoughts on “A wish come true: Howl’s Moving Castle

  1. Just six illustrations? My inclination would always be to go for a lot more than that or else none: half a dozen pictures amounts to a tease, which is not very kind.

    I suppose Sedgwick calls her Wynne Jones on the analogy of Conan Doyle, but of course in both cases this practice is incorrect. Neither Wynne nor Conan are parts of their respective surnames, and I’ve seen bookshops where, fruitlessly searching for DWJ books under J, where they belong, they eventually turned up under W, sandwiched btween T H White and Markus Zusak. Jones and Doyle, please, people, both good Celtic names.

    (I can understand the confusion: Wynne was originally a Welsh surname; when Diana’s parents gave this as her second given name they seem to have thought it to be the feminine form of Wyn, though as I understand it wasn’t. Perhaps Gwen would have been more apt.)


    1. Tim Wynne-Jones is another well-known author and I think that creates some confusion. But I have usually seen her last name given as “Jones” in any such article or introduction (as in “The Girl Jones” in Reflections) and I should have thought Sedgwick would know better. He even mentions talking to her in person, though I don’t know how close they were.

      Anyway, I agree six pictures is not enough, why not have 10 or 12 at least please if you’re going to go to the trouble! BUT, it’s a beautiful edition in many other ways and I really hope might be followed by at least one or two more.


    1. No, illustrations very seldom conform exactly to my mental pictures. What I look for is whether they capture a certain mood that I can relate to my experience of the book, and here it works for me.


  2. I try to avoid Folio books in case I start collecting millions of them, but this is a great book for them to do. I love DWJ and have read quite a lot of her books, but have this on Mt TBR so will save this review for another comment when I’ve read it (if I remember, I’ll link to this post, too – if you see my review and I haven’t remembered, please post a link in a comment!).


    1. Collecting Folio books is a definite hazard – there’s even a term for it on LibraryThing, Folio Acquisition Disorder, aka FADdiction. Enter upon it at your peril.

      Anyway, I envy you having any DWJ books left to read for the first time. I will look forward to your review!


  3. The edition looks beautiful, and I adore the artist they chose, even though I do wish we could have gotten more illustrations. 12, surely! I would have paid extra money for 12! But still, I’m glad for the ones we did get, and I’m excited to buy this when I have the money/time.


    1. On the video with the artist she says she narrowed her illustration plan down to 12, and then was required to narrow it down further … whyyyy, Folio?!? Maybe in a future bonus edition she’ll be allowed to put in all her ideas!


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