Somehow, I keep managing to stumble across references to John Donne's poem, Song. Always specifically the first verse. You know the one.
Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
Serves to advance an honest mind.
In hindsight, having watched the Miyazaki adaptation before I read the book, I probably should have been able to figure that out on my own, given Calcifer's true nature. When Howl brought up the poem, my first thought was, "Of course that's what it's based on."
I had a lot of fun reading this story. It reads more like a parody of the fantasy genre than an actual fantasy story, although that's not to say that it never takes itself seriously. The story develops a sense of urgency as it progresses, right up until the end of the book.
I loved the relationship between Sophie and Howl. The two of them had the best dialogue in the entire book. Their relationship answers the age-old question of what happens when a slitherer outer meets an immovable object. They definitely bring out the best in each other, and the build up of their relationship makes the ending that much sweeter.
For those who are worried that watching the movie might have spoiled the book for them - fear not. The story had to be changed quite a bit to make it more...kid friendly. There's plenty of characters who got left out of the movie, and the villain isn't who you think it is...
I'm gonna go back to slithering out of writing now...I had told myself I was going to get this review done right after I got home in the morning, but instead I spent two hours staring at various Futurama gifs. >__>