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