Of Sigils and Quidditch, or Lord Voldemort meets the White Walkers

To my surprise, I find myself admitting that, on the whole, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling are a Good Thing. They have enthused and excited a whole generation of readers. Many of those readers have been motivated to read at a level of complexity and difficulty far beyond what they would otherwise attempted. As far as I know, this is still going on.

There are drawbacks. Some children were daunted by them and thus given a further negative outlook on reading. I know that some parents pushed their children to read the books, because they felt it was a Good Thing, and that this had a very negative effect. There is a fine line between encouragement and pressure. However, I also know that some parents read the books to or with their children- a Very Good Thing. (Miss O. #1 says that my reading ‘The Hobbit’ to her was her gateway drug to reading. Nothing makes me prouder.)

(Probably some of the original Harry Potter generation are reading the books to their own children. I just hope this doesn’t lead to the Roald Dahl problem; at one point he was being read and promoted to the exclusion of new authors.)

I read ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ when the series was starting to achieve a popularity beyond its initial cult following (but before the films). I enjoyed it, although I thought I detected echoes of ‘The Worst Witch’. I have read the lot and have one major reservation: they are too long.

It’s probably heresy to say this, but I believe that Ms. Rowling needed a good editor. The first book was comparatively tautly written. I got increasingly bored with the series. Particularly I wish there was nothing about Quidditch, or at least much less; and I wish there were no references to snogging. They are tiresome. Quibbles aside, I would love to have an abridged version of the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong; there are some moving and exciting episodes. Probably the very things I find uninspiring are the things young readers love. Butterbeer, anybody? Anyway, who am I to quarrel with such a success?

The title of the book in the picture may surprise British readers- presumably this is the American version.

Harry Potter

I move, not very seamlessly, to ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ by George R. R. Martin. I approached this in a very different way. Miss O. introduced us to the ‘Game of Thrones’ T.V. programmes, based on the series; then, of course, I had to read the books. I’ve just finished ‘A Feast for Crows’, and this leads me to the link with Harry Potter. In my very, very humble opinion. Mr Martin also needed a good editor.

There is just too much of this book. There are endless minor characters, whose fate or part in the story I gave up caring about. There are too many descriptions of clothing, armour and food. (Miss O. says this is a common fault of fantasy books.) I don’t care about the multiplicity of sigils (symbols) of the multiplicity of great and minor houses. I don’t often look for reviews, but one apparently called the book “sprawling and incoherent”.

I persevered with it. As much as anything, I am fascinated by the differences between the books and the T.V. series. I was genuinely gripped by the fate of one of my favourite characters. I would however recommend that you stick to either the books or the T.V. I wish I had.

A Feast for Crows

As I said, what do I know? I’m not a multi-multi million selling author, just an ordinary reader. Are publishers perhaps wary of telling successful authors how to write? It strikes me that perhaps both need a “critical friend”: a brave one.

Sorry about the title of this blog. I just wanted something catchy. What about Lord Voldemort meeting the White Walkers? Perhaps George and J.K. could collaborate. WHEN GEORGE HAS FINISHED THE SERIES!


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