J K Rowling - Shastrix Books

J K Rowling

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

J K Rowling

31st May 2021

Somehow it turns out that I must have only read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows twice before - on original publication in 2007 and again pretty soon after in 2008, before I started logging all my reading. I found this really surprising when I realised, and so decided I needed to dive back in again.

It’s a really good adventure. All the things I thought I wouldn’t like turned out to be fine, and possibly just a misremembering based on the film version. The pacing is good, and thematically fits with the characters and the events taking place.

There are so many little moments that I’d totally forgotten about. Little references, or jokes, just things that help to lighten the mood of what is in places quite a dark tale. And some of the classic Rowling foreshadowing. The aspects of Dumbledore which weren’t made explicit until later actually come across really obviously now, and I can’t believe I didn’t see them the first time.

I’m really glad I paid another visit to this novel, and I look forward to my next re-read, probably sooner than another 13 years away.

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Buy book: UK
The Ickabog

The Ickabog

J K Rowling

28th March 2021

J K Rowling's long talked-about political fairytale is exactly what it promises to be. This is the tale of a King, his unscrupulous advisors, and an array of good and bad people from around the kingdom - and of course the local monster.

The story and the characters are endearing, and I enjoyed following their advantures. The moral of the story is pretty in your face, but that's not a bad thing for a story aimed at younger children.

What gave me pause more was the structure. It's quite a long book made up of a lot of short chapters. As a book for reading to young listeners, or for readers in training, the short chapters make sense - but I worry that for these the overall picture has time to be forgotten as the tale progresses. As an adult reader, I found that the structure almost forced me into reading slowly, because after about three chapters I would feel like I'd read enough for a sitting, and I felt like I needed to stop otherwise I would forget what happened earlier in that session.

Overall though a perfectly acceptable, cute, moral tale for younger audiences.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

J K Rowling

8th June 2020

A chance conversation led me to realise that it was a very long time since I’d read Half-Blood Prince, the sixth Harry Potter book. Possibly I haven’t even read it since book seven came out, which seems negligent.

So despite the time that’s passed since my re-read of the series so far, I took this off my shelf to join a vast number of other readers re-consuming the Harry Potter novels as a source of comfort during lockdown.

In my head, there’s a sort of line between books five a six - the first five novels are the classic Harry Potter series. The final two seem separate for some reason, as if they aren’t quite the same series. I don’t know whether this is a product of how much I like them, or down to the age, or perhaps pace, at which I read them (though I think I read five in one sitting too).

This time round, I enjoyed Half-Blood Prince, as expected. I enjoyed spotting a few things that I’d either never noticed before or forgotten - small things, little nods to characters in the background, or little hints of things that had yet to be revealed. You can almost feel the various threads coming together in the author’s mind as the series prepares to wrap up.

There’s also the problem of the film - which I probably have seen more times than I’ve read the book. In my mind, a lot of the scenes are as they were in the film - but also some events I could picture from the films but not remember which book they map to, so I was expecting scenes which never emerged.

Overall - it remains a solid story and a good adventure… but it’s still not as good as Order of the Phoenix. Perhaps my impression of the later books is just because Phoenix was to me the best, and so it’s downhill after that.

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Buy book: UK
The Crimes of Grindlewald

The Crimes of Grindlewald

J K Rowling

23rd June 2019

This is the script of the film - which I got a while before actually seeing the movie and kept on the shelf until I’d seen it.

I actually found the script to be a better way to consume this story than the film. Somehow the plot comes out more and the spectacle in my imagination fits to that, rather than distracting from it and taking over.

The characters come across really well, and Rowling’s notes lend a little more of the original Harry Potter flavour to the writing.

Scripts aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I certainly enjoyed consuming the story in this format and fully intend to continue with the rest of the series in this medium.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

J K Rowling

18th March 2017

This is the screenplay (i.e. the script) to the 2016 film of the same name - written by J K Rowling and taking place some 60 years before the first Harry Potter novel.

In the script we meet Newt Scamander, magizoologost, as he arrives in New York and becomes embroiled accidentally in a surprisingly major set of events.

The text serves well, having seen the film, of reminding me what I saw and helping to solidify some of the moments that might otherwise have drifted out of my mind. It didn't take long to read through, but then the film is only a couple of hours long and I read faster than actors speak.

The illustrations are also beautiful, representing many of the magical creatures that appear through a simple art form that I don't have the words to accurately describe. They really leap off the page and make an impression every time they appear.

A happy bonus to my bookcase, and a quick reminder of ever I want it of an enjoyable evening with friends at the cinema. I'm sure I will read it again as the rest of the series appears in film, as a convenient reminder of the story so far.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

J K Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany

19th August 2016

Who would have thought there would be a sequel? Who would have thought it could be as exciting again? I was slightly dubious when I heard there would be a play, but my interest has been slowly piqued by the marketing department's drip feeding of information - but nothing could have prepared me for reading this, the rehearsal script for the play (the actual play may include tweaks to the text made during rehearsals and previews - but I haven't managed to see it yet).

Fortunately, I've read a number of scripts before (I own scripts from Star Trek and Doctor Who - and we were taught from scripts at school by the likes of Arthur Miller and William Shakespeare), so wasn't phased by the difference in format. In fact, I quite like the format of a script, as it gives the right amount of description to force my brain to put in some work in the imagination department, unlike in a novel where it thinks someone else has done the work and I don't need to visualise it. There were a few places where I found it awkward though, such as scene breaks that return to the same scene afterward (like a TV show ad break) or over use of one particular uncommon word in the stage directions.

I felt that the opening was fairly predictable, and was lulled into thinking it would continue that way, but then was hit by several things, before the plot twisted off in directions I never would have guessed. It addresses a number of elements from the books that hadn't even occurred to me as needing following up on, and certainly adds a great new dynamic particularly to the characters' relationships as we see them in new situations.

I was thoroughly satisfied with this book, despite it being fairly quick to read (I read the first half twice before allowing myself to progress, which not only dragged out the experience but helped me take it all in). I look forward to one day being able to see it performed on the stage.

Update 1st February 2020

Inspired by a friend going to see it on stage, I chose to read the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

As a reminder of the spectacle of the live performance, it does well - some of the scenes are certainly better seen than read, but the dialogue remains solid and the emotions of some of the relationships come through well.

The plot seemed less patchy than I'd remembered, although does still suffer from the one issue that many people have entirely rejected this story for.

I enjoyed reading it again, and am sure I will again in the future.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

J K Rowling

25th March 2016

The time has come in my latest Harry Potter re-read to revisit my favourite of the series (and I know that's an unpopular opinion). I started this read through trying to be in sync with Pottermore releasing bonus material for each book, but since I read Goblet of Fire last the format of the website has completely changed and so I just took the opportunity to read the story again and prepare myself mentally for the appearance of a new story (in script and stage form) this summer.

Why do I like this book over the others? For many reasons. This is a tale of the Harry at a key age - he's still a child, but now he is becoming an adult. It's the point at which he turns from being a child drawn into unusual situations into a young man taking control of his life and the direction it takes. He becomes stronger and starts forming new relationships - and the secondary cast start to become more prominent. Yet it remains a story about school life, before the story is absorbed into the epic events of the last two books of Harry's story, and so still has that touch of the original structure.

One of the criticisms that this book often draws is about Harry's moodiness and how he's become a stroppy teen. I don't see this as anything as a mis-reading of the story, instead (and I'll avoid spoilers) stemming from an important plot point that is integral to not only the story of this novel but also the rest of the series.

On this reading, I really enjoyed a couple of moments which I hadn't noticed before, both early on, that seem like throwaway comments, but which with the knowledge I now have from later turn into interesting hints of foreshadowing. It's also the point in the series from which I feel slightly less familiar with the text (having naturally read the earlier books more frequently - at least once each time a new on was published) and so I enjoyed rediscovering some of the story.

Still my favourite of the books, and one that I am sure I will revisit again and again and again.

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Buy book: UK

Other reviewed books

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Silkworm
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Cuckoo's Calling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Casual Vacancy
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

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