This was the book that broke me from the HP series. My bride insists they got better, but she also married me, so her taste is... suspect.
I loved PrisThis was the book that broke me from the HP series. My bride insists they got better, but she also married me, so her taste is... suspect.
I loved Prisoner of Azkaban. Great struggle, clever time-travel story (very hard to do) and our first real glimpses of the dark places where this series would head. I liked that shift, I really did. So what broke me?
Firstly, the plot holes. Well, more accurately, one plot hole, but it was a frackin' doozy. You know the opening scene in Star Wars where the camera is beneath the belly of the Star Destroyer and the shot just goes on and on for about ten frackin' minutes and you can practically hear George Lucas yelling "That's right, Star Destroyers are REALLY BIG, bitches!"? Well, this was a Star Destroyer sized plot hole.
(view spoiler)[ Rowling goes to some length spelling out that portkeys can be anything. A cup. A book. A fluffy bunny. She also establishes that you can't teleport in and out of Hogwarts, because it's warded. Fair enough. BUT, Harry and his chums have often left the grounds of HG's, to go and drink 'butterbeer' or buy living chocolate frogs or snog in alleyways or whatever. The precedent has been set that they can and do leave the school grounds. FFS, Harry lived outside of Hogwarts for YEARS (and yeah Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru's [or whatever] place was magicked so folks couldn't find him, but how did he get back and forth to it, eh? A TRAIN.)
SO, you are an evil overlord trying to take over the world. You need Harry's blood to get your body back. You have an agent WITHIN Hogwarts, despite all these magical defenses, disguised as a teacher that Harry implicitly trusts.
a) Set in place an elaborate ruse, framed around this enormous tri-wizard tournament, which (presumably) is under scrutiny by the most powerful wizards in the world and the ministry of magic, in which you manipulate events so that Harry not only enters the tournament (despite rules that expressly say that he's not old enough) but wins it, touches the tri-wizard cup, which, despite all these defenses and wizard-y scrutiny and security, you've managed to turn into a frackin' portkey (yes, you're that good) so that he gets teleported away from the tourney grounds into your evil clutches and hey, you bleed that bitch.
b) Have your agent (who Harry implicitly trusts) say "hey Potter, what's say we head down to the pub for a mug of butterbeer and I'll tell you some stuff about your dad/mum/long lost twin?" use all your evil-wizardyness to change a mug of butterbeer into a portkey, and save everyone around 400 pages of this book.
Sorry, but I didn't buy it. I've read many fan arguments explaining why the tri-wizard tournament and everything around it wasn't window-dressing on an overly complicated plan, the fruits of which could have very easily been borne by a far less convoluted and complex Evil Scheme(tm) which, granted, probably wouldn't have made a very interesting book, but YOUR WAREZ, I AM NOT BUYING THEM. (hide spoiler)]
But second, and more importantly, it was in GoF that I realized that Harry was going to win. That he was just awesome, and no matter what rules were set in place (you're too young to enter the tournament/you're ten years old, why on earth would we put you in the CLUTCH position on our Quidditch team/you wear glasses, the ladiez don't dig dudes in glasses) he would triumph. Rowling LOVED Harry. She loved all the Harry gang. Too much. And it became painfully obvious that these kids were going to win, without a single fatality/crippling sacrifice/crushing loss. That in the end, Voldemort would be beaten, and Harry would marry Ginny, and Ron would marry Hermione and everyone would live happily ever after and make lots of adorable wizard babies.
This was the book Harry ceased being a character and became a caricature. A SUPERHERO. Superheros bore me. I want torment. I want LOSS. I want my heroes to pay a TANGIBLE and TERRIBLE price for their victories. And no, killing tertiary characters doesn't count. (view spoiler)[Digory? The Weasley twin? Even Dumbledore (yeah I know he dies, I got spoiled) is disposable. (hide spoiler)]
I need to believe my heroes could fail. I know they probably won't. I know the good guys will eventually win. But I need to be afraid for them. I need to be scanning the faces of the MAIN characters and wondering "which one of you will be dead/emotionally crippled/hideously disfigured before the final act is over?" And I never believed for a second that Rowling would harm a hair on their heady-head-heads.
If I had to use one word to describe The Little Woods, it would be this:
Other than that, I'm at something of a loss. It's kind of like a sloIf I had to use one word to describe The Little Woods, it would be this:
Other than that, I'm at something of a loss. It's kind of like a slow motion collision between Twin Peaks and Gossip Girl set to a Bikini Kill soundtrack. It's spooky and dark and sad in a wonderful kind of way. It's about death and love and trying to find your way through all the places in between.
The prose is sharp and lyrical and full of 'Jesus, I wish I'd written that' lines. But when you're inside in The Little Woods, it doesn't feel like you're reading a book. It feels like you're being told a story.
Calista Wood is a fantastic protagonist - as perfect and flawed and awesome as any I've read. She's so real, she bleeds on the page. You can hear her when she speaks. She's the kind of girl I suspect I would have been in love with in high school, but I think she would have broken my heart.