I’m a bit of a mystical – magical book lover when it comes down to it. I know this can take a variety of different ‘angles’, there’s lots of slightly different genres – I tend to prefer the ‘fey’. Wizards and spell crafting, evil doers and a whole posse of Elven, Fairy and Brownie folk to light the way.
Does that sound a whole lot Tolkien-esque? I imagine it does, but it is interesting that I was introduced much later to JRR than you might assume and that my imagination had been fired a long long while before I knew the joys of the Shire.
I broke my fantasy reading teeth at about 10 yrs old, on the work of Alan Garner – truly a master of the craft and I stubbornly hold he was a far better, more gripping story teller than JRR even though it became obvious as I grew up, that Mr Garner had undoubtedly been strongly influenced himself by Tolkein.
I remember being annoyed that Gandalf appeared to me to be a work around of Cadellin Silverbrow, and the horror at realising that Gandalf had arrived first!!!! In fact there are many who felt that Garner more than doffed his cap toward the old master, some went so far as to say he downright cloned aspects. However true that may or may not be, I don’t care to have the argument – I loved ‘the Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ and the rest of the series, whereas I had only a milky sorta liking for the Fellowship journey – it was for me, as a youngster, overly long and dark and I have never revisited it in later adulthood. I did however love the films.
I read the Garner stories over and over again- Elidor, the Weirdstone with it’s wands and high magic (and it’s sequel the Moon of Gomrath – a tale of old dark magic), the Owl Service ( you make her flowers but she want’s to be owls) and even Redshift and then preceded to read them to my younger sister and we both gobbled them up. But despite trying, neither of us have ever been able to impart the joy of Garner to our own children – and it is worth saying also, that none of our kids would touch Tolkein with a barge pole -????
I figured that the love of all things magic had just passed them by – but they were saved from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and it’s ilk by something quite extraordinary. Harry Potter.
My eldest son, who is now 26, was at that age when Harry was hardly known at all, and was reading them before the books became a leviathan franchise – and he waited impatiently for each new book to be released. By the time he had read them all, my sister’s eldest, now 18, followed in his footsteps and quickly became a Potter buff too and latterly my sister also defected from Garner to Rowling – having read all the Potter books to two offspring and read them herself, twice over- she firmly established them as the magical book series par excellence. I was having none of it. I was a purist and a stubborn one at that – I wasn’t interested in this boy upstart.
It wasn’t at all difficult to encourage my eldest son to read. JK Rowling was pretty much pushing on an open door where he was concerned. But my youngest son, now 13, he was a much tougher nut to crack because he hated reading and was particularly bored by fiction.
Only this last academic year was he brought, by his English teacher, kicking and screaming to the Potter book club – only, miraculously he read the first 3 in quick succession and has had the 4th bought as a Christmas present. Holy Impossibility Batman surely? But no. He’s really liked them. Not loved them he says, but very definitely liked them.
So, given the fact that the plaster cast on my hand this Christmas pretty much put paid to anything more interesting, I took it upon myself to read Harry Potter. Not all of it – just the first book. And it was ok. I was pleased there was more detail and roundness to it than was in the film even though I was impressed to see that the film was pretty true to it overall. I didn’t love it. I don’t think I can be bothered to read any more of it and it felt to me like toy town magic – I wasn’t scared of ‘you know who’ and I didn’t believe in Harry and co, nor felt their angst and danger but more importantly, Albus Dumbledore did not carry the wand with gravitas like Gandalf or Cadellin – in fact he seemed a bit puny.
Another aspect that I wasn’t expecting was that I assumed as the children ran through the none existent platform at King Cross, they were transported to a parallel universe, only I now realise that Wizardy pure bloods live hand to jowl next to muggles and I was slightly put out by the notion that there was no special magical world. Now the exact same thing is true in the Weirdstone – but unlike Muggle-land, Alderley Edge imparted magic, legend and folklore in a way that Stoke Poges just can’t match.
I may have forced myself to read a bit more of the series, just to say I’d done it – if I hadn’t been side tracked by the prospect of another journey with the most majilicus of wizards, Matlock the Hare.
I may have let this trilogy pass me by completely had it not been for the most wonderful artwork that accompanies the series by Jacqui Lovesey. Having seen her work and the website of Matlock – I realise that illustrations do not have to be banished to the children’s section alone; her work is so evocative, I wonder why more authors don’t consider it.
I’ve only just started part 1 of the trilogy and I do hope it holds up to my expectation. I follow Jacqui on instagram and I was so taken with the way the story and pictures call to you – I was even prepared to excuse the fact that the wizard is a hare.
It is different, even the liberal smattering of new vocabulary makes it at once curiously addictive and off putting all at the same time. I’m prepared to be won over, transported and enchanted – every evening before bed!
Let the wand waving commence……