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The Magical World of



all 7
locations creatures magic + spells characters items book 1 book 2 book 3 book 4 book 5 book 6 book 7 JKR


Welcome to Solomon's Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter ! You'll find below brief details of the many areas of the site here, and reviews of the later films and books, including "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince".

It has taken us a *long* time to map out this site! but the Harry Potter books are complex, especially with so many interlinks and different themes. You should be able to get a fairly good idea now from clicking on underlined words or numbers on any of our pages, how comprehensively the whole site has been designed to fit together.

Sol's Guide to Harry Potter has, without doubt, been the most complex and multi-layered resource we have ever created - see the "about us" page for site-wide pagebuilding info.

Thanks for all the positive comments on this website! We appreciate everyone's patience during the (now completed) re-structuring of this area which has made it possible to fully engineer the set-ups to enable linking of keywords and themes across all the chapters of Books 1 to 7.

You'll find links in the graphics table below [on all site pages] to the following areas:

all 7
locations creatures magic + spells characters items book 1 book 2 book 3 book 4 book 5 book 6 book 7 JKR

  • the books - an index to pages relating to every chapter of all seven books, with direct links to chapter details fully on line

  • locations - details about the different "places" which appear in the stories

  • creatures - somewhere to "track back" on the huge variety of creatures

  • spells - a way of remembering which spells were used where and when and by which character

  • characters - the huge complicated range of people who appear in the stories, some mentioned only briefly but re-appearing later when you've half forgotten who they were .....

  • items - details about "items" which could be anything from sherbet lemons to earmuffs .....

  • rowling - a special page about J.K. Rowling (more details below)

  • A huge Index page for Characters, for the chapters keyworded so far.

    Our page for J.K. Rowling includes:

  • a link to the official Bloomsbury site where you can join the Harry Potter Web Club and get a birthday e-mail signed by J.K. Rowling;

  • info about the two extra books "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and "Quidditch through the Ages" (not part of the series of 7) that Jo wrote in aid of Comic Relief [published worldwide on 12 March 2001];

  • her role as an Ambassador for One Parent Families.

  • details of Jo's handwritten "teaser card" about the plot of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", auctioned at Sotheby's in December 2002 to raise funds for Book Aid International

  • a link to Jo's *personal* desktop. Jo's website has been extensively redesigned and you'll find actual text she was persuaded to leave out of the books and a lot of background stuff that never got included. Plus masses of interesting bits of info ....

  • This Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter is in Area 13 at Project HappyChild, which links children all across the world. To find out more about our reasons for creating this Guide, and for links to the many other free resources on line at Project HappyChild, please click here.

    Best regards,

    Sol                   06/07/08

    please see the 'special note for visitors to Sol's Guide' of 1st July 2008

    Update - 21st April 2023 - *50* wordsearch puzzles for Harry Potter Characters
    (these went on line on 1st September 2022 - and there's a full list of over 750 Harry Potter Characters)

    First review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" [Film 8]

    Well, after the disappointing "first half" ... we nearly didn't bother going to see this one. Added to which, a friend had said, "don't waste your time - they've gone massively away from the book".

    But we went, anyway. Wouldn't have felt quite right, not to see this through (and not to write a review of *some* sort, for the site pages here).

    Things didn't start well. Everything "dimly-lit" like the first film of Book 7, and the sound just-about audible over a very full cinema with plenty of crunching and rustling going on right across the board. But *because* you couldn't hear it properly (well, I couldn't, anyway) there was the need to really focus. Wasn't just me, the guy on my right was leaning forward trying to catch what was being said, and he wasn't the only one, by any means.

    The first 20-30 minutes was "a bit of a struggle" and then somewhere (the Gringotts episode with the multiplying commodities?) it just all got more interesting, and more absorbing, and I was hooked after that. Things were a bit incomprehensible at times, without entirely logical sequences, or seemingly, but we were swept into the storyline in a way that went beyond the other films, somehow, and you just watched, fascinated, right up till the epilogue, or more or less. And this final film was "a fitting end", to the saga.

    I think Warner Bros may have sold the audience short with its "two films" - I was astonished to discover on leaving the cinema today, that the "part two" film had taken barely two hours (seemed a lot longer). If someone had compressed the "part one" film into an hour, say, and put it in front of the second half, then the three-hour film of the whole of book seven would in all likelihood have been at least as good as the earlier six films.

    On balance today's film was "okay", more than okay, and I'm glad we went. The storyline may have wandered away from book seven (don't recall precisely, will re-read again at some stage) but as a film it "worked", and went a long way towards balancing out the "first half". If JKR had wanted the storyline in eight separate blocks, she'd have written eight separate books :/

    Anyway, 'tis done, and don't miss this last film-episode, even if you were as disappointed as we were with the "first half" of book seven. This was a "gripping" film in a way that the others weren't, and though if you'd read the book you knew perfectly well that somehow the ending would be okay, whilst watching it you couldn't be absolutely sure ..... After "the first half" I never expected to say this, but "part two" is well worth watching, and I for one will be watching it again.

    © Penny Rollo   29th July 2011   22:18

    First review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1" [Film 7]

    We went to see this film some weeks ago now - so why no review, before now?

    Not a lot to say, really. The opening was stark and entirely lacked the deft touch of previous Harry Potter films ... and the rest of it wasn't much better, to be honest. A lot of dimly-lit scenes where you couldn't really see quite what was happening - and a fair amount that simply "dragged", for want of any better description.

    I delayed writing anything in the hope that somehow I'd find something more constructive to say about it - but the over-riding impression was that the decision to split this book into "two films" might have generated "more money" but it certainly hasn't done the audience any favours.

    One can only hope that the second film of book 7 (part 2) is going to be so very much better that it somehow makes up for a comparatively-disappointing "part 1". It was "watchable" ... it just wasn't up to Warner Brothers' usual standards as seen in the first six Harry Potter films.   Sorry :/

    © Penny Rollo   6th February 2011   20:20

    First review of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" [Film 6]

    I didn't get to see "film six" until its very last showing at my local cinema. 11am on a Sunday morning - cheap seats, and very few other people there. Why delay so long before going to see it? Don't know, really, just that "the magic" seemed to have gone out of Harry Potter, a little, somehow.

    Soooo glad I went. Much of this film is wonderfully put-together, and the quality of the writing (screenplay again by Steve Kloves, I'm told) is extraordinarily high. Carefully crafted to appeal to a wide range of ages, there are many subtle undercurrents and some very dry humour in places. Definitely a film for adults as well as children.

    Fairly action-packed from start to finish, the London scenes are, as usual, stunning, and the audience is swept along in the rapid pace of events as the battle between good and evil grows in intensity. Infinite care has been taken with so many scenes - like Snape's unbreakable vow with Narcissa Malfoy - beautifully portrayed - and the special effects throughout the film are of very high quality. This film has so many "different" qualities to recommend it - the high level of the acting, the oh-so-skillful interweaving of all the different facets of the story, the frequent humorous interludes that balance the darker episodes, and the stunning sets and backdrops to action scenes.

    Curiously there were one or two instances where things just "hung" at the end of a scene - somewhere early in the film, a scene between the teenagers, and again at the end where everything was brought together so very carefully, all the loose ends tied up, and then just "nothing". Followed swiftly by credits appearing with backdrops and music that would have been better placed at the end of a sixties-style beach-holiday movie. Mood entirely broken, and one wonders at the absence of the haunting Harry-Potter-music and the many images that could have completed this film so much more successfully.

    Such factors aside, the film is most enjoyable and very much brings to life the essence of book six. Creating "any" of the Harry Potter films - where nearly every member of the audience knows the story before the film even starts - must be a huge challenge, but as usual Warner Brothers have gone to town and done a very good job. For me the screenplay was the most outstanding factor, but the character portrayals and quality of the sets and rather more detailed "action scenes" have made this a film to remember. And yes, like everyone else, I will be buying the DVD as soon as it comes out :)

    © Penny Rollo   21st September 2009   1.44am

    Review of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" [Film 5]

    "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" builds on the success of film four, with rapid immersion in the action, and it's almost as if no time has passed at all since you were watching the last Harry Potter film. As before it's taken as read that the audience is fully up to speed on everything that has happened previously, with the result that no time is wasted and we're all taken by the scruff of the neck and dumped straight back into the story.

    And it's eminently watchable :) Delightfully so, with broomsticks through London curiously reminiscent of recent 'Doctor Who' London-based scenes; adeptly-portrayed Dementors bringing menace and despair into the storyline early on; fear and courage and exhilaration and the highs and lows of emotion all brought swiftly into the meld as we see how the characters have all developed "one year on".

    The teenage scenes are thoroughly enjoyable, with much of the dialogue exactly how teenagers interconnect. In a cinema audience which, it has to be said, was largely composed of teenagers and adults, there were frequent ripples of laughter and somehow the balance had been skillfully struck between "a fantasy for children" and engaging at every level the interest of the rest of us non-children who follow these films just as avidly as the kids do.

    Imelda Staunton as Delores Umbridge was notable, and an inspired choice for the role. There had been some curiosity as to how this significantly-unpleasant character would be portrayed - probably the most distasteful one that JKR has come up with, for there is a distinction between a person who chooses to be cruel, and a thoroughly-evil one who cannot choose otherwise - but the role was perfectly judged and very much brought home how deliberately-unkind an individual can be whilst appearing "terribly politically correct" on the surface.

    Of course she met her end in a suitable fashion with the audience grimly delighted to see her get her just desserts - there was curiously more of a triumph there than in other "action sequences" later in the film, which seemed just a little rushed and chaotic - the over-riding memory of Umbridge remaining, still, one has to say, that "fixed smile", like Tony Blair or the Cheshire Cat from "Alice in Wonderland".

    This was of course just one character in a film filled with noteworthy individuals - too many to mention, and the acting of a high calibre throughout. Ron was "less overwrought" in this film, than previously, and there seemed more substance to many of the portrayals - most of the actors having now grown thoroughly-comfortable with roles they have played in all five films. Dumbledore came across as previously as just-a-little-less-likeable than at the very beginning of the series, but the deeper understanding now that the distancing has been deliberate, to pave the way for the developments that are to follow in due course.

    A power-packed film that, as always, more than does justice to the book. Exceptional use of music to heighten tensions in the storyline, and we are largely swept along from start to finish in an unending sequence of developments. Hardly pause for breath! ... the odd pall, here and there, perhaps mainly due to the complexity of trying to convey so many of JKR's themes and people and disparate locations and actual developments in such a short space of time - but overall a hugely successful film and, like the four that preceded it, will be for many people watchable time and time again.

    © Penny Rollo   14th August 2007   6.30 pm

    First review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" [Book 7]

    Book Seven. Almost disinclined to write this review, having not read all of it yet and keen to find out more! - yet the sense of the need to commit to paper the total immersion in "all things Harry Potter" again, before the book resolves and the moment has passed, perhaps for ever.

    The reader is dumped straight into the action this time, from the outset, and not a moment nor a word is wasted in building the story, with so many of the previous characters brought swiftly into play. Both love and deepest hate are expressed in the book's first 100 or so pages, and our senses are assaulted by so very many different types of emotions one on top of the other.

    These are "our characters", our fabric - JKR has swept her readership in the preceding six books into total immersion and involvement in this complex, intricately-interwoven meld of many themes - has even dedicated this final book in part to the individual reader - and now we are at her mercy in many ways, able only to watch from the sidelines as the outcomes she has selected, begin to unfold.

    Curiously, even from the very early stages of reading book seven, there was a sense of "is there a double blind here", "have we been misled about someone in particular", though no way of knowing yet what the resolution might fully be. Meanwhile barely pause for thought whilst tangible danger besets so many, whilst lives are seemingly-casually snuffed out, whilst pure and impure love and motives and anguish and fear and good and bad are piled steadily and unremittingly into an ever-increasing recap of all the characters and events that we have come to know in all the previous books.

    And everyone is reading this *together*. According to BBC news, this book has been released simultaneously in 93 countries. If the queues at our local Asda and Tesco last night are anything to go by (likely to have been mirrored in each and every location the books were being made available) there are millions upon millions of children and adults all now reading this one final story. At the same time. If ever there were to be a "resonance" of human thought, this is it. Now.

    One wonders where Rowling has planned to take her readers on this, the final stage of the journey. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin's rats she could just as easily take us off the edge of the cliff - or she can, as we trust, lead us collectively into a resolution where good triumphs against the dark forces; one where holding to what is right and true is somehow enough to prevail against evil; and one which restores and validates our belief in "doing the right thing" no matter what the interim costs of that.

    At this point in the book the "interim costs" are racking up, and there will have been dismay and tears amongst younger readers at least, at developments so far - and there is also the sense of a certain deliberateness in bringing more adult themes into play as the children for whom Rowling wrote at the outset, themselves are leaving their childhood behind.

    Never before in the history of the human race has one single author held in her hands the trust of so many, not just the belief that she will have protected "our heroes", the characters that collectively we all want to see win through, but also that she will somehow have found a way to validate our beliefs in the underlying morals of this series of seven books.

    Let alone, of course, have found a way to draw together the carefully-laid threads of the final resolution never mind providing a fast-paced story for book seven itself as our heroes make their way through the tasks that face them and complete their quests. At the time of writing there is so very much going on in the story, and so many inter-related facets and inter-relationships amongst characters all being brought into play at the same time, that it is becoming almost impossible to quite keep everything in mind at once, but there is the underlying confidence that somehow it "does all fit together" and that Jo Rowling will not only have engineered an unforgettable outcome but also have provided a fitting conclusion to an ongoing saga the like of which the world may never see again.

    © Penny Rollo   21st July 2007   1.30 pm

    Review of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" [Film 4]

    "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is a whole new experience of Harry Potter, and vastly different to the films that preceded it. "Fast paced" would be an understatement! and if you have read the book thoroughly - however long ago - you will find recollections of it rapidly springing to the surface.

    The speed at which the pre-Hogwarts sequences are covered, at the beginning of the film, is simply breathtaking ..... yet the new Director (Mike Newell) has a deft, sure touch, succeeding in bringing the essence of the events to the screen without spending a disproportionate amount of time on them. On recalling reading book 4, it took so *long* before the book actually got to Hogwarts itself ..... the film is entirely different, with viewers dumped straight into an awesome series of lavish sets where the scale seems hugely magnified and the audience is caught up in the events from the very outset.

    No "gentle lead in", on this film! Of all the books so far, this has to have been the most taxing one to write a screenplay for, if only because of the sheer volume of text and range of happenings ..... yet its translation into film is a sheer triumph, with enough covered "at speed" to leave time for scenes which need to be played out at a slower pace, further along the story.

    It's also different in that it clearly takes as read that the audience will probably have read books 1-4 and seen films 1-3. Rarely has a Director taken such liberties with not introducing his characters or events .... yet it *works*, and tangibly so - we start off virtually with "edited highlights" yet these are more than enough to capture the relevant parts of the story and bring us through to the Goblet of Fire itself.

    Not only are the established characters "familiar" but (for the older members of the audience at least) the inspired choices of Eric Sykes at the beginning, and Frances de la Tour further along, brought old favourites firmly into the picture. One of the leading qualities of the Harry Potter films has been the number of excellent actors and actresses who have been included along the way. Of course the choice of actor for Barty Crouch Junior brings another "Doctor Who" connection into the whole saga .... a curious coincidence when taken together with our comments on Book Six :)

    And the particular highlights of this film? Where does one start! The early portkey episode, the teenage-love-awkwardness scenes, Draco Malfoy's comeuppance, the dragon sequences, the maze ..... and, it has to be said, the more "unpleasant" factors of the story. Where awkward issues have to be dealt with, this is done very effectively - this film has no "half measures" - but there is so much else to balance these out, so many other scenes within the film where humour is brought in at every possible level and where much more is continuously drawn from the actors than previously, certainly in films 1 and 2.

    Perhaps we're still missing Richard Harris, but Dumbledore really came across quite oddly, particularly the seemingly-flat-and-stretched robes, the strange beard and whatever accent he has. Difficult to define exactly what was "missing", just that for us he came across as "less believable" in the role. The other established characters were excellent, as usual! and the new characters superbly portrayed, particularly Madame Maxine and Rita Skeeter, with the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang costumes - and casting - both outstanding.

    Of all the films, this one was probably the "hardest to get right" and dually is one of the most significant in terms of the events that have to be portrayed and the rising of the dark forces. It's not really one for younger children - can't be, because of the issues it deals with - but it achieves everything it sets out to, and more. We found it a delightful film - sad, inevitably, in places, but utterly memorable and effectively capturing all those aspects of book four that had lapsed from recall in the interim. Warner Brothers have achieved the almost-impossible, this time :)

    And the foundations are firmly in place for films five to seven. There is a certain sadness in knowing there is "only one more book left" and only three more films ..... but also a certain satisfaction in knowing the films are "in safe hands" and that they will do justice to the events that follow. I, for one, am "in no hurry" for book seven to materialise, or film 5 ..... we're just in that "middle ground" at present and being caught up in the excitement of Harry Potter developments is an experience that no other generation will be part of in the way that we are.

    © Penny Rollo   4th December 2005   7.00 am

    First Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    After nine days where the attention of the world has been focussed on Kings Cross, and the tragic loss of life after the bombings, it was a slightly weird experience to go out at midnight last night and buy a book where Kings Cross - the location of Platform Nine-and-three-quarters - provides one of the gateways to the magical world.

    London is such a focus of the Harry Potter books ..... the entrance to Diagon Alley is in London; Gringotts is said to be located deep below the London Underground; Dumbledore has a scar above his left knee which is "a perfect map of the London Underground". I was slightly disconcerted to discover from the book jacket of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" - for probably the only time, I bought the "adult version" which has an understated black cover, enfolding a perfectly-ordinary black book - that Jo Rowling had the original idea for the Harry Potter Books on a journey travelling to - wait for it - King's Cross.

    I'd taken the dust jacket off, to protect it whilst reading Book Six. The black-covered boards under it were somewhat shabby and I was, to be truthful, a little dismayed ..... then rationalised that that probably wasn't very important, in the overall scheme of things. It *did* strike me though, that such a boring-looking book might be ideal reading for the tube, where adults might be a little disinclined to sit visibly-reading one of the standard kids-version brightly-coloured Harry Potter books.

    Tube journeys. Everything here (near to London and with our own "Underground" station) is still slightly surreal - those of you greatly distanced from the City of London and the London Underground may perhaps have been less affected by the events of recent days but maybe not. For me at least, the release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" carries with it disconcerting reminders of all sorts of London-related factors ..... and also that we - just like Harry and his friends battling for good against the dark forces - need to be ever-vigilant and determined that good will win out, regardless.

    And the book itself? What of that? (for I know that's why you're reading this!) ..... well, so far it's *awesome*. Fascinating from the word go - curiously reminiscent of recent London-focused "Doctor Who" episodes where the "real world" and the "other world" interlink on many levels.

    For me, the opening chapters of Book Six had quite as much impact as the opening chapters of Book One (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) - this is the first book since then which engages the reader from the word go - not so much "dramatic action" as the "concepts" factor. Bit difficult to explain without giving away the storyline! - but you'll understand when you read it. And do *not* - absolutely not! - read any chapter summaries anywhere before you read the book itself!!

    Part of the attraction of the initial part of this book - probably much as in Book One - is the parallel worlds factor. Dually though, for us here at Sol's Guide, we've been working intensively on the first nine chapters of Book One for the "keywording" and interlinking for the site here ..... have a look around the site (click on underlined numbers as well as underlined words) to see what it is we're oh-so-slowly putting together :)

    Having been thoroughly immersed in Book One, and now reading through the first chapters of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, it became clear very quickly that many of those little loose ends so apparently-carelessly strewn about Book One are being picked up again ..... and there is some degree of awe that *anyone* could have planned this series of seven books quite so meticulously and thoroughly.

    The ever-informative book jacket also explained that Jo Rowling spent five *years* outlining the plots for the books and beginning to write Book One. By some curious coincidence (we started this in August 2000) it has also taken us five years to finally fathom out how to build this area properly! Lots of starts-and-stops along the way but if you explore the visible areas of the site now, you should start to grasp what is going to be possible when we finally fit all of this together.

    As for Book Six ..... so far it's delightful. I defy anyone to read it without laughing out loud! not once but probably many times. It has its share of unpleasant issues here and there along the way, but then all the great epics - and indeed the major religious books - have good forces and bad forces. A few lines from a poem come to mind:

    "The dark threads are as needful
    In the Weaver's skillful hand
    As the threads of gold and silver
    In the pattern He has planned.

    That poem would seem to be about God and the way the tapestry of life is put together - and the fact that life itself has "good bits and bad bits". There's been a lot written by religious commentators on the wizardry factor included in the Harry Potter books, but the fact remains that the books are strongly moral and whilst they deal with mythical issues like dark wizards and dragons and good and bad spells [rather than hard drugs and terrorists and abject poverty and the many other problems confronting the world today] they illuminate the contrasting values of good and evil in an absorbing and fast-paced saga that both children and adults can relate to - as underscored by their astonishing success worldwide, and the simple fact that none of us, the readers, want "the bad guys" to win.

    Jo Rowling has surpassed herself with this latest book and whilst one cannot even guess at the developments and outcomes of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (there are so many factors already running at this point in the story it is difficult to keep up!) there is an underlying confidence that our heroes are "mainly safe" and that somehow, at some point, by the end of Book Seven, good will have triumphed and we will have read over a thousand more action-packed pages in the process.

    Savour this book! we here have been conscious of "slowing down our reading", deliberately, on Book Six, like savouring a fine wine the like of which one tastes only rarely. Only one more book due after this! and whilst all seven books will undoubtedly be re-readable to the nth degree, the first reading of each is undoubtedly the best, and one which you should take at your leisure.

    Copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will even now as this review is being written, be arriving at homes around the world, as well as still being snapped up at supermarkets and bookshops. If you're better-off than most, please buy an extra copy for your local library! (loads of kids in families on benefits/welfare won't get to read the book otherwise, this side of Christmas).

    Spare a thought also for those for whom Kings Cross has brought such depths of sorrow this last week, and maybe make a small donation to the London bombings relief fund here. Good versus evil is an enduring theme and one which has a particular relevance for all of us right now.

    © Penny Rollo   16th July 2005   7.00 am

    Review of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" [Film 3]

    We were lucky enough to go to see this film on the same day as discovering Jo's personal website .... weird coincidence! And both delightful experiences.

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is *so* different from the films that went before it ..... just "freed up" for want of any better way to describe it. There's less "formality" and more spontaneity; our "one-year-older" actors are more comfortable in their roles and there's a surprising amount of humour with ripples of laughter spreading across the audience at UGC cinema, Harlow, last night.

    Film 3 is maybe not *quite* as true to the book as were the previous epics .... it's an "edited version" but it brings out so much more of the essence of the storyline. The Marauders Map is a triumph, as indeed is the Knight Bus; director Alfonso Cuarón has added a new dimension in bringing JKR's creations to life.

    The whole film is very fast-moving and the humour inherent throughout the books is mirrored in what happens on the screen; dually though there is a much greater degree of artistic beauty in the scenes of the film and greater depth to the "magical world" we are coming to know so well.

    Undoubtedly the "child actors" score over the adults in this film; the scenes with Harry, Hermione, Ron and Malfoy are memorable with all four actors much more naturally expressive, and the Weasley twins are delightful. Amongst the adults, Hagrid and Professor Lupin are outstanding and there is somehow much more depth to the main characters' portrayal of their roles.

    Don't miss this film! it takes the whole Harry Potter experience a great deal further. There's a surprising amount of precision in the "dual time" scenes and a growing respect for a Director who managed to portray the whole Patronus / stag episode with such clarity. Let alone the Dementors .....

    The only thing lacking was enough Quidditch! But no doubt there will be more of that in the films to follow. One is more than ever aware that this film is just one seventh of the "whole story"; Warner Brothers have surpassed themselves again and we are eagerly looking forward to Film Four ....

    It is perhaps interesting that Jo Rowling has chosen this moment in time to "open up" about the books, on her personal website (see our J K Rowling page). There have been five books and three films, so we are just over half-way-through the total block of 14 main Harry Potters (7 books and 7 films). No doubt Jo has to some extent had to yield to the wishes of book editors and film directors in the "finished versions" of both the books and the films so far, and she has chosen *now* to launch her website along the lines of "well, actually ....."

    A delightful development. There is very much the feeling that she's "back on track" and actively enjoying all aspects of all of this. The films are defining and deepening the portrayal of her creations and she finally has an "independent voice" and a way of speaking directly to *all* of us, quite separately from any limitations imposed by publishers or filmmakers on her "finished works". Somehow there is the impression that her involvement with all-things-Harry-Potter won't end when that seventh book is written, or even when the seventh film is out .....

    © Penny Rollo   10th June 2004  12.15pm

    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix : first review

    Having headed the queue at our local Tesco at one minute past midnight today, we were privileged to buy the first two copies at the store (and our thanks to Richard behind the check-out who located copies without discount price stickers!).

    The queue wasn't very long (but extraordinary for Tesco at that time of night!) and there was an excited buzz as first the cardboard boxes clearly labelled with the time stamp were hefted out onto the surface behind the checkout and then at just after midnight, the first display stand was wheeled past the waiting queue, laden with its keenly-awaited cargo of brightly-coloured tomes.

    We bought two copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - extravagance perhaps! but with a family of four it seemed the only democratic way to ensure that there was likely to be enough reading material to go around :) And we knew that there would be no problem finding a home for that second book in due course ..... can't anticipate that many copies of book five will *ever* make their way onto jumble sale displays! - and realistically there isn't a local library on the planet which wouldn't accept a "free copy" of an already-read book five with open arms.

    So what *is* book 5 like? Speaking for myself, I only read the first eleven and a half pages before handing it over to someone else in the family who ploughed through the first 100 pages - but then I got it back and made it through to 75 before finally relinquishing it bleary-eyed and standing it up on the printer by the computer to wait until the morning.

    Well done to Bloomsbury for a substantially-sturdy cover which more than supports its huge weight of pages :) This is "quite a book" as production runs go - and you get the feeling it's not going to come apart at the seams however many readers wade their way through its contents.

    "Contents!" (I can hear you ask). "What's it *like*! What's it *about*!"

    Well, it's as delightfully readable as the first four. I had already laughed aloud within the block of the first few pages I read initially, and although to begin with there was a curious difficulty in re-adapting to Jo Rowling's unique style of writing, and the thoughts of "has someone edited this? it seems a stiffer style of text than the other books!" it wasn't long before all that melted away and absorption in the story took over.

    "Action-packed" is the first definitive comment that can be made. *Whatever* you do, don't read this book before you read the first four! You'll find that whatever you remember of those books (and I found the recall of those came flooding back) will deepen your enjoyment of the fast-moving developments of the first few chapters.

    JKR's writing is always fast-moving (even in books one to four I had always been struck by how effectively she uses words, to convey not only what's happening but the way the characters are experiencing things) but I was deeply aware when first starting to read book five, how carefully-constructed each paragraph was and how evocative the descriptions, like each word was there deliberately to call up a certain response. Of course when one starts to get into the story, you lose the awareness of that to a certain degree, but it's probably still there nonetheless even if you stop noticing it because of trying to keep pace with the sheer pace of developments and the wealth of new characters that appear :)

    For the first time ever, an author is writing for an immediate audience of many *millions* who are already familiar with her characters and the "story so far". That's an extraordinary privilege - but also a huge responsibility because of the awareness of the vast "age range" (and academic-background or otherwise) of the people she knows will be reading the book. Writing for a "hoped for" audience (in those first early days when her daughter Jessica was tiny) is quite a different prospect from writing for this huge block of humanity already entranced by her writings.

    And that's quite clear when you read book five; the writing has gone "up a level" in the sense not only of effective use of words but also in the volume of new elements being brought into play, as if JKR is at last comfortable with this "already interactive" relationship with her readers and is playing on that to the full. In a way I'm grateful that we have to share the books here! - for the time lags in between will give enough time to not only absorb all the new developments (and characters) but also extend the overall timescale of experiencing this long-awaited fifth instalment.

    Jo Rowling has been extraordinarily successful in balancing the needs of not only her huge and intensely-varied "audience" - but also, in a way, her primary "characters". The unpredictability of teenagers is clearly mirrored in Harry's often surprising views on life and reaction to developments - initially Rowling was probably "writing for 11-year-olds" and now she isn't, and that takes some adjusting to.

    Yet in absorbing that "things have changed" (and that the humour is definably more "adult" in places, whilst hand in hand with the enjoyable slapstick that typified her earlier writings) there is a deepening respect for her capability to adjust to "Harry's" changing needs as well as our own.

    JKR's sheer delight in actually constructing the story is as evident as it ever was - you get the feeling she enjoys writing this as much as we enjoy reading it! - but dually there is this awareness that she's actively balancing a significant amount of "load factors" in order to draw forth a story which meets the needs of *all* its readers as well as doing justice to the potential of the storyline.

    In the process Jo Rowling herself is changing - all that goes with a new husband and new baby and a daughter growing up, has to be weighed against the demands of an unheard-of size of audience for a highly-intricate piece of writing which draws together everything that has gone before and lays the framework for what is yet to follow in books six and seven. Clearly she has achieved this for book five is published and has been disseminated worldwide - yet one wonders at the load factor she has been through and the fact that she has apparently emerged smiling and clear-headed at the end of it all.

    I have the feeling that Volume Five will offer up everything we are expecting of it - and more! - but I suspect that JKR has put everything she has to give into this, and will need the months ahead to recharge before embarking on the last two volumes. Definably Jo Rowling is eminently capable of mustering the self-discipline required to complete the series [even if financially she need never take up a pen again!] but the pendulum has swung towards the needs of the audience and one hopes that her joy in writing will never be dissipated in the process of fulfilling everyone else's expectations.

    © Penny Rollo   21st June 2003   11am

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