Ruthless Magic, by Megan Crewe

 

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When I heard that the upcoming YA fantasy Ruthless Magic, by Megan Crewe was a cross between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter I was pretty darn excited to get an advanced reader’s copy. I have to admit that there were some fascinating aspects of this new magical YA story, although I didn’t feel like the connection between Suzanne Collin’s page-turning thriller and J.K. Rowling’s classic series entirely did Ruthless Magic any great lip service.

Let me explain.

The Skullduggery Effect

Ten years ago, a series came out called Skullduggery Pleasant. In our local bookstore, the marketing copy read “Pick up the new Harry Potter today!” I was initially intrigued, but what I would later discover was a fantastic series in its own rite just… didn’t “do it” for me, because the truth was that Skullduggery Pleasant is not Harry Potter. It’s true that book marketing teams frequently use “comp titles” to help place their new books in the market, sometimes I think that choosing the wrong title to compare a fledgling book to can ruin what might otherwise be a great reading experience. I call this “The Skullduggery Effect.”

Okay, now back to Ruthless Magic. 

A New Magical World

I liked it. I did. The beginning set up a unique, magical world set in New York City. I thought that it was interesting to read about the hierarchy of magicians and the need for the main characters to fight for a spot at the prestigious magical school. Along with some beautiful prose and tantalizing intrigue in the first few chapters, the characters were likeable and felt genuinely “real.” This is a well-written book on many accounts.

But Where’s the Tension?

While the narrative does create a similar feeling of competition between young individuals like in The Hunger Games, the narrative urgency that had been building for such a good, long time at the start of Ruthless Magic is broken when the characters just decide to work together. (You could argue that some characters work together in The Hunger Games too–especially in later instalments of the series–but there was also other intrigue building that tempered this release of tension between previously “warring” characters. As in, my all-time-favourite will-Katniss-and-Peeta-get-together already storyline). While there was some light romance building, the white-hot tension wasn’t quite there. Or maybe, it just didn’t feel the same…

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Is Ruthless Magic a victim of The Skullduggery Effect? I’m not entirely sure. It’s a well-written narrative with some solid moments that were fun to read, but do yourself a favour and ignore the comp titles for a more enjoyable reading experience.

 

 

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Rebirth of the Author

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Blason Poudlard

There are not many topics that my husband and I disagree on, but one topic in particular sends us into a heated debate:

Hermione & Ron or Harry & Hermione?

I’ll admit it.  I was rooting for Harry and Hermione, although by the final book I had come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to happen.  I wasn’t disappointed with the finale of the Harry Potter series either.

J.K. Rowling’s recent announcement that she should have paired up Harry & Hermione at the end has a lot of readers peeved (aka my husband).  As a reader and writer, I have to admit that even though it’s sort of like J.K. Rowling just helped me win a 9-year debate, I’m conflicted.

Just whose story is it? Do authors have the ultimate say or should  they just stay out of the way?

Something Rotten in the Potterverse

It’s easy to see why the Potterverse is churning.  I get it.  It’s hard to hear from your favourite author that she regrets an important plot point.  Not only does it make it harder to read the books knowing that somewhere poor J.K. is kicking herself, but it also just makes the reading experience awkward.

Now that her secret displeasure is out, how can readers enjoy what actually does happen in the books?

In one article, Rowling is even compared to Dolores Umbridge.  That’s a mighty big insult in the Potterverse. For those of you who don’t know about Umbridge, it’s a little bit like if someone said:

“You’re being a tad pseudo-fascist today, did you know?”

Harsh words for a lady who wrote some pretty great stories.

Death of the Author

Should J.K. Rowling leave the books to her loyal fans?  Like the J.K. – Potterfan relationship, it’s complicated.

Roland Barthes, a literary theorist, would say it’s not complicated at all.  In his essay “The Death of the Author,” he argues that once the book is written, the author should not factor into the meaning or importance of the story. He writes:

“The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centred on the author.”

I see his point, I do.  I mean, it’s the story that should be important, not necessarily what the author thinks.  And yet…the author is the first person who experiences the story and enjoys the characters.  It isn’t just fans who love the Potterverse–J.K. Rowling must love it a whole lot too.

Everybody’s Doing It

J.K. Rowling isn’t the only one to express a desire to change her already published books.  In fact, there are a number of pretty famous authors who have gone back and updated their works several years after publication.

Once The Lord of the Rings trilogy became successful, J.R.R. Tolkien went back and edited several parts of his earlier work The Hobbit.  One of the most notable changes is the chapter “Riddles in the Dark,” where after editing, Gollum was no longer quite as eager to bet his precious ring.

Stephen King added several scenes to The Stand years later, as did Mary Shelley with Frankenstein.  Even Charles Dickens changed the ending to Great Expectations some time after it had been out in the world of readers.

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 If Dickens is doing it, it’s kind of hard to argue.  Or, maybe you never liked Dickens and this is more reason to think he is a verbose jerk. Is J.K. Rowling’s new “edit” a literary faux pas or authorial rite of passage?