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THE TRUTH ABOUT HARRY

July 2000
By Paula Guran

Call it fantasy if you want, but we know the truth about J. K. Rowling's fabulously successful Harry Potter series: it's scary. At the very least it's dark fantasy and "horror" might apply as well. The third book, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN was appropriately recognized this spring by the Horror Writers Association for achievement in the field of horror and dark fantasy in the "Work for Young Readers" category. The new book, HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, is even more horrific than its predecessor. Connie Fletcher (a reviewer of children's books and mystery novels for the American Library Association's Booklist and an associate professor of journalism at Loyola University Chicago, NOT a horror maven) headlines her MSNBC review of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE with, "Longer and darker -- but more riveting." She then goes on to write, "No scene just winds down. Horror follows quickly on celebration. Relief at escaping from one danger quickly does a stomach flip as a new, and worse, danger looms. Rowling sustains a tension throughout worthy of Stephen King. . ." So, don't just take OUR word for it.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (UK and US eds.) There was more than just a touch of the macabre in Rowlings' initial Potter volume, but the series has gotten darker with each new title. The first book, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, introduces us to the monstrous muggle family Harry is forced to live with; recounted the murder of Harry's parents at the hands of the evil Lord Voldemort; and offered danger, intrigue, and a three-headed monster guarding the Sorcerer's Stone. In HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, Harry faces deadly danger; deals with spooky, malevolent voices that only he can; ghostly glowing warnings written on the walls ("The Chamber of Secrets Has Been Opened. Enemies of the Heir, Beware"); and giant spiders. With HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN Harry must deal with Sirius Black -- a frightening escaped convict who is believed to have betrayed Harry's parents and is now thought to be after Harry. Meanwhile, Harry is psychologically coping with the violent reality of the deaths of his parents. And there are the sinister Dementors, guards who sense people's emotions then -- with a kiss -- suck everything positive out of their victims. They leave the body alive, but soulless.

I won't give away the plot of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, but it starts in a creepy old house where an entire family was literally frightened to death. Even before you get to Chapter Two, Rowling writes of a character: "He opened his mouth and let out a scream. He was screaming so loudly that he never heard the words the thing in the chair spoke. . . Two hundred miles away, the boy called Harry Potter woke with a start."

Excuse me, but, "Mwahahahaha!" . . .and I haven't even got to the Death Eaters.


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