As an English grammar Nazi with an interest in creative writing, I have always been leery of fan-fiction. But since I’ve finally decided to dabble in it myself, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce myself to that world and check out some other fan-fiction writers.
I began with the first book in G. Norman Lippert’s James Potter series. I may have spoiled myself by doing so because this book was so far above the caliber of what I expected from my journey. It was well-written.
The prologue felt identical to the prologues from any of the Potter books in pacing and style. (The prologue to the second book does, too, because I’ve already read that far into it to know.) I was seriously impressed by those prologues. After that, it does become obvious in ways I can’t really place that Lippert is not Rowling–but not in a bad way! It’s still a good, solid story, just told by someone else. Lippert has a firm enough grasp on the wizarding world that it really felt like I was back inside it again. I felt like I was at Hogwarts. And from time to time I did forget that I was not reading an official, canon sequel.
There were a few things that bothered me about this book, but never enough to quit reading. I feel like Lippert’s handle of Rowling’s characters was not as strong as it could have been. At times it was dead on, but at other times their actions and their words felt somehow off to me–probably just because they are not his characters and no one can write them quite like JKR can. Lippert’s original characters and “original characters” (those official ones who didn’t appear much in the HP series) were unique and interesting, however! There was one teacher in particular who returned to America at the end of the book and whom I hope we get to see more of. I found that character particularly engaging.
That brings me to America. It was interesting to see some of the Americanisms that Lippert brought into the world, though as a whole I don’t really feel like they added to or took away from the story that much. Almost none of the major plot elements were affected at all by America’s presence at Hogwarts, and it just felt sort of tacked on and overdone in that regard, especially since one of the main characters is already American, which felt a bit distracting. I realize this character was based on Lippert’s son, for whom he wrote the story, but constantly being reminded of America kept lifting me back out of Hogwarts. That said, the character is charming.
There were definitely some logical inconsistencies and plot holes. If a secret passage is brand new and no one has ever used it before, how do you know what happens when you go through it on one side or the other or even where it leads? Unfortunately, one major part of the plot depended on an object that was memorably lost and subsequently destroyed in the HP books suddenly being recovered and given to a child as a Christmas present by two characters who would never have wanted this object placed in another person’s hands. That destroyed a great deal of the believability for me. It’s strange that the author missed this, since I can tell from so many other little details throughout this first book that he had read the original series very carefully and lovingly.
Grammar issues were minor and few, though considering it is the title of the book, it does bother me that the apostrophe in the word “Elders” never managed to figure out where it wanted to be. I still don’t know if there was supposed to be one Elder or many.
Some really cool things Lippert did were introducing notable characters from history and fiction and creating an entirely new class. This class purported to use science to explain how magic worked–basically it was the same as what I understand of alchemy, and he came to many of the same conclusions as I have about the way HP’s magic works, though with much greater detail. I was really impressed by this.
I was also very impressed by Lippert’s view of the politics of this future wizarding world. There’s a group called the Progressive Element loudly proclaiming (and rightly so) that history is written by the victors and they should be questioned. This created several scenes that made me highly uncomfortable (in a good way, because the words stirred me to it) and even angry. I found myself positively fuming a few times. How dare this Progressive Element talk about my Harry Potter this way and diminish his and everyone’s sacrifices!? Anyway, the book points out how it’s impossible to really know anyone’s motives. Some of these people are probably well-meaning and misguided, while others are probably megalomaniacal racists. We just don’t know.
On that note, though, there’s a certain direction this series is leading that I’m very displeased with because if it goes there, and I think it will, while it could be interesting in and of itself, it completely invalidates everything that happened in the books before it. And that leaves me with a very hollow feeling. I can’t say too much without giving spoilers, but it looks as though it is going to undo certain things that were done in the entire previous series, and I just can’t be cool with that. That just isn’t what fan-fiction should do, in my opinion.
Overall, I enjoyed it and at this point I am intending to read the series through to its current end.