J.K. Rowling has a little holiday gift for Harry Potter fans.
The first seven chapters of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” launched on Pottermore.com today, with a series of new interactive illustrations featuring some of the characters, places, objects and creatures that populate the third book in the much-loved fantasy series.
Want to learn more about famous Boggarts of the past? Or what Dumbledore gave to Hagrid’s predecessor Professor Kettleburn on his retirement? Or the origin of the wizard adage “I’ll take Cadogan’s pony?” Well, you’re about to be in a wealth of luck, according to a statement issued by the Pottermore folks about the new content.
Rowling announced the creation of Pottermore in 2011, describing the site as a new “online reading experience” in which fans of any age could “share, participate in and rediscover the stories” involving young, intrepid wizard Harry Potter and his closest allies, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, as they attempt to defeat the dark lord Voldemort. (Of course, 2011 also saw the big-screen adventures of Harry and friends draw to a close with the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” the critically acclaimed eighth film that concluded the most successful movie franchise of all time.)
Last year, the Pottermore Shop became the first (and only) place to make available for purchase all seven volumes in the “Harry Potter” series in digital formats.
Life after “Potter” for Rowling has remained busy. She appeared in the opening ceremonies for London’s Olympic Games this summer, and in September, she released her first novel written for adults, “The Casual Vacancy.” Set in a small English town, the story turns on the election for a local council seat in the wake of a man’s death; the contest casts a harsh light on the residents, many of whom are concerned about the proximity of a housing project called the Fields. Tension builds, as Rowling examines classist attitudes and self-interest.
Reviews were mixed. Los Angeles Times critic David Ulin said of “Casual Vacancy”: “The book aspires to be a satire of contemporary culture — complete with references to sex and drugs and the use of my favorite four-letter obscenity — but settles instead for broad caricature,” he wrote.
Having previously conjured a universe of magic for millions of readers, Rowling had prepared herself for the possibility of an onslaught of criticism in the run-up to the novel’s release.
“I just needed to write this book. I like it a lot, I’m proud of it, and that counts for me,” Rowling told the British newspaper the Guardian, admitting that she considered publishing the book under a pseudonym. “But in some ways I think it’s braver to do it like this. And, to an extent, you know what? The worst that can happen is that everyone says, ‘Well, that was dreadful, she should have stuck to writing for kids’ and I can take that. So, yeah, I’ll put it out there, and if everyone says, ‘Well, that’s shockingly bad — back to wizards with you,’ then obviously I won’t be throwing a party. But I will live. I will live.”
– Gina McIntyre
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