Wishing for More ‘Harry Potter’? We’ve Got the Cure

3 Books to make you miss Harry Potter a little less

On Sunday, America’s favorite commercial delivery system (the Super Bowl, of course) included a spot for “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” — a new attraction slated to open at Universal Orlando in the next few months.

You can hardly blame Universal for trying to capitalize on the Harry Potter franchise in a big way. After all, the Harry Potter story has sold more than 400 million books; grossed more than $5 billion in movie revenues; and even had a slew of tie-in products, from video games to action figures. With the Universal park being one of many hot-spot attractions for vacationers, it’s a good bet that many Harry Potter fans are planning their next big trip around a visit to “”The Wizarding World.”

I’ll admit — it actually sounds pretty fun. But for those who may find travel to a theme park out of the question, whether on a cost basis, a time crunch, or challenged by geography, I wanted to humbly offer up three ways for fans to scratch their Harry Potter itch. I’d humbly submit that reading books — the foundation of the Potter franchise, after all — that are in some way evocative or grew from a similar spirit as J.K. Rowling’s monster hit may be a better solution than roller coaster rides, Wii games, or even jelly beans.

Here are three titles I’ve found that are perhaps less “all ages,” but no less enjoyable, than the Harry Potter series. But that’s okay — I’d imagine many of Harry’s younger fans are ready for something a little headier, a little racier, or even a filled with a little more angst and self-loathing:

[1] The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Grossman similarly invokes a mythos built around an exclusive, hidden school for people with magical potential, but this is no prep school–this is college (or something very like it).

The problems are a little dirtier and certainly of the pettier, whinier, and naval-gazing variety . . . and thus a little more real. As are the consequences when characters use magic. But while the world may have a slightly darker undersoul, and far less joy, it’s no less fantastic. It’s also quite evocative of the Narnia series but, again, is a wholly original take that turns that classic on its side.

Quentin Coldwater, the central character, has his charms, but is also a sort of overachieving, easily bored life-suck that manages to inject an infectious ennui into those that come in contact with him. But that’s part of the book’s great hook . . . what if being a wizard ultimately seemed as meaningless as anything else, once you got used to it?

[2] Unwritten by Mike Carey (words) and Peter Gross (art). ‘Unwritten’ is a comic book series from DC’s Vertigo imprint. It’s ongoing, but the first collection is available at book and comic stores. It starts out interestingly enough: Tommy Taylor is a sort of Christopher Robin-by-way-of-Harry Potter figure; his father wrote a popular book series with a protagonist of the very same name. Now long presumed dead, Tommy Taylor the real man makes his living by pandering to fans of Tommy Taylor the fictional boy wizard from his father’s books. But when Taylor gets wrapped up in intrigue, questions about what’s real abound.

With secret societies, conspiracy theories, and seemingly meta-textual supernatural phenomena occurring, the story ramps up quickly and is more interesting the further you get into it. Plus there’s an excellent fictional historical revisionist chapter concerning Rudyard Kipling and his importance to the ongoing tale; that’s the issue that turned ‘Unwritten’ from merely “very good” into “can’t miss,” in my opinion.

[3] Orphans of Chaos by John C. Wright. The first novel in a three-part series, the reader is thrust into a sort of mystery from the get-go, being introduced to five mysterious orphans all holed up at an out-of-the-way estate in Great Britain. The fantastic elements follow very interesting and specific rules and range from naturalism to brain-hurting science-fiction to joy-inducing Dionysian antics and beyond. The relationship between the kids is endearing and frustrating . . . like a real family relationship, I suppose. And it’s very, very hard not to fall in love at least a little bit with the main narrator of the story, Amelia Windrose, the second oldest of the children. The harried action throughout the series is edge-of-seat all the way; Potter fans who thrilled to mere wizard duels and Potter’s constant blackouts should eat Wright’s epic fight and flight scenes up with a spoon.

I agree that Harry Potter is a wonderful series that will stand the test of time, especially for the all-ages crowd. But the kids that were reading ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ (or ‘Philospher’s Stone,’ if you’re British) back in 1997 are certainly ready for rated R, if not NC-17. No need to long for more Potter; you can revisit that cherished series on occasion, to fill the gaps between the likes of the above.

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