I know that a great many people have a great many things to say on this subject, and I have a personal dislike for doing what everyone else is doing. That's part of the reason my Objectivist blog is full of reviews of books that probably no other Objectivist on the face of the Earth has or ever will read. However, sometimes a matter is important enough that I have to say something, regardless.
What I have to say is this: Thank you, J.K. Rowling. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I don't know how many people out there really appreciate what a titanic feat it is to create your own fantasy realm and write seven books--nearly four thousand pages--of complex interwoven plot. It is hard enough to write a single good plot long enough to fill a short story. Many, many fantasy series authors write themselves into limbo, and those are some of the best authors in the genre! People that tell compelling stories of massive scope! Yet what happens to them? They forget where they were going, if they ever knew, and their great work shrivels and dies in infancy.
I've heard a lot of criticism of Rowling as well: her style is "childish" her characterizations are "simplistic", her themes are "altruistic". Whatever. Where Rowling really shines is in the creation and development of plot. I managed to predict ahead of time many of the developments in the final book of the series. Far from a condemnation, this is actually praise for Rowling's plot-writing abilities.
If a plot is logical, you should be able to figure out where it is going. The surprise should come from the specific steps the author takes to lead you there. This makes the conclusion of a novel both satisfying, in that it confirms your expectations for how the world is organized, and startling, in that you hadn't seen the world through quite that lens before. This is also Rowling's genius.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ties up her plot so beautifully that is shocking. Events that occured early in the series and seemed somewhat pointless are tied back into the story. Everything leads inexorably to one single conclusion. If you are an author, this is what you should aspire to in your writing. The plot of Harry Potter should be, if not your model, then at least your inspiration.
Others will speak for the theme, characterization, subject, etc. of Rowling's books, but to me they speak on a very personal level because they demonstrate so very clearly that it is possible to undertake a very challenging plot and do it justice. I'm working to follow in Rowling's footsteps, and she has given me a very clear idea of the satisfaction I can expect should I succeed.
That is why I say thank you.
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