Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Book Review: The Goblet of Fire 20 Years Later

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Click to visit the publisher's site for links to order, summary, and discussion guide.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out 20 years ago, 20 years ago as of July 8. 20 years ago, then, was my first midnight release party. This was the first book I brought home after midnight and stayed up late reading while a friend read her copy in the bed beside me.

This book is even before my most recent fight with Lyme disease, the last Harry Potter book that I would read without the mental handicap that the disease gave me.

The wait between this book and the fifth book in the series set me on the path to becoming a writer as I discovered that I could write stories to imagine what would happen in the sequel and that people would want to read those stories. I discovered self-insertion. Ugh. You all will never see some of those dreadful stories. Some of them are locked away in my closet where I dare not look at them either. But we all start somewhere.

To say that my relationship with this book comes with baggage for me is to under-represent it.

I had last read Goblet of Fire in 2015 (and if I remember, that was a slow, plodding read, taking many months if not more than a year).

A lot has happened to the world and to me in 20 years. A lot has happened in the five years since 2015!

SPOILERS! For this book and for those that follow.

I was struck re-reading this book in 2020 that it has now been as many years since I left high school—and coincidentally as many years since the release of the last Harry Potter book if you need a more fixed point in time—as between Voldemort’s defeat at Godric’s Hollow and his rebirth in the cemetery. It’s an interesting perspective, reading with such a clear marker of the passage of time. 13 years seems a lot longer when I have a distinct time to link it back to. I’ve managed to maintain friendships with only a few friends that I knew 13 years ago while not living near them, fewer actually than appear in the graveyard. How many friends do you have that you met more than 13 years ago? How many have you lost touch with that you thought you would never lose? (I did recently reconnect with a friend after 13 years, a mutual goal bringing us back together.) I suspect, though, if I were to send out an invitation to friends I haven’t spoken to in 13 years for a major life event—a wedding or some such—some of them probably would come.

How long is 13 years of relative peace? Is it long enough to make you feel safe from the threats that knocked on your door 13 years ago? I don’t think for me that it is. But then I say that in the midst of a pandemic that echoes one that we fought in 1918, 102 years ago, while we never came home from a region we invaded in 2001, 19 years ago. (International readers, yeah… I’m sorry for how little my apology can undo or change.)

2020 has been a year of upheaval, with one crisis or fight following on the heels of another. (You all know this.)

Re-reading “The Parting of the Ways” while living in the US in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s hard not to see Dumbledore as Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical experts spelling out exactly how President Trump and the American people need to respond to the pandemic—Voldemort’s comeback in this fantastical world. And it’s difficult not to read Fudge as Trump, bluntly refusing to believe the experts and act upon their advice—even believing the conspiracy theories, printed in HP by Rita Skeeter—because the crisis will hurt his chances of remaining in office. Just. Ouch. I hope that this parallel can’t be continued much further than this scene because it sure seems a lot of people who followed Dumbledore die because of the ineptitude of Fudge’s inactions—but if that ain’t ever coming true now in real time.

I had this late-night revelation too re-reading “Padfoot Returns”: It took a genocidal cult leader rising to power and a power-hungry politician wanting the poll boost that being “tough on crime” gave him for the Aurors to be given permission to kill instead of capture. As we struggle here in the US with violent police, the idea that for so long the Aurors were denied this power (presumably until the height of Voldemort’s first rise to power) is comforting somehow. And it gives me hope that this is a reversible policy in the wizarding world, even if here I fear that the struggle will be harder. As we struggle with government forces being sent into cities to quell protests, it’s a chilling notion that the poll boost of being “tough on crime” was reason enough for Aurors to be given the power to kill.

One thing that I feel that Rowling did well was prepare us to see corruption and ineptitude in many forms within in the government.

But, this reading, I struggled with Rowling’s use of accents. The use of accents is something that I have come to be wary of in fiction. It is a way othering the speaker from whichever characters are not written with accents.

Rowling uses accents, actually especially before this book when wizards from outside of Britain first occur to Harry, on non- or part-human characters and to mark under-education.

British characters written as having accents are Stan Shunpike, Rubeus Hagrid, and Dobby and the rest of the house-elves.

Stan often appears as something of a joke and as comic relief when he does appear in the text. In Half-Blood Prince, he is arrested as a Death Eater, and Harry and Dumbledore both agree that it is unlikely that he would be, though he does in Deathly Hallows appear as part of a group of Death Eaters attacking Harry. His accent seems to denote him as laughable and under-educated, a non-threat because of it, despite evidence.  (I thought Rowling had revealed that he did not attend Hogwarts, but now I’m not finding any conclusive statement to that effect.)

Hagrid is the first major character to appear in the series and be given an accent. I know that Rowling proclaims Hagrid one of her favorites, but he is othered. He is “too big to be allowed” (SS 14). Harry finds him frightening at first when he knocks down the door of the shack by the sea. In Goblet of Fire we find out that Hagrid is not fully human. His mother was a giantess who possibly sided with Voldemort in the first war. And we know almost right away that Hagrid is not a fully qualified wizard, that he never graduated Hogwarts, though he did briefly attend. He is not meant by law to be able to perform magic.

The next major character to be given an accent or odd speech pattern is Dobby. And Dobby’s accent is even more problematic, particularly as we learn in Goblet of Fire that it is not unique to Dobby but is an accent shared among his race: house-elves. This accent is particularly problematic, I think, because house-elves live if they are not raised (we never see house-elf children) alongside wizards, meaning that they are exposed to a speech pattern that they could learn and adopt (like learning to code-switch, which shouldn’t have to be a reality but is), but that house-elves either choose not to or are unable to adopt the speech patterns used by wizards. Could it be a voluntary choice and a shared language that brings house-elves pride? Maybe. But so little seems to be a choice for house-elves. I think it more likely that Rowling uses the house-elves’ accents not only to other them as separate species from wizards but to mark their lack of formal education. Many slave-owners in the US limited the education available to their slaves. I think it likely similar limitations are imposed upon many house-elves by the wizards to which they belong. It’s even possible that they are forbidden from speaking as wizards do.

House-elves are problematic beyond the othering that occurs in the house-elves peculiar speech patterns. House-elves are a race of creatures born to enslavement. They are magically tied to the family, passed down in wills, magically unable to disobey a direct order from their masters. (I’m drawing here on things that we learn in later books as well, but the points stand.) They are a race bred to slavery, who claim to enjoy their enslavement (bar the odd black sheep, namely Dobby). The very existence of such a race, the creation of one in fiction, is worrying. Though Rowling always paints the abuse of house-elves as wrong and signals that house-elves are best treated with human decency and kindness and as individuals with all that that entails, the ownership of house-elves is something in which even Harry becomes complicit when he is left an elf in a will.

Hermione in Goblet of Fire launches a campaign to free the house-elves, inflamed by her realization that Hogwarts itself is serviced by this race, the students’ and staff’s meals cooked, their laundry done, their fires made, and their rooms cleaned all by enslaved creatures. Her quest takes on a distinctly white savior story line because she does this without asking the house-elves whether they want to be freed, and when she is told by them that they don’t wish it, she decides that she knows better than they do and continues to push for their freedom and even tries to trick them into accepting freedom by leaving clothes about the common room.  While her motivations are laudable, she would have done better to consult the house-elves to see how she could improve their lives rather than assuming that she knew how best to do so.  (I hope that the lives of house-elves do improve post-Potter, but the movement needs to be led by and done with the house-elves.)

Most of you are probably aware that many fans have broken with Rowling over her most recent virulence on Twitter. I include myself among them, though for all the reasons and more enumerated above, it has been difficult for me to sever my ties to the books (and I was in the middle of this one when her most recent incendiary tweets were published). This is the not the first time that Rowling has used her Twitter platform in particular to spout hateful rhetoric.

I feel I would be remiss to post any kind of review or reflection on a Harry Potter book now without addressing this—at least a little.

It saddens me that a woman whose books have been proven to increase empathy in their readers, a woman who spawned a fandom that has done so much good (look up the HP Alliance and Harry Potter and the Sacred Text), has become so distant from the very ideals that her books imparted to us.

I worry now that these books imparted more to us than we realized, and I hope we do the work—and trust that we can do the work—to untangle what is good and helpful and what is harmful.

For those who don’t know, the words that Rowling has recently been saying on Twitter (or was saying as of early June; I have since unfollowed her because I was saddened rather than heartened or informed by her tweets) have been harmful to the trans community. And this latest string of tweets and actions has been particularly brutal.

Rowling has long been called out for a lack of diversity in wizarding Britain and Hogwarts, particularly a lack of racial representation and an absence of relationships other than heterosexual ones. She has made some attempts post-publication to remedy this, with the revelation of Dumbledore’s and Grindelwald’s romantic relationship, very subtly hinted at in a line of text in Deathly Hallows, and the casting of Black women to play Hermione and her daughter in the original cast of The Cursed Child. (Neither of these moves I would argue has largely been seen as enough.)

The representation of Rita Skeeter in Goblet of Fire has been suggested as one of the strongest warnings we should have seen of Rowling’s anti-trans views.  Though not explicitly transgender, Rita is described as having “large, mannish hands” (307) with fake nails, a “surprisingly strong grip” (303), heavy make-up, and bright outfits, Rita Skeeter is a reporter who thrives on gossip and ruining reputations. She is generally ridiculed and disliked. She is also a shape-shifter, an Animagus. She is trapped in beetle form and kept in a jar by Hermione for at least a week at the end of Goblet of Fire. Few others in the wizarding world are described as having such garish make-up.

All of this complicates my relationship personally to these books that have done a lot to shape me, that have helped me through a lot of difficult times in my own life. I think it’s important that we question and interrogate what is important to us.

The media that we intake and the language and ideas that that media espouses, overtly or subconsciously, can effect our own views in subtle and less subtle ways.

Listen to those who say that they have been hurt. Learn why. Do better. Do the best you can.

But too. I think it’s important to be willing to speak up and be willing to make mistakes, be willing to be called out, be willing to make mistakes and then learn from them when you’re called out. “If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time” (454).

Rowling, J. K. Book 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000.

Intended audience: Grades 3-12.

*Page numbers are from a paperback copy of the US edition of Goblet of Fire and a paperback copy of the US edition of The Sorcerer’s Stone (SS).

This review is not endorsed by J. K. Rowling, Scholastic, Inc., or anyone else associated with the world of Harry Potter. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Shelfie: August 16, 2017: Triumphs

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Question: Have you had any personal triumphs lately?  In these grim times, I would absolutely love hearing about them!

The first full paragraph in this photo is such a triumphant moment.  The posting of this photo happens to coincide with my own very small triumph.  Today I was able to talk to a person about why I haven’t been getting any unemployment support despite qualifying and filing weekly.  It’s been a frustrating journey of flooded phone lines and overwhelmed Live Chat queues (usually there are more than 200 users ahead of me in the queue, and the chat locks you out after 20 minutes) and unanswered emails and voice mails.  It continues to be a frustrating journey because I got an email an hour before my appointment that I only saw after getting home that contradicts in part the information that I received in person.  And the resolution that I was offered was to wait for a phone call that may come at any time; no one can predict the timeline for this phone call.

I am posting it everywhere, but I say again, thank GOD for a fabulous support network.

 

SPOILERS FOR BOOK 7, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS!

 

Harry has a pretty good support network that he has built up over 7-17 years by the time of this scene.  Harry is able to pass on the last tasks to a friend, thinking that he himself would be unable to complete his quest.

I hope none of the requests I lay at the feet of my network are ever as horrifying.

The character growth shown in this scene is fantastic.

I wish I could be half as bold.

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Challenge: Katie Merkel’s Literary Scavenger Hunt: Rounds 2 & 3: Some Favorite Series

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So Katie Merkel created this scavenger hunt to amuse us all during this time of global chaos, and I have taken it and run. Last week I completed the scavenger hunt using only my 12 most recent reads.  I warned then that I had other ideas for this scavenger hunt.

Round 2: Can I complete this scavenger hunt using JUST Rick Riordan’s books? I sure can! I can do it with just his first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians! Spoilers ahead! Ready? Go!

Categories:

1. A weapon – So this one is easy. The best weapon is Anaklusmos, Riptide, Percy’s pen and sometimes sword that always returns to his pocket because magic.  Or it is the most prominent anyway.  I am actually fascinated by and wish we knew more about the forging of Backbiter.

2. A difficult decision – I think the most difficult decision of the series is Percy’s to sit back, to not be the hero—or to let his inaction rather than his action be heroic.

3. A beautiful setting – I miss the beach. So how about the camp’s beach on Long Island Sound with the fireworks reflecting on the water.

4. A first kiss – The first kiss was shared in Mount St. Helen’s forge, right?

5. A mistake – So, so many mistakes. Though mistakes get hard to define when there’s so much of fate and prophecy in this series. But I think the biggest mistake of the series is trusting that Kronos’ future will be better than the present.

6. A betrayal – I’m going to say that Luke’s betrayal is the hardest.

7. A loss – Beckendorf’s loss was the hardest for me.

8. Best friends – Percy and Grover are the most iconic friends in this series I think.

9. More than two siblings – *laughs in demigod*  But if we’re insisting on full siblings, then there’re the godly children of Kronos and Rhea: Hestia, Hera, Demeter, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus.

10. A single parent – *laughs harder in demigod* But the best single parent is Sally Jackson. We’re all in agreement on this, yes?

11. A grandparent – Kronos is grandfather to every child of Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and Demeter. If Hera and Hestia have any demigod children, he’s their grandfather too, but I am fairly sure that they have actually remained celibate.

12. A talking animal – Blackjack is the best talking animal, right? In this series? Followed shortly by pink poodle Gladiola.


Round 3: Can I do it with Harry Potter?  Again, spoilers.

Categories:
1. A weapon – The weapon we have is love.  That’s how the song goes, isn’t it?  But the Deathstick becomes perhaps the most important physical weapon of the series in the end.

2. A difficult decision – Shout-out to the Hat Stalls (which may a cop-out on my part, refusing to decide on a difficult decision to highlight).

3. A beautiful setting – I’ve already used the Burrow once for this.  But you know what other location has grown on me?  The shade beneath the lakeside beech tree with the giant squid’s tentacles skimming the surface.

4. A first kiss – “OI!  There’s a war going on here!”

5. A mistake – It was a mistake to put Hedwig in her cage.

6. A betrayal – I’ve been re-reading Prisoner of Azkaban, and I forgot how painful is the confession wrung from Peter by Sirius and Remus.

7. A loss – Dobby’s was the hardest for me.  I think because of the blood, and because things were just about to be all right—except….

8. Best friends – This has to be Harry and Ron, right?

9. More than two siblings – The Weasleys are my favorite.

10. A single parent – There aren’t a whole lot of single parent households that are mentioned in the text.  There are the Gaunts’ and the Lovegoods’ and Augusta Longbottom seems to be raising her grandson alone.

11. A grandparent – Augusta Longbottom is a pretty awesome grandparent—in the end.

12. A talking animal – “Thanksss, amigo.”

Are there other series or the collected works of other authors that you think you could use to complete this scavenger hunt?  Let me see your answers!  Somewhere out there, I feel, is someone who could do it for almost every author of multiple stand-alone novels.  I would love to see someone do it for, say, Jane Austen, Stephen King, Shakespeare, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Nora Roberts, Neil Gaiman….

Shelfie: July 22, 2017: In Over Our Heads

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This has been a hell of a week or two.  How fitting that the next photo in my shelfie album is from a time when I was dealing with a personal, medical emergency (then a broken humerus).

But that was no hell compared to this.

Unlike most of the world, it seems, I am still working at a store with the public.  The fear, the grief, the unknown, the added precautions, the stress of my coworkers and the public have all compounded—and we had a death in the family from covid-19, and I’ve had to deal with that ordinary grief while those around me discuss death and the statistics of dying as if the deaths are numbers.

I can’t write or edit the partial review that I had had ready.

So here instead is a photo of one of the most heart-twisting sentence fragments in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

SPOILERS!

(In this time of stress, I’ve turned again to Harry Potter.  I’m right now re-reading Chamber of Secrets.)

I hope you are all doing better than me.  I hope you are staying away from public places and staying safe.  Be well.  Be careful.  I won’t promise that we’ll make it through this whole and hale, because I already haven’t, and chances are that many of us will be affected in some way—and all those promises have been painful for me to hear and read this week.  But look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers said.  There’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for, as said Tolkien.  Or was that bold, brilliant speech the invention of the writers of the Lord of the Rings film scripts (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens)?

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Shelfie 22: November 28, 2016: You Know You’re Old When…

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…you sympathize more with the adults in YA novels than the teens….

I tried to find something textual to give you tonight, gentle reader.  I really did.  I even went off in search of intriguing new book tags.  Alas, tonight, it’s not to be.  My mind is not in it.

So how fitting is it that the next shelfie in my queue is a photo of a page in The Order of the Phoenix, my favorite book of one of my favorite series–and certainly the series that I go to when I want something familiar, comforting, and nostalgic–that made me laugh?  I laughed because of how much I empathized with Madam Pince after 3 years working a bookstore–how I believed she was right for chasing Harry and Ginny out of her library for defiling her books with their chocolate-stained fingers.  Read the books that you’ve bought with chocolate-stained fingers by all means, but buy them first.

Shelfie 20: November 7 & 10, 2016

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A tumultuous November, I leant heavily on an old favorite–The Order of the Phoenix–from which certain lines rang all too true to life.

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“Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily–weak people, in other words–they stand no chance against his powers!”

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“He took his revenge the only way he had: redoubling his efforts for the D.A.”

This book in particular is very dear to me.

Book Review: Reconstructing Delphi: Cursed Child SPOILERS

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DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE SCRIPT AND DON’T WANT SPOILERS.

I’m deciding to let others take on some of the more moral issues of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I’m going to zero in on what bothered me perhaps more than anything else, whatever that says about me, and then how I think it could have been made more palatable to me.

So let’s get to it: Delphi. Now, I have always sort of laughed away the possibility of a Voldemort lovechild, believing it only slightly more likely to be made canon than the fan-favorite Dobby/giant squid pairing but in that same category, though admittedly if such a child existed, I would have expected it to be Bella’s. Bellatrix was not covert about her attraction to Voldemort, but as others have pointed out, the very idea that Voldemort—who is too inhuman to have died prior to the destruction of all seven of his horcruxes, whose greatest weakness is his incomprehension of love, specifically parental love—could desire a woman, desire a child, or frankly not be impotent with his soul in so many pieces is… a stretch of the imagination. But far be it for me to explain the effects of creating horcruxes and splitting one’s soul through Dark magic to J. K. Rowling.

Still, I was rereading my own fanfiction and as Draco said of the possibility that Bellatrix and Voldemort could ever have produced a child, “That is not an image I need planted in my head!” (Coincidentally, that chapter is not my favorite, but quoting without citing seemed wrong.  Extra-coincidentally, I have been working on rewriting my fanfictions for ages, and in 2020 I rewrote this chapter, and that line is now no longer in the text.)

The play claims that Delphi was born “before the Battle of Hogwarts,” (4.11), and I’d assumed that that meant just shortly before, but reading the Wikia article on Delphi now I’m realizing that I suppose it’s not that explicit and that potentially Rowling has agreed with us. Which sort of assuages one of my major problems with Delphi: that we—the fans—determined when Bellatrix would have been pregnant if pregnant she ever was, and it’s not when I thought that Rowling in this play claims that she was.

Bellatrix didn’t show up to see her own nephew—her only nephew and the only of her sisters’ children that she would want to lay claim to whatsoever—perform his first deed for Voldemort, kill his first person, even though other Death Eaters—much less important and less potent Death Eaters—were present. And I wasn’t the only one who thought that was odd. If she were ever to have been homebound and kept from missions because she was carrying Voldemort’s child–or anyone else’s child—that would have been the time.

I’m realizing now that some of the fault here might be that I want details that were not explicit in the text, but might be manifest in a production of the play. I want Draco to react to—to be gobsmacked by the news that his cousin is Voldemort’s daughter—and that his cousin kidnaps and threatens to kill his son, whom he clearly cares about (who wouldn’t? Bless the little cinnamon bun). I frankly want him to acknowledge that he knew that he had a cousin by Bellatrix—if in fact he did, and I think that the possibility that he didn’t if she had a child would be small.

Especially if she was born right before the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry and co. saw Draco in Malfoy Manor with his parents and his aunt—not described as visibly pregnant so presumably no longer so—during the Easter holidays (Easter 1998 was April 12, and the Battle of Hogwarts was May 1-2).

And especially if she was Voldemort’s because while I realize that Voldemort and Bellatrix might have had Delphi whisked away to live with the Rowles quite quickly after her birth, possibly before Draco would have had the chance to meet his cousin, I don’t find it likely. Voldemort doesn’t understand love or parental love and is confident in his horcruxes; he has no need of a child. Bellatrix, though, I think would hold onto her—unless Voldemort asked her not to maybe and maybe if she stood in the way of Bellatrix’s duties to Voldemort, but I expect that Bellatrix would want and cherish that child and be loath to send her away.

This is why I suspect that Bellatrix would have had with her in Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts while Draco was home.

All this to say that I don’t like that Delphi is canonized embodiment of the Voldemort-Bellatrix lovechild trope and I don’t like how readily Draco accepts the possibility nor how blithely.

What I would have liked—and what I choose to believe because sometimes no canon is enough to sink a theory—is if Delphi is told by Rodolphus that she is Voldemort and Bellatrix’s lovechild. I don’t care if it is though I don’t want it to be true. I want her to be Scorpius’ foil, a rumored child of Voldemort who chose to accept and believe the rumor and to act accordingly.

I could easily see Rodolphus wanting to distance himself from any child of Bellatrix’s—whether it was his or no. There doesn’t seem to have been much love in their relationship, and maybe Bellatrix didn’t turn out to be what he had expected. Maybe he was grieving his wife or grieving the love that he never received from her and saw the child as a reminder of her and found it easier to disentangle himself from them both.

Snape could fly so this is not the proof that Harry and co. seem to believe it is that Delphi is Voldemort’s daughter. The Parseltongue is harder to excuse as a red herring, but Harry can speak Parseltongue, and surely it’s not only the direct descendants of Salazar Slytherin who can speak the language if they and Harry are the only ones that we’ve met.

I’m grasping at straws perhaps plus ignoring what I suppose I must call canon I know, but for me it is just so much easier for me to accept the whole story of The Cursed Child if I believe that Delphi only believes herself to be Voldemort’s daughter, that she is really Roldophus’ maybe. I’m perfectly willing to believe that she was Bellatrix’s out of wedlock, but not Voldemort’s.  And armed with that head canon, The Cursed Child just works better for me as an addition to the seven canon novels and the Potterverse.

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Thorne, Jack.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  Based on a story by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne.  New York: Arthur A. Levine-Scholastic, 2016.

This review is not endorsed by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, Inc, or anyone involved in the production of the play or script.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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