Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Closest to Harry?

A MuggleNet reader named Tracy sent me feedback asking if I could name the one series of books closest to Harry Potter. Evidently she has read her copies of the seven Harry Potter books to shreds, and is champing at the bit to move on to the next thing. My reviews on the Book Trolley are all very nice, Tracy says, but she wants a narrower field to choose from.

While I could simply refer her to my "Top 45" list of books to get hooked on after Harry Potter, I reckoned she wanted a somewhat narrower scope. Nevertheless, I couldn't just give her one choice and say, "Read this, this is the closest you can get to Harry Potter." Instead, I came up with a dozen series of books, each similar to Harry Potter in some way. If you're where Tracy's at, perhaps my response to her can help you too. Here's what I wrote back:

I'm not sure which one you would consider closest - depends on in what ways you want it to be similar to Harry Potter. Nothing is exactly like it, but at least a dozen series come to mind. Each in its own way is "close" to Harry Potter. Try them and let me know which one you like best.
  • Diane Duane's "Young Wizards" series, starting with So You Want to Be a Wizard - New York City teens learn wizardry together at home. Excellent quality stuff, IMHO.
  • Emily Drake's "Magickers" series starting with (duh) The Magickers - American kids learn magic at summer camp. Not as well done as Harry Potter, though.
  • Diana Wynne Jones' "Chrestomanci" series, starting with Charmed Life - British kids in an alternate universe learn magic via private tutoring in a "Gosford Park"-style setting. Very good.
  • E. Rose Sabin's trilogy beginning with A School for Sorcery - I have only read the first two books, but Book 1 takes place in a private school for the magically talented, and Book 2 is a prequel that explains how the school was started.
  • Caroline Stevermer's trilogy beginning with A College of Magics - only the second book and half of the first book take place in a school of magic, and it's more of a college-level setting.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea is partly set at a school for wizards. This is the first book in a series.
  • Suzanne Collins's "Underland" series, starting with Gregor the Overlander, doesn't have a school of magic, but it does share Harry Potter's theme of a boy who enters a strange, undiscovered world and finds out that there are prophecies about him.
  • David Lubar's Hidden Talents and its sequel True Talents are about a group of misfit kids who meet at a correctional school and discover their "super powers" together.
  • Jonathan Stroud's "Bartimaeus" trilogy, starting with The Amulet of Samarkand, is about an apprentice wizard who rebels against his master and goes on to change the magical world.
  • P. B. Kerr's "Children of the Lamp" series, starting with The Akhenaten Adventure, is about young djinn (genies) discovering their talents and the nature of the magical world they belong to - though they don't actually go to a school for djinn.
  • Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson & the Olympians" series, starting with The Lightning Thief, concerns a present-day summer camp for mortal children of the Greek gods.
  • Cinda Williams Chima's trilogy starting with The Warrior Heir also depicts teens finding out they have magical powers, including wizardry, and book 2 (The Wizard Heir) is partly set in a really scary school of magic.
Best of luck! and do let me know which series you like best!

EDIT: Oops - I just remembered another series for you, which makes a "baker's dozen"... Jenny Nimmo's "Children of the Red King" series, starting with Midnight for Charlie Bone. This series features a sinister boarding school where magically talented kids get extra attention. It's aimed at the younger end of the age range for Harry Potter fans.

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