...now what? If you're like me, a kind of depression came over you once you flipped the last page of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's been eleven years since the first book caught our imagination, and kids who started reading the Harry Potter books then are in or graduated from college now (some of us are a bit older.) So when it comes to filling the gap left by the Harry Potter books, we're not looking for more young adult fiction; we're looking for something more challenging but with the same feeling of wonder we got from the Harry Potter books. Below is a list of books that have several things in common with the Harry Potter books and are, in my opinion, great reads.
Key: contains Magic - set in England - a Coming of age story - Adventure - first of a Series - has a Dark adversary
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke (MEA)In what can be described as Harry Potter for grownups, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is closer to Dickens than Rowling, but the themes of two rivals searching for newer and greater types of magic will resound with Harry Potter fans. Warning: It's a bit long and is more of a character study than an adventure, but a worthwhile read.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon (MCA)Chabon's prize winning book is filled with the friendship and camaraderie of the Harry Potter books, and, in my opinion, surpasses them in imagination and scope. As Kavalier and Clay's comic book creations begin to mirror the growing complexities of their lives and the world, the reader begins to see the depth of Chabon's creation.
Wicked - Gregory Maguire (MCAD)A young girl, alone because of her appearance and abilities, seeks to tear down the facade of beauty and perfection in OZ to reveal the true ugliness and corruption underneath. The political posturing of those in power will remind readers of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Elphaba's crusade to save the animals of Oz mirrors Hermione's efforts to help the lesser creatures of her world.
A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin (MCASD)Arguably the most complete fantasy world created since Tolkien's Middle Earth (The Lord of the Rings isn't on this list because telling someone to read it is like telling someone to breathe.) Martin's willingness to kill off favorite characters leaves the reader completely in the dark as to what will happen next. Filled with heroes young and old, magic, and dragons, Martin's books have amassed a rabid fan base.
The Quincunx - Charles Palliser (ECAD)If you like to view the world as a puzzle with clues that are not readily apparent, The Quincunx may be for you. It's another Dickensian story of a young man who faces great danger from mysterious sources for reasons he must puzzle together, revealing much about himself and his family history.
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde (MEASD)Jasper Fforde has created with his Thursday Next adventures a silly but witty series of engaging novels. Mix Douglas Adams (read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - and breathe) with the Bronte sisters, throw in a dash of every English writer in history, puree, and serve with lots of cheese. It's a quick read - give it a try.
Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson (ECAS)Many will argue that Snow Crash should be everyone's first Neal Stephenson book - and I agree, it's one of my favorite books. But his Baroque Cycle, starting with Quicksilver, might appeal to Harry Potter fans. It doesn't contain magic, but the scientific advances in England during Isaac Newton's time appear magical to the masses. And is that the same Philosopher's Stone Newton seeks? The unlikely hero of the book, Jack Shaftoe, begins here an adventure that will take him around the world to come face to face with royalty, pirates, and the greatest scientific minds of the time. It is the perfect blend of science and adventure.
A Prayer for Own Meany - John Irving (ECA)I added this book to the list because it left me with the same feeling as the Harry Potter books. It is the story of a young misfit who believes wholeheartedly in his destiny despite universal skepticism. OK so it's set in New England, not England - close enough. This is one of the few books that both my wife and I would put as one of our top ten books. Pick this up and go along for the ride.
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss(MCASD)
This is a late addition (I just finished it,) and I can't say enough about the story and the writing. Many would say it's a clone of Harry Potter - an orphan at a school of magic studying to defeat a dark adversary - but The Name of the Wind has a completely different feel. It reminds me of Thomas Hardy with its impoverished protagonist navigating a minefield of morally ambiguous choices where any wrong move could lead to his downfall. Ever the pragmatist, the protagonist, a magical bard or troubadour as accomplished in his music as his magic, expects and accepts the worst as just another part of his troubled life. Rothfuss introduces the magic, or sympathy, early in the book and uses it more as a science than anything mystical, following clear scientific laws that the reader can understand and appreciate. Outstanding.