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Editorial June 2004 : post-Potter
By Hilary Williamson

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixIt's time for another rant (that's a warning for those who want to mouse away right now). I review a lot of Teens books and enjoy them, especially fantasy. What I don't enjoy are the cover comments that puff so many up as the next Harry Potter. That's the kiss of death for my interest in a book. Don't get me wrong, I adore Harry and his magical exploits, can't get enough of the real thing. But have you ever noticed that the books that say they are the same are just not very good?

The Eternity CodeAnd how could they be, if they truely are similar? The greats in books for young adults, or for any ages for that matter, are fresh and original; they're not like anything already published. And readers don't want reproductions that cannot measure up to the original; we like stories that are fresh and imaginative. So what gets my vote, post-Potter, as original and exciting fantasy for teen readers? I'd start with Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series (three episodes so far). It's brilliant, balanced between a young anti-hero and a heroine, and set in a world where high-tech fairies hide from despised humans under the lava near the Earth's Core.

The Wee Free MenDarren Shan's Cirque Du Freak stories (recommended by Rowling, with seven available in N. America to date) are equally original, though they may be too macabre for some. Their young hero enters, and must adjust to, the twilight world of vampires and their ilk. And Terry Pratchett recently opened up his hugely popular Discworld series to younger readers with The Wee Free Men (its sequel, A Hat Full of Sky, is just out). This series stars young, untried witch, Tiffany Aching, who takes responsibility to do 'what is needed and what is right' - and it's tremendous fun watching her do it, with help from the 'Wee Free Men', of course.

The Amulet of SamarkandI have high hopes of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy after reading the first in the series, The Amulet of Samarkand. The twist on this one is that it's told from the point of view of a djinni who has to take orders from an arrogant boy magician, in a London where a Resistance fights the ruling class of selfish magic wielders. And, though I haven't read this one yet myself, I've heard great things about Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, translated from the original German and set in Venice, where runaway orphans are entangled in mystery, fantasy and adventure.

So, revel in Harry Potter in book and movie formats, but do skip the Potter wannabes and enjoy teen fantasy that's fresh and exciting; it's really not very hard to find.

Potter P.S.: Just saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in iMax no less! Though my purist son felt too much was left out regarding the antecendents of the magical map, and we all wondered where the school robes went and missed the Gryffindors winning the Quidditch trophy, we thoroughly enjoyed its gothic magical thrills.
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