Book Review: “Career of Evil”

Today, something new from me — a book review! Recently, “Robert Galbraith” released a new novel entitled Career of Evil. In case you’re wondering why I placed quotation marks around this author’s name, Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling. A couple of years ago, she was unmasked as Galbraith, an identity she had assumed to publish her work without the massive attention that she usually gets for new writing. Even without the Rowling name, her first Galbraith novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, received praise. Now that she’s been revealed, though, as the mastermind behind these novels, the books are even more popular.

Career of Evil is the third novel in Rowling/Galbraith’s “Cormoran Strike” series, which follows London detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacot. In previous installments, Strike has found the killer of a supermodel and a famous author. In the first story, the police thought the supermodel’s murder was actually a suicide, and Strike proved them wrong. In the second novel, the author’s murder was quite grisly, and Strike’s detective work earned him further acclaim. This time around, Strike is a bit more personally involved in the case, which begins when someone sends Robin a severed leg through the mail.

Soon after the leg shows up, Strike already has four potential suspects in mind. All four of them are violent men from his past, and all four of them have reasons to discredit and harass Strike. The novel follows Strike as he investigates these potential murderers. We also follow Robin, who is gearing up for her wedding while being pursued by the man who sent her a severed leg.

In the acknowledgements that Rowling included in this novel, she said that she has likely never had as much fun writing something as she had while writing this. That sense of joy and wild writing abandon certainly comes off in the reading of this novel. I was pulled into the novel fairly easily, having already fallen in love with Rowling’s writing style. But it was the fast-paced, suspenseful plot that really kept me reading. Halfway through the book, I was literally having trouble concentrating at work because I was so preoccupied by the plot! The resolution was very satisfying, and it included a great twist that I definitely didn’t see coming.

If you were a fan of Harry Potter, but were disillusioned by Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, I would recommend checking out the Cormoran Strike novels. Here, Rowling is building another interesting world just like her Potter-verse (but with less magic, of course), with interesting characters and crackling plots.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Book Bucket List: Harry Potter

Harry Potter

Now, I realize Harry Potter is the most obvious choice for this list from a millennial such as myself, but leaving it out would be against everything I am. That, and it’s pretty difficult to ignore the series that changed the face of young adult literature. I try to be pretty casual about my Harry Potter obsession in my day-to-day life, but it often comes to the surface via accidental references if I haven’t told you about it already. Honestly, I’m not even sure the term obsession covers it. J.K. Rowling’s stories have literally dictated my entire life.

It all started when I was five. No, I didn’t read Harry Potter when I was five years old, but I did have an eight-year-old sister whom I idolized. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone was fairly new at this point, and when my sister read it I wanted to read it. Since I obviously couldn’t tackle it on my own, she read parts of it aloud for me, and it definitely stuck with me. Around the time I was eight, I began reading the books by myself. I remember carrying those heavy books with me everywhere so I could read them in the few minutes I had to spare between class activities or at the bus stop. I also think part of me was just a little shit who felt really smart carrying around a book roughly half her size (I was that kid).

So, I quite literally grew up with Harry. I guess that phrase is a little bit of a cliché at this point, but I stand by it. My love of literature stemmed from reading the series, and now I’m nearing the end of my English undergraduate education and will soon be looking for a job based on that passion. Maybe I would have ended up here whether I had read Harry Potter or not, but I certainly feel a connection. Who knows if I ever would have fallen quite so in love with reading without J.K. Rowling’s masterpieces? …yes, I’m incredibly biased.

J. K. Rowling

I won’t bother with any sort of plot synopsis in this case, because I doubt anyone needs it. I’m not even really sure how to convince you to read these books. My official testimony is: I want to have children for the sole reason of forcing them to read this book (honestly, no other reason). But on a more serious note, I feel as though it’s important to become acquainted with a series that has caused such a generational phenomenon. That didn’t just happen randomly. While Potter classifies as young adult literature, I believe that only the most talented writers are able to tackle world-building as flawlessly as Rowling did.

When I pick up one of the Potter books, I feel like I’m living it. I love so many books, but I’m not sure any have impacted me as much. And I think it’s important to note that I’ve held the same opinion since I was eight years old–that’s not an exaggeration. I attended a Harry Potter convention in 2012, and I am one hundred percent not joking. But I met the real life Luna Lovegood, so joke’s on you.

As J.K. Rowling wrote, “in dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own.”

— Kelly Lyons, Fiction and Non-Fiction Editor

Before They Were Famous: J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

Joanne “J.K.” Rowling has earned her place as one of the best-loved and most widely recognized contemporary writers by authoring the Harry Potter series–seven fantasy adventures that captivated old and young readers alike, leaving much of the world spellbound.

Unsurprisingly, Rowling’s own story seems just as magical as the tales of the wizarding world she invented. Currently ranked the twelfth richest woman in England, Rowling once struggled to support her daughter, subsisting on welfare and battling depression.

Before writing the Harry Potter series, Rowling led the life of a struggling writer and single mom. After divorcing her first husband in her mid-20s, the now famous author was diagnosed with severe depression and spent nine months in cognitive behavioral therapy. However, in 1990, Rowling experienced a fantastic life change.

J.K. Rowling

While traveling by train from Manchester to London, a strange idea sprang into Rowling’s brain. Suddenly, her head overflowed with magical scenes of fantastic escapades involving an unlikely protagonist, a scrawny, glasses-wearing boy wizard. At the time, she lamented not having a pen to jot down the story, but soon she realized it possessed a certain magic that would require a great deal of carefulness and craft to transfer to paper.

For the rest of her trip, which lasted four hours, Rowling ruminated on her vision-like ideas, reliving those few precious daydreams that would eventually transform into the book we now know as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Once Rowling returned home, she immediately began writing her novel –a project she would labor over for the next seven years.

In June of 1997, she finally completed the book that would, despite being rejected by twelve different publishing houses, become one of the best-loved stories ever written.

J.K. Rowling launched a literary phenomenon, inspiring people of all generations to embrace a love of reading with a little unexpected sorcery. She taught us lessons in bravery, friendship, and family—a true feat of magic.

— Dominique Dusek, Assistant Managing Editor & Submissions Manager

Discuss: Having Second Thoughts

Recently, you may have read about J.K. Rowling expressing some feelings about that seven book series that she wrote. Remember that one? Rowling was doing an interview last month and happened to mention that she thought, perhaps, Ron and Hermione maybe didn’t belong together. And then the internet exploded. I have my own opinions about this revelation, but I’m not going to bore you with my fan musings today. Instead, I want to talk about authors and the ownership they have (or don’t have) over their own work.

For the most part, I adhere to the belief that, once an author has finished writing their words and has put the story out into the world, that book now belongs to its readers (via John Green). Especially with something as hugely popular as the Harry Potter series, the books take on a life of their own as fans theorize, discuss, and even add to the story in the form of fanfiction. Fans are very important to any written work and once a piece of writing is put out there, you can be sure that fans are going to devour it both good and bad ways. But does this mean that an author cannot recant something she wrote? I don’t think so. Especially not when it has no effect on the book as it exists already.

I also firmly believe that — while the work is still in its creation phase — authors do not owe their fans anything. Yes, fans can do what they like with the work that authors put out. And yes, fans have a right to criticize authors for what they do, and I know they will. But authors are going to do things that you don’t like. Many of us didn’t enjoy the epilogue that J.K. Rowling tacked onto Harry’s story. But guess what? There’s nothing we can do about that and if it made J.K. Rowling happy to write that epilogue, I am fine with it. In this case, Rowling’s regrets — misquoted/misconstrued or not — have no bearing on the books as they stand. Her expression of this opinion does nothing to alter the books as she wrote them.

Aside from all of this, pieces of writing are rarely completely finished. I found it refreshing, actually, to see an author expressing regrets about something she had written and which had been published and out there in world for so long. That shows that Rowling still mentally inhabits the Potter-verse sometimes, that she still thinks about the characters she created, and that she is still contemplating the story she set to paper. I would hope that all authors are that thoughtful about their previous works.

For further reading on this topic, and for more in-depth discussion about what Rowling actually said and what it means in the Potter-verse, I would suggest Alyssa Rosenberg’s article, “What J.K. Rowling’s Ron And Hermione Bombshell Tells Us About True Love And ‘Harry Potter’.”

What do you think? Is Rowling “allowed” to express these opinions? What do you think about authors having regrets about plot points they put into their stories? Do books belong to the readers or the author? Share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan