The thing in the forest byatt online dating

The fantasy is there, for those who yearn for it, but so too is the very real structure of the school day.

Once arriving at Hogwarts, there are lessons to be learned – and attention is paid to them, with the reader’s knowledge of the wizarding world increasing alongside Harry’s.

History of Magic may be dull, but it is where one might uncover the origin of the Chamber of Secrets.

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Compare this to the 11 million copies sold of the final volume, Deathly Hallows, within the first 24 hours of its release date in 2007, or the fact that the New York Times bestsellers list added a children’s books category in 2000 specifically to avoid the Potter series dominating the general fiction list.

And while the Potter series must be treated as the exception rather than the rule, huge successes in any category mean more money in the field, more titles being published, more awareness of the books that are out there.

Defence Against the Dark Arts is not simply an exam subject but a political battlefield, as explored most magnificently in the fifth instalment, Order of the Phoenix, where Professor Umbridge simpers at her young charges that there will be no need to learn anything more than the theory in order to get through their exams – never mind that the murderous Voldemort is on the loose.

The importance of the school setting in the series cannot be understated.

What happens in school matters hugely in the wizarding world, and vice-versa.

Harry and his friends win House points for alerting the world to Voldemort’s return, while the tensions between Slytherin house and the rest of the students build until the final battle (at the school, of course), where they dovetail with the wider struggle between good and evil.

In short, to be popular means pleasing everyone – something rather distinct from being any good.

It feels like an unfair assessment of a series that has woven its way into our culture, which – less than 20 years after the publication of the first book – feels like a classic as essential as CS Lewis’s Narnia collection.

Quite aside from the theme parks and merchandise, the series has given us a way of categorising everyone we know into Gryffindor (brave and heroic), Slytherin (sneaky and ambitious), Ravenclaw (clever-clogs) or Hufflepuff (kind and loyal).

A generation of readers discovered how to pronounce Hermione before encountering her namesake in Shakespeare, learned about a variety of mythical creatures, picked up more Latin than they realise.

In the late nineties, a hugely successful children’s book might have sold in the tens of thousands over the course of a year – this was the scale of JK Rowling’s success with the release of the second Harry Potter book, Chamber of Secrets, for example. Nevertheless, even the cleverest of writers may miss this point.

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