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The Ickabog : Is Rowling still good enough?


Symposia : 8.2/10

Goodreads : 4/5

‘The Ickabog’ is JK Rowling’s newest middle-grade release. We follow a large cast of characters in a fictional world called Cornucopia ruled by King Fred the Fearless. There isn’t much I can say about the plot of this book because I think the best part of the reading experience for this book is going in blind. All I can say is that this book is a political thriller for children. I am sure you’re thinking the same thing: ‘That doesn’t seem like the age range that a political allegory should be marketed towards’, is. This is the first children’s book Rowling has written since ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ which was published in 2007. She wrote it around ten years ago but decided to place her focus into her adult thrillers, leaving this book in the back burner. When she found the first draft in her attic, she chose to give the story another shot and now it’s one of the most anticipated releases of 2020.

I would like to preface the rest of the review by saying that I am objectively critiquing the story and there is no reference to any of Rowling’s recent comments. If you are someone who cannot separate the art from the artist and were offended by Rowling’s remarks, I would not recommend this novel to you.

I went into the book without knowing a single thing about it. I was just sold on the fact that Rowling was coming back with a new MG book after 13 years. I was completely taken aback by how dark the story was. There are no gruesome descriptions in the book but I thought I was going to read a fairytale-like story. What I received from was much better than that. This story is filled with political references to pivotal diplomatic decisions that took place in our world and I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect. JK Rowling’s writing style is great. She had me hooked from page one and there wasn’t a single dull moment in the book. Her character work is exceptional as well. Most of the main cast had many layers to them and I was surprised at how much complexity she was able to add in such few words. The plot is as intricate as the characters. There are, of course, some limitations when it comes to plot and character as the intended audience for this book is 10-year-olds, but she does a great job at keeping the plot as unpredictable as possible.

As someone in high school, I can confidently say that the novel is extremely engaging. Even if you’re 40, the story’s charm will keep you hooked. The bottom line is that Rowling is a master at telling stories. There is a special something in her work which cannot be replicated. Some people were scared to pick this book up because they felt that it would not live up to her previous books. However, I think it fits in right with the Harry Potter novels. The most important thing to know before going into ‘The Ickabog’ is that it is not a spin-off, a companion or a prequel book to the HP series. It takes place in its own world, completely separate from Hogwarts. The tones and intended effect of these novels are completely different and should not be compared. As long as you keep that in mind, this novel will be as enjoyable as the rest of her back catalogue.

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