Prompted by seeing the movie last week, I have been re-reading the Harry Potter books, from Goblet of Fire onwards. I don’t own the first and second ones because I don’t think they’re very good, and I know the Prisoner of Azkaban really well, hence why starting from book number 4.
On this re-read I’ve noticed something about JK Rowling’s writing style, namely that she doesn’t waste anything. Every single sentence and event in the book, even those seemingly innocent of meaning or throwaway, is important. All will move the story along, tell you more about the characters and their relationships or lay the groundwork for a later event or revelation. It’s a very tight method of writing and I would guess that if I’d picked up on this on the first read I’d have been able to guess some of the outcomes and plot developments.
For example, in the Goblet of Fire there are several mentions of a beetle in the vicinity of key conversations. This beetle later turns out to be Rita Skeeter eavesdropping on folks.
In the Order of the Phoenix there is mention of Kreacher nicking bits and pieces from Black house and hoarding them. Among these trophies is a locket (or ring? Can’t remember which right now), I’m pretty sure this turns out to be a Horcrux in book #7.
In the Half Blood Prince there is mention of Tonks being very depressed and her morphing abilities not working. Later on Dumbledore explains to Harry that an emotional upheaval or unreciprocated love can cause a witch or wizard to lose their abilities temporarily. Later on we find out that Tonks is in love with Lupin who feels that it isn’t fair for her to get involved with a werewolf.
This makes for a very thorough and very controlled method of writing, but I think loses some of world building aspects that make long running series such a delight. For example, if Rita Skeeter wasn’t an animagus there wouldn’t have been mention beetles at any point during the books. If the locket (or ring) wasn’t a Horcrux we wouldn’t have known what Kreacher was hoarding, or we may not have been told he was hoarding anything. If Tonks wasn’t into Lupin we wouldn’t know about the effects of a broken heart on magic users.
I think this is a shame, for we don't get to see the wider picture of the wizarding world. Granted, we do get a pretty comprehensive look, but bear with me - Beetles wouldn’t exist. Bezoars wouldn’t have been introduced in the potions lesson in the Half Blood Prince if Harry hadn’t needed to cure Ron in Slughorn’s study. Don’t get me wrong, I like the way everything links in, I love the way Rowling builds up on previous events and features, but I wish there was more.
What other effects does a wizard or witch’s emotional state have on magic? Are there any other animals in Hogwarts that aren’t really people or aren’t used in Care of Magical Creatures lessons or to help the heroes escape? What other important heirlooms did Sirius (or any of the other families) have? What else are we missing from this world?
I guess this is a minor criticism in the grand scheme of things, there are other problems in her writing which bother me more, (the heterocentricity of it all, the disdain of muggle life), but right now it’s the most pressing of them.
What do other fans think? Am I picking and choosing examples to suit my argument? Am I talking bollocks? What do you all think of her writing style? Answers on an electronic postcard please.