Have You Read the Best Harry Potter Book?

coverUntil a few days ago, I thought the best Harry Potter book was #6 (The Half-Blood Prince). Now imagine how my world has been turned upside down by discovering that not only have I not read the best Harry Potter book, but it’s not even written by JK Rowling.

More on that sacrilege statement in a moment.

When I was at my family reunion in June, my brother mentioned a book called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I almost tuned out when he began, “It’s fan fic, but…” Nothing against fan fic, but I like the official stance of the author. I want the real version when I’m reading fiction.

Andrew added that the author has Harry explore exactly what makes magic work in the wizarding world. Is it connected to the language of the spells? The gesture of the wand? The position of your body?

With that, I was hooked. I love learning about well-developed magical systems, and it sounded like the author–fan fic or not–was going to delve deeper into the why and how of magic than Rowling did. Sweet!

I found the book on Leanpub, and I’ve been reading it for the last week on my Kindle. It’s massive–I think I’m only through about 20% of it so far. And I’m loving it, of course. Hence this entry. Here’s what’s making it so enjoyable for me:

  1. It’s wonderful to return to Hogwarts. I’ve already spent dozens and dozens of hours there over the years, so it feels a little bit like home.
  2. It’s an alternate universe, so it doesn’t contradict Rowling. I don’t want to say too much, but I’ll give an early example: Harry’s adoptive parents are actually quite lovely. As an adopted child myself, this is wonderful to read. Why are there so many terrible adoptive parents in books? I like this much better.
  3. Harry questions everything…and finds answers through experimentation and skill, not luck. This is the whole magic system my brother talked about. Harry does a lot of experiments with magic to figure out how it works and just how far it’ll go, and it’s fascinating.
  4. Harry decides to be the hero of his own story. The Harry Potter we know and love is a solid protagonist, but quite often, the story happens to him instead of Harry actively pursuing a course of action. This alternate version of Harry Potter is an extremely active protagonist.

Is it perfect? No. This new Harry can be quite annoying at times, and the author often gives him too much space for lengthy diatribes. I skim through many of them.

Also, as good as it is, it wouldn’t exist without the real Harry Potter books. This book could not stand on its own, as it relies on the original series to compare pretty much everything against.

But that’s also what makes it work. There are so many times in Methods of Rationality where you’ll say, “Yeah, why didn’t that happen in the original books? Any other way makes no sense!” Just wait until you get to the Snape chapter. You’ll know what I mean.

Have you read this book? If so, what do you think? Have you ever read fan fic that equaled or bettered its predecessor?