Literature and London Part 2: Hogwarts and Harry Potter

Technically, most of the Harry Potter stories don’t really figure into London, and even the Warner Bros. Studio (which houses many of the original scenes and prop decorations) lot isn’t located in London. But I suppose it wouldn’t be a “Literature and London” series if I called it something different every time, heh.

And I did say I was going to write about my Harry Potter experience.

Which was much easier to say than to do. At first I’d thought it would be almost impossible to do just the one post about a series that originally spanned seven books. I mean, seriously, what pictures would I have to choose? What quotes would fit each picture? And did I really need to add 30+ Quidditch-related pictures? No? Darn.

But what I will add, is this stunning depiction of the Great Hall entrance in all its glory. Because I totally got emotional just seeing them open. I’m not a sap, promise. Okay. Maybe I am. #sorrynotsorry

Seriously, I could go on and on about the series and how much of it has been a part of my life. I could go on and on about how I walked the halls pretending I was kinda sorta there, in my own way, down at Leavesden, inside the Warner Bros. lot. But at the interest of brevity, I won’t go crazy, and have limited myself to blogging about a few choice pictures.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

It’s the first sentence quite literally heard ’round the world. And it’s the first location within the HP books that readers paid attention to. Not so much because of its perfectly normal, English quaintness, but because of the things that happen right after. Like cats reading maps and owls flying by day and a cloaked man putting out the lights with a cigarette lighter in the middle of the night.

It didn’t come….he kept on running…he opened his eyes.

A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, eleven o’clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He had done it.

I hadn’t been able to visit the King’s Cross Station platforms much, even though I had walked by that way a few times to transfer lines. That said, it was still fun to walk into the HP Studio to find myself transported to Platform 9 3/4, with a full-blown train set on makeshift tracks, just waiting for people to board it. And I didn’t even have to walk through a wall!

There was a loud “Oooooooh!”

The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

I had originally selected a different picture, one of a much larger model of the Hogwarts grounds. Unfortunately, WordPress didn’t seem to like showing it because it’s one of those weird panorama photos, so I had to make do with a miniature model of what set designers pictured Hogwarts would look like. Still, it’s rather impressive. And if you were standing before a much larger model of the castle, you’d be severely knocked out with awe.

“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking…I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death…”

Confession: While I probably would have excelled in Arithmancy (because math-ish magic? Yespls!), my passion would have probably been Potions class. And not because I think about using it for evil or anything…um. Let’s hide any evidence I try to poison people through my concoctions…*buries the Dark Mark cookies under pillows and stuff*

Honestly, though, the Potions class boasted an excellent ambiance and well-stocked equipment. I wish I had the kind of budget for my future science classroom, but alas.

“The Chasers throw the Quaffle and put it through the hoops to score,” Harry recited. “So–that’s sort of like basketball on broomsticks with six hoops, isn’t it?”

“What’s basketball?” said Wood curiously.

Quidditch! Anything that can let you fly on broomsticks is a fun game to me. And yes, I do have a position I prefer to play, which is kind of fitting, considering I’d probably end up being one of the more violent ones on the field. Unintentionally, of course. I mean, as a Ravenclaw I’d be sort of expected to be able to approximate the trajectory with which to send a bludger careening down the opponent’s head, right? Right? Okay. That joke was made in poor taste. #sorrynotsorry

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.

This was quite honestly one of my favorite props there. Apparently the door–which opens up into the Chamber of Secrets–is made out of several snakes that actually do move through a series of mechanisms.

With a yell, he rolled back onto the pavement, just in time. A second later, a gigantic pair of wheels and headlights screeched to a halt exactly where Harry had just been lying. They belonged, as Harry saw when he raised his head, to a triple-decker, violently purple bus, which had appeared out of thin air. Gold lettering over the windshield spelled The Knight Bus.

Also another of my favorite descriptions of things Harry Potter related. This one happens to operate in London in the books, and for the longest time, I actually did think that buses in London were triple-deckers. Of course, I eventually realized that normal buses were only two decks, not three. And none of the official transport was purple, either. How unfortunate!

“What we need,” said Dumbledore slowly, and his light blue eyes moved from Harry to Hermione, “is more time.”

“But–” Hermione began. And then her eyes became very round. “OH!”

It takes a very trusting teacher to give a 13-year-old that much hold on time. Hell, I barely trust my 12- and 13-year-olds to do anything right when given that much responsibility. I mean, you’d think that after two years people would get the idea that Hermione broke almost as many rules as Harry and Ron did during their time at Hogwarts. That said, wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff was interesting at best.

The lid creaked slowly open. Dumbledore reached inside it and pulled out a large, roughly hewn wooden cup. It would have been entirely unremarkable had it not been full to the brim with dancing blue-white flames.

No flames in this particular cup, but then again, this one isn’t exactly the Goblet of Fire. This one happens to be the Triwizard Cup, a prize given to the player who makes it through the third task first. Of course, things don’t go exactly as anyone would expect, but things sort of pan out slowly by the end.

The walls of the Hall had all been covered in sparkling silver frost, with hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossing the starry black ceiling. The House tables had vanished instead, there were about a hundred smaller, lantern-lit ones, each seating about a dozen people.

I always thought the Yule Ball was much better done through visuals than description. It was cool to see how the Great Hall was decorated, and how it had changed once the music went from a classical style to The Weird Sisters. Also, the food and drink must have been grand!

And that’s where I’ll stop. I had hoped to have seen a couple other places like the Department of Mysteries and maybe even Xenophilius Lovegood’s house, but I suppose there’s room for them to add to their exhibits later on. When I went, the Forbidden Forest had just opened up, which was cool to see. The Ministry of Magic also had a few highlighted areas, but again, not enough in my book. I would have loved to have seen more.

That said, I did end up walking out of Hogwarts and back into London with a spring in my step and a sweater to tout off my Ravenclaw pride.

For the first Literature and London post, please click here.

Coming up in the last Literature and London post: Odds and ends and a bit of Shakespeare.

Literature and London Part 1: A Darker Shade of London Magic

I’ve been meaning to write this post since I’d gotten back from vacation in April, and somehow time got away with me. Or, shall I say, I ran away from time due to other time-sensitive (hah!)…stuff. In any case, I wanted to do a more geeky, in-depth post about my very short time in London (and its surrounding areas). And, of course, because I’m a book-nerd, I was going to do so with a bookish twist, much like what I did with my Prague post!

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.” – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Unlike Prague, it’s got a bit more of an assortment of literary fandoms, only because many books I’ve read encompass various parts of the United Kingdom, and not just that of the city itself. Since I knew the Shades of Magic and Harry Potter references would run a bit long, I decided to split my London and Literature series of blog posts into three parts.

And, of course, Schwab won out as the first post. Because why the hell not?!

Windsor’s distance from London was terribly inconvenient considering the fact that, when traveling between worlds, Kell could only move between a place in one and the same exact place in another. Which was a problem because there was no Windsor Castle a day’s journey from Red London. In fact, Kell had just come through the stone wall of a courtyard belonging to a wealthy gentleman in a town called Disan. Disan was, on the whole, a very pleasant place.

Windsor was not.

Impressive, to be sure. But not pleasant. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I knew there was quite a bit of description of certain places in Grey London in A Darker Shade of Magic, but rereading it definitely reopened my eyes to just how much of Grey London had been largely described. I find it a bit appropriate that when I visited Windsor, it was kind of a grayish day, much like when Kell walked into the castle to see George III. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Windsor wasn’t a pleasant place, the town itself had a sort of charm, even in lieu of us crazy tourists and our need to look at the inside of The Queen’s favorite residence.

He continued on until the park gave way to the streets of London, and then the looming form of Westminster. Kell had a fondness for the abbey, and he nodded to it, as if to an old friend. Despite the city’s soot and dirt, its clutter and its poor, it had something Red London lacked: a resistance to change. An appreciation for the enduring, and the effort it took to make something so…here, Westminster Abbey always stood, waiting to greet him. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I felt sort of like Kell, though unlike him, I traveled through the Underground to get to Westminster. When I walked up the stairs and out of the underground, Westminster pretty much greeted me in its staunch regalness and unchanging glory. It was a lovely sight to walk into, and I can’t help grow a fondness for such a structure amidst the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Even at night, the river shone red.

As Kell stepped from the bank of one London onto the bank of another, the black slick of the Thames was replaced by the warm, steady glow of the Isle. It glittered like a jewel, lit from within, a ribbon of constant light unraveling through Red London. A source.

A vein of power. An artery. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I pretty much walked parallel to the Thames for an entire day, and I often glanced at it and wondered how the city would have looked if the water was really red. Alas, no magic in this artery. The view, however, is particularly pretty, and I’d like to think that in another time and another London, a tavern boat called the Sea King moored its ports. (Up until it burns down, of course…bad Lila!)

Also, on a similar note, Red London’s version of the Thames is the Isle, a glittering red river running across Red London with power. At the heart of it stands a palace, the House of Maresh, and honestly, if it had a Grey London equivalent, I’d imagine it to be exactly like Tower Bridge, which is certainly a magnificent structure that straddles the river. Wouldn’t it be cool if that was how the palace looked like? It probably doesn’t, but my imagination ran away with me, so…

Lila was soaked to the bone.

Halfway across the bridge, the sky had finally opened up–not a drizzle, as London often seemed to favor, but a downpour. Within moments, they had been soaked through. It certainly didn’t make dragging the half-conscious Kell any easier. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

And somewhere in the distance–probably at London Bridge (which isn’t Millennium Bridge OR Tower Bridge, but the plain one in between)–in another time and another London, is a crossdressing girl thief dragging a half-conscious ginger-headed Antari across the river and into the Stone’s Throw.

On a related note, skim-reading ADSOM was a good and terribly bad idea. Good because holy hell, HOW did I totally forget about a fake-Kell striptease happening in the middle of the book?! And bad because OMG lots of other things happened and then I ended up spending hours just reading scenes upon scenes of my favorite characters and and…hours later this post still wasn’t written. Yeah.

Pity there wasn’t a Stone’s Throw in sight, but I will say that I dined in a pub near the bridge, which comes a bit close!

Coming up in the next London and Literature post: Hogwarts and Harry Potter.

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

So this book. I don’t even know where to start that will keep you safe from my abject admiration of A Darker Shade of Magic. And the squeefesting that will follow. And um. Yeah.

Screw it, can I just say I love this book and be done with it already? I cannot.


A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

by V. E. Schwab, audiobook narrated by Steven Crossley
Tor Books, February 2015
Fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies
Audiobook courtesy of the Ford Audiobook Club on Goodreads.

darkershadeKell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

So there’s this book I’d read a while back called Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (You wonder why I bring this up, but I promise there’s a point to this rumination!) It was a beautifully written novel, about magic and circuses and competitions and a love story that spanned an age. The descriptions were exquisite, the setting was vivid, and I could swear I was walking down the Ice Garden with the cast of characters.

The book, however, didn’t do it for me as far as the story went. It was missing strong characters, felt disjointed for the most part, and didn’t really have a plot I was interested in reading about (or listening to). So while I adored the setting and the description–and the audiobook narration–I wasn’t utterly wowed. Still, it was a good book.

A Darker Shade of Magic, however, has all the bits that I loved about Night Circus mixed in with a wondrous world where magic is alive.

A Bucketful of Squees

Firstly, those covers. They just look awesome, that’s what. I loved the UK cover the best, though the US version was also rather splendid. I’m trying to figure out how I can Food and Fandomize this book, but right now my brain is mostly going to the color schemes and I’d need to find a way to make gray food….OMG I CAN MAKE A PARFAIT. YES. Hem, hem, anyway, the covers were most excellent.

A London in different shades. How could anyone not love being able to travel to four (well, three since Black London is pretty much just closed off) different Londons? I loved the world building and the detail put into distinguishing the Londons from each other. Listening to Steven Crossley’s narration of the book helped me imagine the places rather well, though often I did wish I had a paperback copy so I could actually read along, ’cause the descriptions were fantastic.

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.” – Lila

Delilah Bard. I admit, it took some time getting used to Lila. I think I’ve had my fill of pirates after overplaying Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag so her whole dreaming of being a pirate and having adventures just made me grimace and groan somewhat. That said, I gave her a chance because this sassy thief knows how to set bitches on fire. She also has no problem using a pistol. You just don’t frell with that.

I can totally picture an older Maisie Williams playing Lila. Can we see this happen please?!

Magic and Mayhem and Antari. I loved the Antari and the magic they wield. Magic has the potential to control is such a creepy concept and there are a cast of characters in the book that show us magical control in varying degrees. Kell and Holland, particularly, wield and view magic differently from each other, even though they are both Antari, and to be honest, I’m not particularly sure which one of their views I agreed with more. Which makes the notion of magic in the book even better, imo. (That said, I’d probably side with Kell because I’m kind of in love with him–though I do feel sorry for Holland).

Those motherfrelling twins. There’s nothing like a great villain to add conflict to the story. ADSoM has two: Athos and Astrid Dane. Well, three, if you count the darkness of Black London magic (though I feel this third is sidelined mostly and will re-emerge in the sequel). But the twins more than cut great figures across White London and its neighbors. Together, Athos and Astrid are two heads of the same coin in cruelty and power. Apart, they have their own sense of batshit crazy. I outwardly shivered when Crossley tried to convey their voice and description in his narration.

Can I just say how much I LOVE this fanart of the Danes and Holland? It’s so creepy and beautiful and I totally just yoinked this as my phone wallpaper for the moment.

That literal bromance though! It’s real! It’s really, really REAL! Rhy and Kell make an awesome duo, so I was slightly sad that there wasn’t much Rhy-ness in the pages. Kell is absolutely dedicated to Rhy in his own brotherly way, which made me admire him even more later on in the book. I mean, I don’t blame Kell. Rhy’s pretty damn hilarious, albeit unskilled in the arts of magic.

5 out of 5 cookies! It was seriously hard to stop listening to the audiobook. I spent many nights going “one more chapter and I’ll sleep” and finding myself awake a couple of hours later STILL listening to the story.


darkershade-astrid