reviews/analysis

4 Novels for Ravenclaws

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Our fourth and final post in this series centers on the house these kinds of lists are made for, Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw’s sigil is a bronze eagle – not a raven – over a blue field; the young witches and wizards Ravenclaw attracts are creative, intelligent, and take pleasure in learning for its own sake. One of the house’s lesser known traits is its acceptance of individuals who are, for lack of a better term unique. From its beginning Ravenclaw has produced some of the most brilliant minds in the wizarding world, such as Garrick Ollivander, crafter of the finest wands in all of Europe, Filius Flitwick, the greatest Charms Master in Hogwarts history, and Luna Lovegood, who, though quite young at the time, proved indispensable in the second wizarding war against Lord Voldemort.

“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt   

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image courtesy of: https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/secret-history/author/donna-tartt/

This is hands down my favorite book of all time, so as a Slytherin, I was tempted to put it on my own houses list, but the grand intellectual ideas this novel infuses into its plot just makes it perfect for Ravenclaw. Richard, a perpetually melancholic young man travels from his no-name town in California, to a private arts college on the East Coast. While there, he becomes involved with an exclusive and secretive group of scholars whose charismatic classics professor inadvertently leads them down a twisting path of ever increasing darkness. There are two things I feel Ravenclaws will appreciate about this gem: first, Tartt’s superb writing: she manages to strike the perfect balance between style and narrative substance, crafting an elegantly structured plot while also feeding readers rich, beautiful prose. Second, the hefty dose of intellectualism: throughout this brisk story, we are treated to a wide range of fascinating ideas, ranging from theories of art and philosophy, to history and literature, something the house of learning and creativity will love.    

“American Gods,” Neil Gaiman

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image courtesy of: https://www.amazon.com/American-Gods-Tenth-Anniversary-Novel/dp/0062472100

Neil Gaiman is a Ravenclaw, right? He certainly strikes me as one: prolific creator of genre defying literary masterpieces, highly intelligent and articulate, with a sense of humor all his own. Endlessly creative, and rich with the DNA of world mythology, Gaiman’s magnum opus, “American Gods,” embodies much of the spirit of the house of Rowena. Shadow Moon, a recently freed ex-convict finds himself in the employment of Mr. Wednesday, the self proclaimed King of America, who is traveling cross-country recruiting soldiers for a coming war between the Old Gods – deities which have traveled to America with immigrants but have lost their power as people’s belief in them has waned – and the New Gods – personifications of new forces in American culture, like technology, media, etc. What I feel Ravenclaws will enjoy about this brilliant work is how Gaiman is able to apply his deep knowledge of history and mythology to such an entertaining narrative, as-well-as the subtle commentary he makes about American immigration and the importance of storytelling to the human condition.   

“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” by Michael Chabon

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image courtesy of:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amazing-Adventures-Kavalier-Clay/dp/1841154938

What better fit for Ravenclaw than a novel about the journey of artists trying balance creativity with the demands of real life. Beginning in the golden age of comics, Michael Chabon’s pulitzer prize winning masterpiece centers around Joe Kavalier, an aspiring escape artist with a talent for illustration, who flees Europe during the rise of Nazism, taking refuge with his relative, Sam Clay. Overtaken with entrepreneurial drive, Joe and Sam set out to create an iconic superhero in the vein of Superman, an endeavour which they accomplish gloriously.  As the years go by, Joe and Sam find themselves embroiled in the politics of war, deal with the stresses of love and family,  reap the rewards (and consequences) of their success. Ravenclaws are creative, and naturally drawn to anything with a unique style or aesthetic, and so I feel they will appreciate the colorful writing Chabon employs to capture a period in American history which is often unexplored in fiction.

 

“The Golden Compass,”  by Philip Pullman

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image courtesy of: https://www.amazon.com/Golden-Compass-20th-Anniversary/dp/1101934662

Merging science fiction and fantasy in way which has yet to be rivaled, the first installment in Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy centers around Lyra, a headstrong young girl in an alternate version of our world, the most striking characteristic of which is that every human has a daemon – a physical manifestation of their soul which follows them around in the form of an animal. In addition to being thoroughly enchanting, Pullman’s novel features a magic system unlike any other, functioning almost like science. As Ravenclaws, being a logical bunch, will appreciate such a meticulous approach.       

   

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