NEW YORK CITY — The magic touch of billionaire and once-beloved author J.K. Rowling seems to have run out. Only days after its inglorious debut, piles of unsold copies of her new novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Law School, collect dust on the shelves at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square. The situation has left many observers and fans asking: What happened?
“It was a bridge too far,” opines noted Potterologist James Freeman. “[Rowling] originally claimed she’d completed the story she set out to tell, the lure of additional riches and the desire to make Harry more contemporary took the characters in a direction the fans just were not ready to accept.”
In the new book, Harry Potter, having vanquished the forces of evil, searches for what to do next. Not having clear direction, he decides to do like many a young man his age and enter law school, enrolling at Oxvards School of Lawyering and Statescraft. During the dreaded first year he descends into a grim world of self-doubt, depression and borderline madness as he deals with brutal workloads, backstabbing classmates and coldly indifferent professors.
Notes Freeman: “While the books got darker they never went to the depths presented in Prisoner of Law School. How could anyone stand seeing their beloved hero reduced to a bitter, humorless wretch.”
Some of Rowlings other characters do appear in the book, though briefly: With Hermione Granger studying abroad, Ron Weasley decides to enter a Master of Wizard Administration course at a local B-school and his sister Ginny Weasley opts to dive into a career in marketing. Harry at first tries to spend as much time with his friends as he did before, but difficulties arise. With less and less free time, he fruitlessly tries to deflate the tension between his law school associates and his non-law friends, or as Rowlings dubs them, “luggles”. Fans across the internet continue to discuss a pivotal moment where Ron finally tells Harry he’s becoming “an insufferable asshole.”
The moment frustrated George Suarez, webmaster of popular fan website Potter-of-gold.com: “The fact that that word even found its way into the book, regardless of its validity, tells you everything about where the book went wrong. How on earth are we going to empathize with Harry when he’s become such a jerk?”
Despite its failure with the general public, the book does have its supporters. Scott Turow, author of One L, notably found the new Harry Potter book to capture the essence of law school in the fantasy world of magic. Culture critic Reggie Parks felt the book is good, but the marketing was wrong: “They should have de-emphasized the connection to the previous Harry Potter books and instead tried to launch a new series. The Prisoner of Law School is to the original series as The Road is to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It’s natural that people were disappointed and at times suicidal.”
While Warner Bros. paid Rowling a record sum for the movie rights to her latest novel, a recent press release notes that development is on indefinite hold. Fresh rumors from Hollywood report that the studio may instead try to reboot the existing series with a new cast.