I loved the Harry Potter (HP) books and movies. I have just started reading the books in the song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) but I have watched every episode of the TV show Game of Thrones and am very familiar with the world created by George RR Martin – in short I am entitled to an opinion. True that the worlds are so different that’s its quite unfair to do so. But such comparisons have crept up. In some ways they were unavoidable because of the cultural phenomenon both have become in the last 15 years. My comparisons are more of a response to people who proclaim ASOIAF is better with funny arguments.
I honestly believe that if anything HP is greater than ASOIAF because of many reasons combined. Let me counter pseudo arguments that favor ASOIAF :
1. ASOIAF is a complex world, HP is not.
2. HP Characters are black and white, while ASOIAF are gray.
3. HP is too comfy and feel good…and never gets gory like ASOIAF.
4. HP is predictive. But with ASOIAF You don’t know what to expect next.
5. The HP books are just a great escape. That’s why everyone likes them.
1. ASOIAF is a complex world, HP is not: The first is true but HP world is fantastically complex. Where else before did we see so much magic in a world. Where newspapaers spring to life; where a sorting hat decides where students go; where wizards have their own sport! Hogwarts was the creation of a genius. There is magic…so much magic. The story has so many arcs to it: friendship, coming of age, struggle, fighting against the dark forces, mysteries, riddles, ghosts…there really is SO MUCH and yet nothing feels out of place. There are stories like ASOIAF and the Stormlight Archive that seem because of the narration as more complex than HP- perhaps they are – but I attribute that to the number of elements involved. HP is not just complex, it’s bloody complex.
2. HP Characters are black and white, while ASOIAF are gray: One common complaint is that the characters are not very gray. ASOIAF has made characters gray. HP starts when eleven year old Harry and his friends enter Hogwarts. Just how gray do you expect eleven year olds to be? They ended up breaking half the rules themselves (inspite of Hermoine) and they each have conflicted emotions as the series progresses. Ex : Hermoine stuns somebody so Ron could enter the Quidditch team. There is friction between their friendships at times. Everything is not hunky-dory.
What did you want them to do – go cut somebody with a knife over dinner in the great hall? Would that make it realistic? Sorry not buying it.
While we are still talking about the kids, Draco Malfoy is the classic gray character among the school mates. He is always bad-ass and yet when those moments came when he could have made himself a monster (before Dumbledore’s death for example), he quivered. He had some sanity deep down.
What about Snape? And Dumbledore himself turned out to be a quirky character no?
It’s a classic good versus bad tale. That’s just the way it is. That doesn’t make the characters black and white. There is a difference. All characters have their own degrees of flaws. Just dont assume that the definition of gray means to slit somebody’s throat every now and then.
3. HP is too soft…and never gets gory like ASOIAF: Yes it is feel good but dont you want to feel good ? The feel good is very genuine and not forced by people trying to look cute. You like them because of the friendships, the adventures ,magic , puzzles and Hogwarts! HP is primarily targetted toward a younger audience (Observe here that it was equally well received by parents and grand parents alike). That is the genre it is in. ASOIAF sticks to what it is and never tries to mellow things down which is good for the spirit of the series and perhaps you like this feature. It is a good basis for liking one series but not for belittling the other.
Sure you can pick an action movie over a rom-com movie depending on your experience. But you cant say you didn’t like the rom-com movie because there wasnt enough action in it!
4. HP is predictive. But in ASOIAF you don’t know what to expect next: Yep we don’t know when the next book is coming out do we 😉 On a serious note, what rubbish. It had become an obsession to predict how HP would end in the final book. Hundreds of critics gave their opinions and predictions using hints and their own intution. But how many could predict Snape’s true story ? Or Dumbledre’s past ?
Or frankly who even expected Dumbledore to die in book 6? Or Sirius in book 5 ? Or that Ron’s rat was actually wormtail ? Or Crouch’s secret ? To call it predictable is insulting how intelligent the books actually are.
5. The HP books are just a great escape, that’s why everyone likes them: Firstly I dislike the word escape for any fantasy, ASOIAF or HP. Both are fantasy works. They are meant to take you to different worlds. But why are there no other better escapes in other works? If the story was shallow, a smart reader would n’t feel they were escapes…he would feel foolish. If it is a great escape, it is a bloody good one.
And now for what I feel works for HP:
1. JK is a better storyteller than Martin: There is consistency in the HP series. Last I heard A Dance with the Dragons was heavily criticized for not moving the plot too forward. Martin style is to be descriptive but sometimes he tends to be over romantic about either the sex or the killing at the cost of the story.
There was no such catastrophic mistakes in HP books…ever. Even if it got a bit slow (book 6) there was still so much happening and so many loose ends being tied and it was more racy than ASOIAF. Seriously so much build about Winter and it hasn’t even come.
Update: It seems winter has finally come 🙂
2. Harry Potter blew everyone’s mind: The world was something new , something fresh and so exciting and magical (agreed that dark lords and wizards are not very new). One which you could touch and feel and almost live in.
3. It is feel good: I remember being in a poor state of mind when I read Order of the Phoenix and it was so comforting and a great relief not because there is cute hapiness all around but because the story was always moving forward , puzzles were exciting, the interaction between the characters was fun – these kept me gripped. I am not sure ASOIAF would have the same effect with it’s dragging and often morbid theme.
4. Harry Potter brought the magic back to books: It quite simply changed the entire book world on it’s head. Hundreds of Thousands of copies booked even before the release date ( Mine included ). People from other languages learning English just to be able to read those books. It was not just a great book series that was widely acclaimed , it was an unprecdented phenomenon. It was not a small series , mind. It was not just a couple of books that did well. Each one of them did. Even after the hype.
5. Book for all Ages: It is sad to classify it as children’s book and that is what I feel when see Eragon, HP in the bookshelves of children. Fantasy is a better word. It appealed more in fact to the people in 20s and 30s not to mention the 40s and 50s…and yeah basically everyone! This is rare for any series. Any world with magic etc. can be shunned by a more adult audience but HP was loved. It was endearing but it was also very intriguing and adventurous and exciting!
6. Characters are Personal and their relationships are dynamic: Any good story is about characters. I think every one of them, the students, the professors, the death eaters was so developed and all their lives well knitted together.
7. HP has so much of everything: There is adventure, there is thrill, there is elements of intrigue expected of a fantasy, there is love, there is poetry, there is comedy and it also has it’s share of whodunnits.
I hope my tone in this article is not mistaken HP is not flawless and I really like ASOIAF. It is another step in being a more rounded reader. The world is pretty original and killing was actually quite common in the worlds similar to the ones in which it is set in (Medieval times for example).
What I dont like is the pervertedness that come with these books. Gore and Deaths are one thing. They add a necessary dimension which makes them believable but the perversion in the books at times makes me want to quit them. I cant imagine what must be going through the heads of teenagers who read them (yes, they do and how are you going to stop them?) .
It is not that I am looking for a soft fantasty. I love the action, I dont mind the deaths but the evil and pervertedness in these books is another level altogether and that repulses me.
The only reason I am still watching the show is because of Tyrion Lannister. If he dies, I pull the plug.
P.S: After a second reading of both the series if my views do change even slightly, I will definitely update this article!