“THIS IS NOT A HARRY POTTER SPIN-OFF”
That’s the note J.K. Rowling included, between lines of 44 asterisks each, at the beginning of a Twitter thread announcing her latest project. While doubtlessly disappointing to the diehards who will only be happy if Rowling pumps out Potter content until the end of time, it’s good news for the rest of us.
Rowling’s thread announced The Ickabog, a standalone fairy tale she dreamed up while writing Harry Potter that she originally intended to publish after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Those plans were derailed by an extended break from publishing, two novels for adults, some controversial revisionism, and a decision to step away from children’s books.
While never made public, Rowling did read the book to her kids, keeping it something of a family secret until a few weeks ago, when she (literally) pulled it down from the attack and started to ponder publishing.
Opening the box was like opening a time capsule. Most of the story was handwritten, but bits had been typed up. When I put it into some kind of order (I'm not renowned for my filing skills) I had a patchwork first draft.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 26, 2020
After some rewriting in the last few weeks, it’s here. Well, the first two chapters are here, available to read and share freely on a website created for that purpose.
Rowling will publish more of the book on the website every weekday between May 26 and July 10. The book tells “a story about truth and the abuse of power,” themes that Rowling points out are timeless but, nevertheless, feel particularly prescient now.
After its first life as a series of blog posts, The Ickabog will make its way to print, eBook, and audiobook formats in November, with illustrations for each chapter provided by kids who enter a competition. Each publisher will choose different illustrations, so the US and UK versions will be different, as will those eventually published in other languages.
You can read the first two chapters of The Ickabog here.