[The Ickabog]: A Review

Hi y’all!

Hope you are enjoying summertime! The summer heat has arrived at our house. We are either in swimsuits or eating popsicles at our house.

I am so excited to share my review of J. K. Rowling’s The Ickabog. If you’ve been here long, you know how much I love Harry Potter. So when I heard that Rowling was publishing a new story (not related to Harry and actually first told to her kids years ago), I knew I had to read it. I loved this fairy tale about the power of myth and the strength of fear.

Initial Thoughts:

  • I have read some intense criticism of this book and of Rowling’s political and social opinions. I do not think that is fair. It is unfair to judge her experiences when we have not lived them or opinions when we do not fully understand them. I think Rowling is entitled to her opinions just like we all are. However, I am not here to talk about politics or social issues. I blog because I love books, and I love connecting with book lovers like y’all. And I love Rowling’s work. I love her stories and her characters. This is a fascinating tale.
  • This book feels so much like the Harry Potter books! Showing my nerdiness here — Haha! The cover is so nice and I love the illustrations throughout done by young readers! What a neat contest to engage with readers!
  • Since first reading this book earlier this year, I have also listened to the amazing Stephen Fry narrated audiobook with my husband. Highly recommend it!

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According to Goodreads, “Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.

But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands… the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries off wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it’s just a myth…

And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom, two children — best friends Bert and Daisy — embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.”

I was gripped by the story and the setting from the first pages. I enjoyed the fairy tale setting and the overall pace of the story. The descriptions and story and characters felt like Harry Potter — well developed, engaging, good descriptions. I loved being back in a Rowling story. We get such fun descriptions of the little kingdom of Cornucopia including descriptions of each town and the delicious, fancy food they make. I wanted to wander the streets of Chouxville and cry eating life changing pastries. I wanted to eat the silky smooth cheese of Kurdsburg and even see the misty marshes of the north. Rowling has such a skill for creating memorable settings in her books. This one was no different. And woven throughout this clever story was the myth of the Ickabog.

I was intrigued by the Ickabog from the first time we hear about it. Is it real? Simply a myth? If it is a myth does that make it less real?  These types of questions are at the heart of this story. It is fascinating how some characters create the Ickabog as a monster and also have to face it. Others believe in the myth and question the reality when it comes to their towns. And I love the ways details are revealed about it and everything Bert and Daisy must overcome and understand. I think they are essential in understanding the Ickabog and connecting the other characters.

The characters and their actions were fascinating to observe as the story progressed. I loved Bert and Daisy not because they were idealized but because they knew grief and pain but also overcame it. Their stories are less central than I anticipated in the middle of the book. But their adventure to save the kingdom is such a delight to read. The characters around them all have an important part in the story if only to contrast each other. Kind Fred the Fearless and his different personas and fears, Lord Spittleworth with his sly evil plans for power, Lady Eslanda and her fight for truth, Mrs Beamish and her hope especially in the dungeon. Daisy refusing to lose her name or identity, Bert with his loyalty and desire to do right. And the Ickabog — real or imaginary? I loved the development and description of these characters!

What has kept me thinking about this book long after I finished it are the powerful themes woven into the story. The most prevalent one is the fight for power between truth and lies. How far will you go to protect a lie? Will the truth always come out?  Spittleworth is so dedicated to all his intricate plans and evil to protect his power. What happens if no one stands for truth? What if we all simply support a lie by not standing for truth? There is a satisfying balance in this classic fight between good and evil. There are many dark elements including death, murder, and taking over the kingdom. People do die and grief and suffer. But there are also powerful moments of hope, goodness, overcoming evil, and avoiding despair. I love the way Mrs Beamish rallies everyone in the dungeon. Or how Daisy helps other kids in the orphanage and seeks to really understand who the Ickabog is. Rowling is so good at that balance in the fight of good versus evil. Good will triumph but the road to victory will twist and turn in surprising ways.

Ultimately, I loved this story. The storytelling is fantastic! The exploration of truth, the power of choice, and the importance of kindness are really well developed. This is not a story for young readers. I would categorize in a similar group to the later Harry Potter books. There is violence, evil, and death. At points, it doesn’t seem like good will triumph. And then beautiful surprises occur. So glad that J. K. Rowling has shared this story and hope she will  publish more books for children.

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What are some of your favorite authors?
Have you read The Ickabog? What did you think?

6 thoughts on “[The Ickabog]: A Review

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