Harry Potter and the Blatant Ripoff


The Adventures of Dod by Thomas R. Williams (2011)

Those of you who do any amount of reading at all might know that, despite what you've been told, you absolutely can judge a book by its cover. The cover is part of an overall artistic package, and ideally sets an ambiance for what you're about to read. Good covers show you that the publisher had a little faith in the book, that they put some thought and effort into its production, and that they probably opened the manuscript and edited the thing before printing it.

When you throw elf ears onto a 14-year-old boy, tell him to do long division in his head and then snap a picture before he can pose, all the Photoshop effects and cheap fonts in the world will do little to save your cover image.

All of that becomes apparent before you even open the book, which reads like a Harry Potter mad lib. A shrewd reader will be quick to notice many of the analogous story elements that have been lifted and adapted to a different setting, namely:

  • A reluctant hero placed in a foreign-to-him magical setting

  • A trio of friends, comprised of two boys and one bookish girl

  • A villain who killed someone in the hero's family

  • A psychic link between the hero and villain

  • A complicated made-up sport (involving something called "The Golden Swot")

  • Kids in a magical training camp, sorted into different groups, complete with an eccentric mentor.

  • And much more

I don't want to dogpile too hard on this book because it's self-published, and I have to applaud the initiative that it takes to do that. But that being said, every page I turn to is just awkward. From my perusal of the book, the writing feels like middle school fanfiction.

Here's an actual passage from the book:

The men rushed at each other, their swords blazing in the dim light.
...Up and down the terrace they flew, performing the most amazing feats with their swords.

It might have been nice to know what "the most amazing feats" a person could perform with a sword are, but okay, tell don't show, I guess.

To be fair, I don't know what I was expecting when the first line of text in the prologue is:

It's hard to believe anyone, much less an insignificant boy, could change the future for everyone. But it happened!

It sure did happen. It sure did.

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