MuggleNet Reviews ‘Ink Black Heart:’ Harry Potter Fandom Reversing Course?

Irvin Khaytman, author of Dumbledore: The Life and Lies of Hogwarts’s Renowned Headmaster: An Unofficial Exploration and longtime columnist at (where he writes under the pseudonym hpfanboy13), has written a review of Ink Black Heart. [The original article was taken down after I posted this piece; it can still be read at The Wayback Macine archive.] I recommend it with enthusiasm for three reasons.

First, Khaytman is worth reading about anything Rowling writes because of his profound grasp of Potter canon, his wit, and his capacity to turn a phrase to delight and cuff the chin of his reader. An ‘hpfanboy13’ piece on Potter, Fantastic Beasts, or the Strike series is sure to challenge the reader, maybe even make her or him raise either a fist or a toast, and to re-think whatever subject Khaytman explores, to contradict or support his argument.

Second, he knows his Cormoran Strike, though not as well as he does Harry Potter, alas, and is familiar with some of the ideas we discuss here, most importantly, the Parallel Series Theory and the Seven Book Ring. His takes on the echoes of Half-Blood Prince in Strike6 alone are worth the time invested, as you’d expect from this caliber Potter Pundit, and make his decision to write the review for MNet before reading work others have written here and elsewhere seem well-founded.

His ignorance of how ring composition works, of the 5-6 Flip idea, of literary alchemy, of mythology, and of Strike Extended Play, however, will leave those who have been part of the Ink Black Heart conversation here scratching their heads when reading his confessed confusion about some topics and his certainty about others (he’s sure about how 100 pages could be cut from Troubled Blood without affecting the narrative, for example; only someone clueless about the clockwork structure and inner relationship of the Strike5 story parts could say this without blushing). Rowling’s intertextuality or literary allusion, too, outside of references to the apposite Potter book, seems to have totally escaped his consideration.

Despite those failings and blind-spots, I loved Khaytman’s review and his subsequent conversation in the post’s comment thread with Beatrice Groves. I laughed, I groaned, I rubbed my chin and re-read parts that were especially thought-provoking. He is sui generis and a boon to Serious Strikers, a breath of fresh air, really, and a welcome voice.

The third reason to read hpfanboy13’s review of Ink Black Heart is that Irvin Khaytman is Potter fandom royalty. He is the only writer at MuggleNet who was given a pass (or didn’t have to ask for a pass) to write about the Strike novels, a series currently under interdict there. For a fan site that forced a popular podcast both to change its name in order to delete mention of Rowling and to stop its discussion of the Strike books, this is no small thing.

Khaytman does write, I hope ironically, about the Potter fandom being “among the healthier ones out there – whether due to its female-dominated nature, its accessibility to casual fans, or the obvious emphasis on empathy in the source material.” This near-obsequious nod to his editors and readers — who have slandered Rowling without reservation as a transphobe and bigot, turned a blind eye to online threats from their members to murder or rape the author, and covered themselves in the self-flattering mantle of Social Justice Warriors in this cowardice — may just have been the necessary note to strike in order both to duck the prohibition on Rowling’s latest work and to be able to express his obvious admiration for the author.

I think this review, coming when it does, is important because it is another marker that the Confundus Charm is lifting in parts of Potter fandom. MuggleNet’s Silencio charm forbidding the talking about She Who Must Not Be Named has slipped with this review and, one hopes, with the upcoming Bathilda’s Notebook entry due on Halloween. When Robbie Coltrane died, no one in Potter fandom ranks mentioned in their eulogies that, almost alone, he had stood up for Rowling and against those who were defaming and attacking her for her stand against Gender Theory Extremists. Tom Felton, too, has recently said he admires Rowling and her work — and the twitterati and fandom mavens have not led him to the guillotine in a cart.

And Irvin Khaytman has demonstrated that it’s more than all right to read Rowling-Galbraith’s mystery series; he’s demonstrated that serious readers of Harry Potter have a unique ability, because of the Parallel Series Idea and other Rowling signatures, to enjoy, appreciate, and elucidate the artistry and meaning of these novels. Here’s hoping that his review will act as a counter-charm to the spell that has made Harry Potter fandom much less than the “healthy” alocal space he says it is, at least for the author of the books and those who have refused to participate in her ‘cancellation.’ 


  1. Ed Shardlow says

    Where can we read this review? Is there a link? I can’t find it on Mugglenet or with a Google search.


    Apologies for neglecting to embed this link last night in my hurry to beat the midnight deadline. Curious that a search of their site and online doesn’t bring it up….

  3. Wayne Stauffer says

    Confundus charm or imperious curse?

  4. Drat, the article seems to have been removed from Muggle Net…maybe he’s making some edits? Or…did they get too many complaints???

  5. Thanks for posting and for your thoughts. That’s a good point on Robbie Coltrane. I’m glad that Tom Felton is showing some backbone. (To clarify, I don’t know mind if people disagree with JK Rowling, I disagree with her on plenty. I’m sure there’s no author I love that I’m not a little horrified by at least one or two things they said. But the “she who must not be named” stuff is silly.)

    It’s a very good review! I think it was a healthy step for Mugglenet. You really only can re-hash the movies so much… It’s too bad that they appear to have taken it down.

    Okay, confession, I haven’t re-read Ink Black Heart yet. But on the first read through, I actually enjoyed the chat sections. It was like being online, but not online, so safe…(from a stranger -or friend -attacking your thought or argument.) I did read the chats on paper, which may have helped. Although I was wondering what it would have cost to make The Ink Black Heart two volumes. (Or three because of the ring structure.) That book is heavy!

  6. (To clarify, I don’t mind if people disagree with JK Rowling, I disagree with her on plenty. I’m sure there’s no author I love that I’m not a little horrified by at least one or two things they said. But the “she who must not be named” stuff is silly.)


  7. John I can’t figure out how to read Beatrice’s comments on Irvin’s review. Can we get those? Beatrice do you have them? Just dying to know how that went…

    Tbh, I was mystified with “Spinner’s End, one of the best chapters..” Really? Not Ginny with blazing eyes running into Harry’s arms? Not Harry telling Scrimgeour Dumbledore will only be gone from the school when none here are loyal to him? And then repeating to Scrimgeour that he’s still Dumbledore’s man? Shoot. I can’t even…

    “Maybe it’s my own limitations as a reader..” LOL!
    Is that supposed to be so funny? Or is it me missing something?? SMH

    I have to admit I liked the not a “soul vessel” kind of jewelry parallel to IBH, but he missed an opportunity to chuckle over Strike suggesting Madeline could post a picture of him once he’s in that tiara. (something of Ravenclaw’s??)

    I’m more than a little annoyed about this:”there was a curious parallel-that-wasn’t between the two books..” What?? No mention of how Robin’s “interview” with Pez was spurred on because of her feelings of inexperience, which also mirror Ron’s similar feelings after Ginny, in self-defense, gives him an earful? And he likens Pez to Romilda? Shoot. I need a drink.

    On a positive, less mystifying note, I liked what he said about the fandom:“…to Jo’s credit, this book is not a hatchet job on fandom in general, despite portraying an obviously toxic one…The Ink Black Heart portrays how a fandom, warts and all, can be incredibly meaningful – even lifesaving! – to its members.”
    Well spotted and nicely done to point that out.

  8. Thanks Sandy! Seems to have just been a glitch and its back up with its conversations below:

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