James Potter and the Vault of Destinies by G. Norman Lippert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A crazy ride. Lippert has turned the world of Harry Potter on its head.
This is the first of the James Potter books to truly diverge from the formula and style of Rowlings Harry Potter series. Unlike the previous two, this one doesn't link back to or remind one of any of the prior books. In fact, if I had to say what it reminded me of the most, I would say Monsters University, the movie. I'm pretty sure this came out before that, but the story is set in America on a campus where the houses are run like fraternities.
The story kicks off with an illusion gone horribly wrong. Harry Potter and his aurors are called to America to assist with the investigation, and they bring their families along to keep them close while they are there. James and Ralph find themselves joining Zane at Alma Aleron, the American counterpart to Hogwarts. The three, plus their cousin Lucy (Percy's adopted daughter) soon find themselves caught up in a mystery surrounding a mysterious artifact called the loom of destiny.
This story is somewhat darker than the previous two, but it still features plenty of heart and humor. I had no trouble connecting to and caring about the characters, new and old, and it was interesting to see the distinctly American magical world. The quirky houses at Alma Aleron provide the source of much of the humor. The sports rivalry between houses also adds a bit of excitement and entertainment value. All of this plays counterpoint to the underlying struggle of good vs. evil, which is well-executed in this story.
I won't go into any more details, because I don't want to spoil the story. One of the things I like most about book three is the surprise factor. Everything is new. The mystery is revealed gradually with very subtle hints, not predictable ones. I was able to put a few things together as the plot progressed, but I was still shocked by the outcome (though everything fits in hindsight).
Overall, this one is definitely worth reading, but the story is starting to become more Lippert's than Rowlings'. Is that a good thing? Maybe. I can say that I liked it, but things got dark really fast. As I said up front, this one turns the world of Harry Potter on its head.
This book is available for free on Goodreads.com.
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