Review: JK Rowling's new novel The Ickabog leaves 'tantalising cliffhangers'

JK Rowling is publishing a new story called The Ickabog, which will be free to read online to help entertain children and families stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/APJK Rowling is publishing a new story called The Ickabog, which will be free to read online to help entertain children and families stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
JK Rowling is publishing a new story called The Ickabog, which will be free to read online to help entertain children and families stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP | Other 3rd Party
Imagine lying in bed as a child, and hearing a brand new chapter written and read by J.K. Rowling each night.

With no disrespect to parents and carers the world over, who tirelessly shared Harry Potter with their young charges, it’s a thrilling prospect.

For Rowling’s own children, it transpires, this was a reasonably commonplace event.

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The Ickabog, which Rowling will publish online in instalments over the next seven weeks, started life as a story for her two younger children.

Consigned to the attic, when she decided instead to publish The Casual Vacancy, this delicious tale of myths and legends in an ancient land might never have seen the light of day beyond Rowling’s own home.

So we have the lockdown to thank for The Ickabog finding its way into bedrooms around the globe, drip-fed to hungry readers like a Dickens novel.

On day one, the first two chapters were unveiled, introducing us to a literal cornucopia of characters (for Cornucopia is the small country where the action takes place) and a rich tapestry of locations.

It’s not hard to imagine Rowling at her children’s bedside, filling their heads with images as she spoke of King Fred the Fearless and his freeloading friends Lords Spittleworth and Flapoon, dressed in breeches, doublets and ruffled shirts.

Chapter one is packed with lush descriptions of Cornucopia’s towns Chouxville, Jeroboam, Baronstown and Kurdsburg and their abundant produce (including ‘Hopes-of-Heaven’, a cream cake so divine it makes you weep with joy), setting the scene for chapter two when the eponymous legend is revealed.

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Tantalising cliffhangers give a flavour of the drama to come as the Ickabog myth, its narrative re-shaped by each mouth that speaks it, gets set to wreak havoc.

Rowling is tweeting suggestions of who or what children could draw to illustrate the story – a nice touch that not only fleshes out the tale in their imaginations, but gives seven to 12-year-olds a chance to see their drawings in the published book via an online competition.

Once the exclusive domain on Rowling’s children, The Ickabog now belongs to everyone. So on behalf of the world, thanks for sharing.

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