JK Rowling has an unerring ear for the rhythm of language and the ability to tell a good story without burdening it with a lot of exposition. In the Harry Potter books, she created a magical world by reusing and re-purposing the core elements of every fantasy story ever written. She made it her own by taking tired, hackneyed, and overused tropes and passing them through a slightly bent and twisted mirror, giving her satire a sharply pointed and humorous appeal.
Clever and fun, the Harry Potter books are all that is good about British humor. It is biting commentary hidden under the very thin veneer of clown make-up and good manners. It would seem that Rowling introduces most of her characters in an off-hand manner or as punch lines to her jokes but much to the reader’s delight those characters reappear over and over again, their personae filling up and out, becoming more relatable as her stories progress.
Her books are written from Harry’s viewpoint, i.e. that of someone newly introduced to the world of wizardry, thus taking the reader on an adventure of discovery; Harry’s wonder becoming your own; Harry’s amazement is echoed in your own heart.
The Black Bead Chronicles are similar in that the backdrop of the story is full of traditional sci-fi tropes painted with broad strokes and subtle washes which do not get in the way of storytelling or the establishment of characters or the intricacies of character interaction.
Black Bead is also written from a single point of view. What you see, as the reader, is what Cheobawn sees. Everything passes through her cognitive and emotional filters so you come away with an understanding of her very defined sense of good and bad, right and wrong, order and chaos. Knowing what she knows, you are invited to solve the puzzles in her life as she encounters them.
There are some parallels between Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and Cheobawn Blackwind, the child who keeps on surviving against unreasonable odds. Karma or fate or the accidents of birth have put them both on a path towards greatness. Harry – with his unquenchable curiosity – embraces his fate with a resigned good humor. Cheobawn has a brain that perceives too much and the unfortunate ability to sense the future. She fights her fate with every ounce of her being. In the end, neither Harry or Cheobawn can stop the juggernaut that is their life from delivering them to the place of their final confrontation.
There are differences between the two series. Harry and Cheobawn are mirror opposites. Harry Potter is a re-working of the Savior story, and the Black Bead books are more of a super-hero origin story.
Harry is an orphan who seeks parenting in every passing adult. Hogwarts becomes his home, the place he feels safest. His teachers become his extended family. Cheobawn, on the other hand, lives in a dome and is cursed with hundreds of parents. Safety is an illusion that will get you killed, she believes. She has learned to use her own inner wisdom as a guide to filter out the plethora of advice that assails her from all sides. Both children must discover the secrets the adults refuse to share with them.
But that is where the similarities end.
Harry is trying to learn how the world works and has many teachers. Cheobawn knows implicitly how it works. For her, life is a puzzle to be solved on her own terms.
Innocent, Harry stumbles blindly into the path of death over and over again. Warrior born and warrior trained, Cheobawn dances with death, eyes wide open.
Harry has his posse. Ron and Hermione. Cheobawn has her Pack. Tam and Alain and Megan and Connor. Their commitment to each other is an intricately formal bond.
Harry pulls other people into his adventures: the Weasley twins, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood. Cheobawn innocently seduces Ramhorn Pack and the sentient bennelk into playing a part in her games.
Harry thirsts for greatness. Cheobawn longs for an ordinary life.
In the end Harry must choose death in order to live. He surrenders to the chaos. Cheobawn’s end is a little different. She must pick up the reins of her power, learn to control the chaos, and choose to live.