Now that my English degree is done, I am actually reading literary criticism for fun and it’s kind of ridiculous. But when I saw a tweet about a book about race in fantasy, I was intrigued. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, or watch it really, but this book actually touched on two major things I knew: Hunger Games and Harry Potter. So I dove right into this ARC when it arrived and in its five chapters I found a great discussion of how race does and doesn’t manifest on the page and on the screen and even discovered some new fandoms.
I won’t attempt to describe the Dark Fantastic here because I think the author does a much better job, but this book is a great deep dive into race, fantasy, fandom, and how the world reacts when you cast a black woman in a role you might expect to be played by a white woman, and how the show or book handles that. The major fandoms discussed include Merlin, Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. I’m only familiar with the later two, but it was still easy to follow along. The first three of these chapters follow a similar formula of looking at how the character is handled in the Dark Fantastic archetype, but the final chapter talks more about fandom and fanfiction. I was actually most looking forward to the final chapter on Harry Potter because I thought it would focus heavily on the choice of Cursed Child as a play to cast a black Hermione (and the backlash) but it just barely touched on that. I was a little disappointed, not gunna lie. I really enjoyed the discussion of Rue in the Hunger Games though and it definitely primed me for understanding the rest of the book.
If you’re skeptical about literary criticism, don’t be scared away from this book. It’s fandom heavy and well written and also pretty short, under 200 pages, so worth your investment.