Like many ’90s kids, I grew up with JK Rowling’s arguably most famous work to date, Harry Potter.
Naturally, my interest piqued when I heard that Rowling was releasing an online serialisation titled The Ickabog.
Although the online serialisation kicked off recently on March 26, 2020, The Ickabog isn’t actually a “new” story. Far from it, really.
According to Rowling’s website, The Ickabog was supposed to be published after the final Harry Potter book was released, but Rowling said she ended up taking a five-year long break.
Eventually, “the first draft of The Ickabog went up into the attic, where it’s remained for nearly a decade”.
It was only a few weeks ago that Rowling went back into the attic to wipe the dust off her draft and decided to upload it at theickabog.com where people can read it for free, with new chapters posted every weekday.
Like everyone else, I like free things, and I certainly wouldn’t turn down an offer to read one of my favourite authors’ stories.
The Ickabog is primarily for kids aged seven to nine but will appeal to readers of all ages.
It’s written in a lighthearted and humorous tone, with several scenes that tug at the readers’ heartstrings when you read between the lines.
The first few chapters are mainly exposition, giving the readers a pretty good grasp of the characters’ personalities and relationships.
One of the first characters we are introduced to is King Fred the Fearless, ruler of Cornucopia.
Why ‘the Fearless’? Because King Fred likes how it sounds.
Espceially with his name – I agree, it does have a nice ring to it – and partly because King Fred the Fearless killed a wasp all by himself, if you exclude his six servants. Constantly by the king’s side are his silver-tongued best friends, Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon.
The first lord, Spittleworth, is as clever as he is cunning. Flapoon, on the other hand, isn’t quite at Spittleworth’s level but he is still “sharper than the king”.
The plot picks up in Chapter 3, when Fred decides to have a brand-new purple suit to welcome the arrival of another king.
He entrusts the task to the head seamstress, who isn’t quite well but stays up three nights in a row to finish the suit on time before Fred’s guest arrives.
Unfortunately, at dawn on the fourth day, the head seamstress is found dead “with the very last amethyst button in her hand”.
Her daughter, Daisy, is understandably upset and bears a grudge against the king.
But she caught the eye of Spittleworth, Flapoon and Fred himself.
WHAT’S THE ICKABOG?
Going back to the book title, what exactly is the Ickabog? At its surface, the Ickabog is a legend passed down the generations, said to eat children and sheep.
Like all legends, the tale of Ickabog varies depending on who’s telling it.
True to its humourous nature, the book states that the “Ickabog’s powers were as great as the imagination of the teller”.
Parents often mention the Ickabog so their kids will behave, which makes the Ickabog a bit like nenek kebayan (a witch) in that sense, or a boogeyman, for those who aren’t familiar with the local folklores.
So is the Ickabog real?
Maybe, maybe not. I’m 10 chapters in and there’s only one eyewitness of the Ickabog, and we haven’t really encountered the Ickabog firsthand.
If the Ickabog really does exist, I look forward to seeing how the creature plays a role in this story, and how it impacts the conflict between Daisy and the king.
UPDATE EVERY WEEKDAY
The Ickabog is an online serialisation updated every weekday until July 10, 2020 when the story will end.
There aren’t a definitive number of chapters for each update, which means you could have one new chapter on Monday and three the next day.
Also keep in mind that there are no updates during the weekends, so don’t be surprised if you head to the website on a Sunday and don’t find anything new.
As a side note, The Ickabog was originally written as a bedtime story, so parents can read it aloud for their kids. Each chapter is relatively short and has vivid imagery, balanced out with bits of dialogue and jokes here and there to keep readers on the edge of their seat.