Henry Portman

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The Henry Portman series is a popular series about a young wizard-in-training named Henry Portman. The author is R.K.Crickerling (born 1963), a sometimes substitute teacher from England. It has been translated into dozens of languages. The series consists of seven books.

  1. Henry Portman and the Seventh Ward (In which Henry accidentally releases the terrible Lord Ville de Mort from his magical mirror prison, and Henry vows to find a way to undo his mistake)
  2. Henry Portman and the Very Angry Chipmunk (In which Henry's school is threatened by the resurrected spirits of a knightly order, the Iratus Bestia)
  3. Henry Portman and the Hour of Revenge (In which Henry meets his godfather and discovers some of the strange history between himself and Professor Flutterbye)
  4. Henry Portman and the Contest of Powers (In which Henry becomes involved in a fabled duel between sorcerous champions, and discovers that the Lord Ville de Mort has gained followers)
  5. Henry Portman and the Order of the Barking Spiders (In which Henry discovers a prophecy and a secret society dedicated to the overthrow of Lord Ville de Mort)
  6. Henry Portman and the Mysterious Potions Book (In which Henry accidentally finds the surprising secret that links his girlfriend Diana to Professor Flutterbye as well as Lord Ville de Morte)
  7. Henry Portman and the Gates of Dawn (In which Henry goes on a quest with his three closest friends to find an entrance to the world of the dead, and trick Lord Ville de Mort to finally enter there).

Criticism and Cultural Impact

Fans of the series point to the blend of drama with outright silliness as a virtue, while critics say this quality decreases its merit. Others insist the storyline itself is suitable only for children, decrying its popularity with adults. Others call it a classic coming-of-age story that brings elements of epic fantasy into a quasi-modern setting.

Fundamentalists of several stripes (including the Alliance for Public Decency and others) condemn what they see as pro-occult propaganda. Some Monarchists have also taken exception to the name of the very eccentric love interest of Henry's, Diana Dovecraft, saying it is a mockery of Queen Diana.

It cannot be denied, however, that the books are (at least for present) a major modern phenomenon. Sales of each volume have broken records. The publication of each of the last four books were huge marketing events, prompting costume parties at book stores and special performances of celebrities reading each book aloud.

Henry Portman's World

The Wizards of Portman's world live among us, but hidden. They possess a government which works with the non-wizards' government to keep magic a secret. Henry Portman is a student at Morgwyn's School of Sorcery, situated somewhere in Kemr, which falls under the Commonwealth of Magic (including Scotland, Ireland and at least some part of the North American League). Henry himself is English, having grown up in the town of Boaring Place outside London.

Portman's parents died mysteriously. Although not sorcerors themselves, they were good friends to many wizards. The fact that Henry proves not only magical but quite powerful is one of the series' many mysteries.

There are a lot of "in jokes" as well, with Xliponia mentioned as the site of a Griffin Reserve and Oltenia having given civil rights to vampires. One character--Henry's godfather Cassius Whyte--is even a wendigo.

Lord Ville de Morte is the villain of the piece, a sorceror whose real name is John Puzzle. His followers, a group of pro-sorceror racists, are called the Purifiers. Ville de Mort himself proves to be a man who magically cheated death, by giving Death the Portmans in his place. As a result he is outside what is natural, mutating over time into an increasing inhuman form--bone white, cold, unblinking and without physical needs such as sleep or food.

Other characters include:

  • Ophelia Forrest one of Henry's two best friends, a gregarious girl with a wicked sense of humor.
  • Rhoberth Wolfe the third of the 'triad' which makes up the central characters of the series--a brilliant student (classical "nerd") who eventually falls in love with Ophelia.
  • Professor Flutterbye is the headmaster at Morgwyn's, an austere and forbidding personality of great sorcerous power whose loyalties remain a mystery until the last novel. It turns out he and John Puzzle were once extremely good friends, almost brothers, until the latter accidentally killed Flutterbye's wife. From this event grew Puzzle's obsession with immortality.
  • Professor Vispers is the potions teacher, a kindly man with a great sense of humor who becomes Henry's surrogate father. It was he who imprisoned Lord Ville de Mort after Henry's parents died. An old, old man he passes away and leaves Henry a vital clue in his will.
  • Diana Dovecraft is Henry's love interest, an extremely eccentric (insane in many peoples' eyes) student who seems to have an intuitive understanding of how magic works. In the last novel, it is revealed she is not in fact an orphan (like Henry) but Flutterbye's daughter.
  • Winston Shortower is an overweight friend of Henry's, a magical student whose special talent is divination (yet whose "Sight" is unreliable at best). Winston ends up personally summoning the Angel of Death at the end, bringing Lord Ville de Mort's to his final reward. Later we learn Ophelia and Rhoberth name their son in his honor.
  • Death is the Angel of Death, tricked into not perceiving John Puzzle by an elaborate set of circumstances involving the death of Henry's parents. Each person sees Death differently.