The Legend of Rah and the Muggles
by Nancy K. Stouffer
An In-Depth Review by Rat


The Legend of Rah and the Muggles is a 267-page children's fantasy novel originally self-published by Nancy Stouffer in 1984. The book has recently been in the news because its author is suing J. K. Rowling, author of the bestselling Harry Potter series, claiming that Rowling has used several of Stouffer's ideas and concepts (including the word "muggle," to which Stouffer claims trademark) in the creation of her books.

It isn't the purpose of this review to comment on Stouffer's lawsuit. Instead, its intent is to provide an in-depth, chapter-by-chapter review of the book to help others make the determination for themselves whether The Legend of Rah and the Muggles' potential success has been hindered by the publication of other books that might or might not be similar.

Note: In interviews and news stories about the Stouffer lawsuit, both Stouffer and her representatives have been rather evasive, possibly unintentionally, regarding the actual content of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles: specifically the existence of characters named Larry and Lilly Potter. Larry and Lilly Potter do not appear in this book. They are characters in a series of short activity books written by Stouffer which will be republished later this year. I have seen this mistake in some pretty lofty places, including an AP Wire story. These folks should know better.

This review will be structured by chapter. The title of each chapter will be followed by a brief synopsis of the chapter and then by my commentary. After the chapter analysis I will include a general commentary on the book taken as a whole. I will quote only small excerpts as needed, in keeping with Fair Use. (Believe me, I don't want Nancy's lawyers coming after me. Those folks have no sense of humor whatsoever.)

By the way, if you want to read the introduction in its entirety and get Stouffer's side of the story, you can take a look at Stouffer's official site.

Note: This review, by necessity, contains major spoilers for The Legend of Rah and the Muggles.

The Legend of Rah and The Muggles Chapter by Chapter


Synopsis: This chapter is a prologue, describing the situation that led to the creation of the Muggles on Aura, a country "on the far side of the earth." A catastrophic nuclear war led to a sky choked by "dark poisonous clouds of radiation" and laid waste to the land. All of the able-bodied people left on giant cruise ships, leaving the poor, the weak, and the otherwise undesirable people behind. Less than five hundred years later, these people had evolved into "Muggles," tiny people with big heads, no hair, big bellies, and thin limbs--people who look like babies even when fully grown. They live in a land without sunlight, lit only by the moon shining through the "purple haze." At the end of the chapter we are warned that another war is now raging in yet another land. (You can read this chapter in its entirety on Stouffer's site— see URL above.)

Commentary: The Legend of Rah and the Muggles is meant as a children's fantasy, and so I'm willing to cut it a lot of slack regarding scientific errors. It's difficult to do this, though, because there's some pretty big suspension of disbelief required to swallow the premise of this book. A nuclear holocaust destroyed the land, the plants, and most of the people, as well as irradiating the air (since when does nuclear radiation have color, anyway?) and less than five hundred years later the Muggles have evolved to the point where they have a society? Remember, Muggles were evolved from humans. So in a very short time period (relatively speaking), humans caught in a nuclear attack managed to evolve into three-foot-tall hairless creatures with baby faces? Living in a land without any sunlight? How do they grow food? How do they keep warm? Uh...okay. I guess I'll have to buy this premise because otherwise the rest of the book falls apart before we start. Fair enough. Onward.

Chapter One: The House of Sheridan

Synopsis: At the opening of this chapter we meet Lady Catherine, who's some sort of aristocrat who lives in a "palatial estate." Her country is in the midst of a war and the enemy is on her doorstep. We also meet various members of her palace staff, including Walter, the loyal butler. Lady Catherine is pregnant; her husband, Sir Geophrey Luttrell, is out fighting the war. She and her servants are preparing to enter a network of secret underground passages beneath the castle and remain there until the enemy leaves. In short order Catherine gets word that Sir Geophrey has been killed, and then her babies are born: twin boys. A short time passes and Catherine, knowing that the enemy is close and they must retire to their underground hiding place, tells the servants to prepare and join her for a final feast before they do so. At the feast Catherine gets rather friendly with Walter, and as the chapter continues we get the feeling that she's quite taken with him. The chapter ends with Catherine, knowing that her children won't be safe here, placing them on a raft she had had another servant build and hide, and send them off into the ocean to what she hopes will be safety.

Commentary: A lot happens in this chapter, but Stouffer doesn't seem to have a handle on what's important vs. what isn't. The narrative steps aside several times to drop stock descriptions of characters (rather than incorporating them into the narrative), places and items are described in too much detail, and the pacing of the chapter is rather strange. Further, if Lady Catherine is supposed to be a sympathetic character, she fails miserably for this reader. Let's see: she gets a letter stating that her beloved husband has been killed (he must be beloved because she cries her eyes out when she gets the letter) and then several days later she is openly flirting with the butler. There's no ambiguity here, folks: she's coming on to him. This is not the behavior of a saintly children's book heroine. That's okay, though: after this chapter we'll never see her again. Presumably after floating the babies out to sea she and Walter lived happily ever after or were executed by the enemy. Whichever you prefer.

Chapter Two: The Light

Synopsis: The babies' wooden raft floats down to the ocean, where it is met several days later by various characters who help the children. These include Naddie and Neddie, "Spooners of the Deep," Buddy the barracuda, Benjamin the sea cow, and Porchia the porpoise. After a fortnight on the ocean, the raft comes to rest on Aura, on the dark side of the world. Somehow the box of jewels Catherine had included with the boys manages to catch and absorb the light and take it along, bringing the sun at last to Aura's darkness.

Commentary: If you had to stretch too far to suspend disbelief in the Introduction, you're gonna break it right loose in this chapter. The story states that the raft was on the ocean for "eight days" before it's found by Benjamin and his friends. Eight days! Remember, these are babies, maybe two or three months old at the most. Normal childrens'-book etiquette tells me that I have no problem with the talking sea cow (well, I do, but that's coming), but I'm sorry—I can't swallow two three-month-old babies floating in the ocean (yo, Nancy: waves?) without any food, water, or diaper changes, wrapped in blankets and beaten down upon by the sun, for even two or three days, let alone eight! But okay, let's forge ahead: After several pages of nearly irrelevant dialogue (made even more annoying by the fact that Benjamin stutters, and nobody told Stouffer that dialect is a pain to read and should be used sparingly) during which Benjamin, Buddy, and Porchia squabble among themselves and we never do get to find out what the heck a "Spooner of the Deep" is, Benjamin attaches a rope to himself and the raft, then goes along the bottom of the sea (my, this must be a long rope--not to mention that sea cows are mammals) and tows them to Aura. Remember, this is the first time the Muggles have seen the sunlight in five hundred years. Remember too that these kids have now been on a raft for at least two weeks, probably longer (Stouffer-time is a bit fluid, as we'll see in more detail later on) with no diaper changes. (Note: In the illustrations the babies are naked, so they're not wearing diapers. This does not improve matters much.)

Chapter Three: The Arrival

Synopsis: On Aura, the Muggles watch fearfully as a shaft of light approaches their land. Quickly their fear turns to elation as the light covers the land and they see the sun for the first time in hundreds of years. Spontaneously plants start to bloom, and animals (most of them the giant mutant variety) pop out from the ground and the trees. In this chapter we meet Grandpa Yur, the village Elder, who's 96 years old, and his wife Golda, who's 79. We also meet various other Muggles. At the end of the chapter, the Muggles discover the babies who've arrived with the sun.

Commentary: Where do I start? I hope you've still got your elastic suspension-of-disbelief cord, 'cause it's going to get a workout right now. Apparently Aura is related to the Star Trek "Genesis" planet, the way plant and animal life comes erupting up after only a few moments of sunlight. Further, where did the sunlight come from in the first place? Did it follow the babies? Okay, that part I can buy just because it's a fantasy story. But how do the Muggles even know what the sun is? It "burns like fire" on their "cold blue skin"--shouldn't this give them a bit of pause? No, instead they're celebrating: "We've got light!" Further, what is going on with the selective plant life? When the light arrives we get flowers and trees and dripping honeysuckle bushes, but before the light the Muggles are described as hiding behind leafless redwoods and shrubbery. So let me get this straight: some trees and shrubs can live without sunlight, but not all of them. Got it.

In this chapter we also meet one of the most consistently annoying characters in the book: Grandpa Yur. Yur is supposed to be a wise and kindly village elder, but comes across most of the time as a doddering old fool. The "hard of hearing" shtick leads to numerous irrelevant conversations throughout the book, including in this chapter. Keep in mind as you continue reading this review that Yur is 96 years old and "the oldest Muggle on Aura." Apparently Muggles, being evolved from humans, are supposed to have a normal human lifespan. Remember this for later.

Chapter Four: New Life on Aura

Synopsis: The Muggles, discovering the two babies, decide to take them in and raise them. They are given to Nona, Yur and Golda's daughter, who has no children of her own. In this chapter we also encounter the Greeblies, ratlike creatures, and the Nardles, sand dogs that are the only thing Greeblies fear. The babies are settled in and the "Muggle-Bye" is sung to them, and Yur decides they need names.

Commentary: If you think that not much happens in this chapter, you're right. We get to meet a whole bunch of new Muggles, hear the words "Greeblies" and "Nardle" about enough times to make us want to scream, and see the words to the "Muggle-Bye," for which sheet music is thoughtfully provided at the end of the book. Essentially this chapter could be boiled down to: "The Muggles find the babies. The Muggles take the babies in. The Muggles decide the babies need names."

Chapter Five: What's In a Name?

Synopsis: In keeping with their decision that they can't just keep calling the babies "hey you" (okay, I made the "hey you" part up) the Muggles hold a Naming Ceremony. All the Muggles attend. We learn that names are very important to Muggles, and some are not bestowed until the child shows his or her personality traits. One baby is given the name "Rah," meaning "light," and the other named "Zyn," meaning "flower."

Commentary: This chapter is pretty straightforward. The babies get names at a ceremony that was either hastily changed or that involves traditions that couldn't possibly have been followed even a few months ago (involving bouquets of flowers and other foliage that wasn't alive before the sun came). Apparently the Muggles have some Egyptian influence, naming their sun-kid "Rah" and all. Stouffer makes one of her few attempts at foreshadowing in this chapter, describing the kissing of Rah's "rosy" cheeks and Zyn's "pale" cheeks. Glimmers that all might not be well in Muggleville when these kids grow up.

Chapter Six: An Emergency Situation

Synopsis: The babies have grown a little older. While being babysat by Pitter and Patter, two children who remark on the fact that Rah and Zyn no longer look alike as they did when they arrived, the kids say their first words ("Pit-ter" and "Pat-ter"). Pitter and Patter run off to the village to share their news. The rest of the chapter is taken up with a misunderstanding as Yur the 96-year-old Elder mishears what they say and ends up declaring an "emergency" involving "thirsty birds" and "blind deer." Eventually the kids get their real message through, and Yur is embarrassed. In this chapter we're also introduced to the concept of various Muggles' being "The Keeper of the (whatever)," a concept that is raised and barely mentioned again in the rest of the story.

Commentary: This is in my opinion the most unnecessary chapter in the book. The babies' first words (and one would think they might have been a bit more relevant than "Pitter" and "Patter") could have been fit in with the naming ceremony, and we could have been spared five pages of annoying doddering by Yur. Stouffer doesn't seem to have a grasp on what conversations she should convey (because they're interesting and advance the story) and which ones she should not (because they drag on, are annoying, and don't advance the story). This has been a trend thus far, but this chapter has been the biggest offender. Continuity Alert: In this chapter it is stated that Muggle children don't talk until they're 6 years old, but in a previous chapter we've met Stubby, "a five-year-old Muggle boy," who appears to be talking just fine. Which is it, then?

Chapter Seven: The Special Place and the Stone

Synopsis: The boys, who are now twelve years old, have become adventurous. On one of their exploring trips they find a willow tree that is the "special place" of Golda. She invites them in and reads them a poem. They listen to Snoutfish and discover that Lemonade Lake tastes like lemonade. Golda gives Zyn a "worry stone." We get another bit of foreshadowing that all is not well between Rah and Zyn.

Commentary: Another chapter that doesn't seem to need to be here, because aside from another foreshadowing that Rah and Zyn aren't getting along as well as they could be, nothing much happens here. Five pages are taken up with the reading of a poem called "The Fishing Hole," and apparently Muggles don't have the same concepts we do of things like meter and rhyme. A sample portion of a verse:

Granny had room
In her heart, mind, and house
For a tattered and torn rag doll named Clouse
Old picnic baskets and yes--even a mouse.

Clouse? Okay... The poem rambles on for five pages and doesn't say much of anything. The meter is almost nonexistent, the rhyming is strange (Stouffer makes up names for characters and animals that fit the rhyme scheme and it comes off as very awkward) and the poem is far too long. After Golda finishes reading the boys go to the water's edge to listen to the Snoutfish. At first Zyn can't hear them, and then he can't understand what they're saying--but Rah can. Rumbles of discontent. Golda gives Zyn a "worry stone" which is reputed to have magical powers, and Zyn is glad that only he got one, not Rah. And of course, one has to wonder how these boys managed to grow up in a land with a place called "Lemonade Lake" and take till they were 12 to find out that the water tastes like (wait for it) lemonade. You'd think someone would have at least told them about it. Ah, well.

Oh--remember when I asked you to keep in mind that Yur, the oldest Muggle on earth, was 96? Well, now he's 108. Keep track. We'll be running a scorecard throughout this review.

Chapter Eight: Doctor! Doctor!

Synopsis: The previous chapter segues directly into this one, when the boys find out Bumper, one of the Muggles, has lost his lovebirds. Rah rescues them for him. Bumper returns to the village where the other Muggles (including Rah, who moves fast) were playing a game like croquet. Rah is very good at this game, and Zyn is jealous when his brother wins a medallion. Yur reads to Zyn from the Ancient Book of Tales, telling him of ancient pirate treasure. Zyn takes Rah to look for it and they find a wooden box in a cave. Before they can get it out, though, Rah suffers an allergic reaction from some moss in the cave and Zyn has to run for the doctor. The chapter ends with Rah apologizing to Zyn for spoiling his treasure hunt. They don't tell anyone about the treasure, which Zyn claims is his alone.

Commentary: This chapter is rather befuddling, because it spends about half its length going nowhere. At this point it probably shouldn't be surprising, but I still wonder why there are so many pages devoted to things that don't advance the plot at all. The whole "lovebirds" scenario was superfluous--other than showing that Rah is kindhearted (which has already been established), there's no other reason for it. The croquet game went on far too long but at least served to show the jealousy between Rah and Zyn again. I think one of the major problems with this book is that Stouffer just strings scenes together willy-nilly, mixing scenes that advance the plot with stuff that she apparently just thought was good. She introduces characters and then drops them, and in very few cases does she actually give us enough about a character so we can care about him or her enough to give a darn about their fate. Anyway, I digress. The scene where the boys find the treasure seems to be finally advancing the plot, but once again this is not the case. We don't even get to find out what the treasure is--only that it has a medallion like the one Rah wears on top of it. The main point of this chapter seems to be to establish that Rah is allergic to Bordonian Moss (and this actually constitutes more foreshadowing).

Chapter Nine: An Attitude

Synopsis: Another ten years pass without notice in this chapter. Rah, who is helpful, clean, reverent, cheerful, and has shiny teeth (okay, I made that part up) has analyzed the Muggles' irrigation problems and built them a Mill House to help them irrigate their crops, mill their grain, and provide a home for himself and Zyn. Zyn becomes increasingly jealous of Rah, loses his self-esteem, and lets his appearance go. He becomes a sarcastic lout that nobody likes. Rah agonizes over his inability to help his brother.

Commentary: Time sure passes fast in Muggle-Land. The boys aren't boys anymore: they're twenty-two years old. One can't really blame Zyn for feeling a little jealous that his perfect brother gets all the attention, but we're mostly told, rather than shown, that he's losing his "self-esteem" and beginning his downward spiral toward sex, drugs, and rock and roll (okay, I made that part up too--actually he's on a downward spiral toward taking off with some renegade Muggles to set up a new home, but that's for the next chapter).

Remember Yur, the world's oldest Muggle, who was 108 last time we checked in on him? Now it's 10 years later, so he's 118. This is one old Muggle! But it's not over yet, boys and girls! Keep reading.

Chapter Ten: The Manchineet Tree

Synopsis: Zyn, who's grown into a "loud and nasty young man," can't take living with the Muggles anymore, so he gathers up a small group of Muggle juvenile delinquents and takes off. Zyn and the "Nevils," as he calls them, take up residence in the Manchineet Tree, a huge tree that sheds radioactive pollen that causes their skin to blister and their eyes to become bloodshot. Zyn eventually decides they have to get out of there and find a place of their own. Meanwhile, Rah continues to agonize and reads a story in the Ancient Book of Tales about antisocial rabbits and how they end up being food.

Commentary: In addition to being loud and nasty, Zyn is apparently not the sharpest knife in the drawer, either. Most people don't choose to set up residence in a radioactive tree, and even if he didn't know this fact at the time, the blistered skin, thickened nails, and yellow eyes might have given them a clue. Still Zyn refuses to ask for help because he won't give his brother the satisfaction. The Nevils, meanwhile, appear to have power over time: take, for example, Stubby, described as "a fifteen- year-old boy." This is fine, except Stubby was "a five-year-old boy" when the babies arrived...twenty-two years ago. He was also the one who talked early, so perhaps he's exceptional. In this chapter Zyn stops talking like a fantasy character and ends up sounding like a bad juvie-delinquent impersonator from a 1950's Ed Wood flick. Oh, and another Continuity Alert: Stouffer states (on her website and in the Character Description section at the end of the book) that Muggles are vegetarians. So what are they doing eating rabbits, anyway?

Chapter Eleven: The Big Plan

Synopsis: Zyn, like all growing young men, has decided he needs a place where he can rule. Upon spotting Dezra, a dark island a couple of miles off the Aura coast, he orders the Nevils to build boats so they can sail off to this new land. As they prepare to set off, Rah begs Zyn not to go, but Zyn is unrepentant. Rah cries and his tears apparently cause a giant wave to swamp the Nevils' boats.

Commentary: This chapter wins the prize for "Biggest Obvious Scientific Plot Hole." I've avoided quoting much prior to this, but this one has to be experienced to be believed. In creating the boat ordered by Zyn, they heat rubber tree pitch until it reaches the consistency of liquid tar, then use it to waterproof the hulls:

By the time the Nevils were finished, their tiny hands were blistered and burned. Their bodies were singed black from the heat of the rubbery tar. When nightfall arrived, their skin felt as though it was on fire--they leapt into the ocean waves where the soothing salt water cooled the heat of their second- and third-degree burns.

Now...let me repeat that for you in case you missed it: The Nevils had second- and third-degree burns, which they soothed by jumping in salt water! My skin hurt just thinking about that! I figured by morning all the Nevils would be dead following a night of excruciating agony as their salt-filled wounds became infected (and surely those burns went great with the radiation sickness they already had from living in the Fallout Tree), but I forgot, this is a kids' story, written by an author who obviously slept through Intro Biology. So, the next morning everybody's up and feeling mostly fine, ready to set off on their adventure. It's almost a relief when their boats are swamped by the waves. Could we be rid of them? Don't be silly! We still have four more chapters to go!

Chapter Twelve: The Shadow Monsters

Synopsis: Rah is afraid his brother is dead, so he sends Seymour the hawk off to check. Zyn and the Nevils have washed ashore on the island of Dezra, a desolate place with little vegetation and mostly rock. Here they encounter the Shadow Monsters, towering figures that follow them wherever they go. They take refuge in a cave. Zyn briefly thinks he has control over the Shadow Monsters but discovers that he doesn't. Misery ensues.

Commentary: So here we've got our little radiation-sick, horribly burned and disfigured Nevils (of course none of this is mentioned) cast aground on a "dirty beach." The only food is seaweed and little patches of grass, which they fight over. It's never quite made clear what the Shadow Monsters are, but given Golda's comment at the end of the chapter that the Nevils and Zyn are "safer than they think," it's a good bet that they're afraid of their own shadows. Which, apparently, they've never seen before even though they've been living in a sunny land for twenty-two years. I guess the radiation sickness finally made it to their brains and gave them delusions. To top it off, they get indigestion from eating seaweed. Basically life sucks for this bunch.

Chapter Thirteen: Feast or Famine

Synopsis: Seven years have passed for Zyn and the Nevils on Dezra. They're frail, in bad health, and generally not at all happy about their situation. Zyn finds the worry-stone in his pocket and rages about the unfairness of life. He decides they have to get off the island, but they don't know how because they have nothing to build boats. Shortly thereafter they find a Deus ex Machina in the form of a bunch of clam shells that wash up on the beach (or, as my spouse says, "Suddenly, a clam rang out!") Zyn hatches a plan wherein they'll use the clamshells as boats to take them back to Aura, where they will use Bordonian Moss (remember?) to put Rah out of commission so they can make off with the Muggles' food supply while they sleep. They set this plan in motion and it appears to work--the Nevils find Rah and knock him out with the moss, then toss him in one of the boats to take back to Dezra.

Commentary: Seven years gone, and Zyn is now "frail," his skin "milky gray and diseased." Somehow they've managed to survive this long eating washed-up seaweed and the tiny patches of grass that should have been gone in a few days. It takes Zyn this long to decide that maybe this isn't the best path for his life to take. He also manages to get through seven years without noticing the worry-stone in the pocket of his only garment, but hey, he's had other things on his mind. After all this time with no hope, suddenly at the time they grow despairing, the clamshells appear. Almost like they were waiting. Hey, guys, you should have gotten despairing years ago! So now they have what they want: Rah is their prisoner and their bellies are full of good food. Never mind the real-world effects of gorging on food after being starved for seven years. This is a fantasy. Apparently fantasy characters don't need water, either, as there was no mention of it on Dezra. Maybe they drink salt water.

Although we don't get to see Yur in this chapter he's still alive-- we'll see him later. The World's Oldest Muggle is now a svelte and youthful one hundred and twenty-five years old.

Chapter Fourteen: A Winged Investigation

Synopsis: Morning arrives on Aura, and Yur and Golda are awakened by the calls of the robins and Carmine the cardinal, telling them that Rah is gone. After a bit more hard-of-hearing hilarity, they talk to Seymour the hawk and find out what has happened. Yur, going from doddering oldster to commanding general, takes over and comes up with a plan with the help of the Ancient Book of Tales. The Muggles build boats under his direction and fill them with Japanese lanterns filled with fireflies. Their aim is to go to Dezra and use the lanterns to play on the Nevils' fear of the Shadow Monsters.

Commentary: Yur is performing pretty well for a guy who's a hundred and twenty five. We meet another new character, Carmine the Cardinal, who gets a cameo and will never be seen again. Apparently the Muggles are better than the Nevils at building boats, as there's no mention of third degree burns.

Chapter Fifteen: The Lantern Lights

Synopsis: The Muggles sail to Dezra and put their daring plan into motion. They launch dozens of firefly-filled lanterns to the island, where they create light and frighten the Nevils and Zyn into thinking the Shadow Monsters have returned. While they run in circles hysterically, the Muggle rescue squad finds Rah and brings him back to the raft, where Yur awaits. They head home, leaving the lanterns there. Rah, after he recovers, decrees that food will be sent over by bird to his brother in exile each day. Years later, the glow of the lanterns still marks the location of the island. All is right with the world (unless you're Zyn or the Nevils). The end.

Commentary: Wow, the fireflies must have even longer lifespans than the Muggles around here--I thought it was sort of cruel to have the fireflies powering the lanterns in the first place, but apparently several years later they're still going strong despite the lack of food, water, or sanitary facilities. So, I guess, are Zyn and his radioactive terrorists. At least they have something to eat now. Still no water, though. Rah, the eternally compassionate, is okay with leaving his brother and several ex-Muggles in lifelong exile on a barren island, as long as they get tossed an apple or a Snickers bar every once in awhile.

By the way, this is the end of the story and we never do get to find out what's inside the treasure chest and why it's important (if it is at all). I understand Stouffer planned these books as a series, but geez--you can't just set up a major plot development like that and leave us hanging about it.

So anyway, everybody lives happily ever after except for Zyn and his friends, and maybe the fireflies. Whatever.

General Analysis

On the whole, The Legend of Rah and the Muggles reads like a textbook of what not to do when writing a children's book. It's very poorly edited--I found numerous typographical errors, awkward grammatical structures, and badly formed sentences, along with misplaced punctuation and continuity errors large enough to drive a whole fleet of Deus Ex Clamshells through. The characters do not inspire any sort of loyalty or caring in the reader (at least not this reader) because they aren't developed enough to do so and their motivations are in many cases confusing. Rah is too good to be true, a perfect little boy who grows up into a perfect man--his mother would be proud if she were still alive, but the reader is probably yawning. Yur and Golda are mildly appealing, and some children might find the hard-of-hearing thing to be funny although I did not. Zyn's descent from cherubic baby to gray-skinned terrorist hood was not believable-- it's completely understandable that he might not respond well to his brother's getting all the attention and that he might set off on his own, but the changes in his behavior were too abrupt to be anything but contrived. In a way I felt sorry for Zyn, and thought he got a very bad treatment.

As for the scientific errors, I know this book is a fantasy and you're supposed to ignore that sort of thing in a fantasy, but when Stouffer puts it right in your face it's hard to ignore. It would have been easy to explain things with magic, but when she resorted to nuclear war and radiation and mutations, there are certain standards that should at least be attempted to be followed.

Stouffer claims that the publication and success of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has prevented her from having her own book published (further suggesting that this edition, like the others, is self-published), mostly due to the confusion about the term "Muggles" but also because of a claimed similarity between the two plots. I see absolutely no similarity between the Harry Potter series and The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, beyond the use of the word "Muggle" and some of the common kinds of similarities that you see in almost every fantasy book published: castles, orphans, princesses, and so forth. Besides that, I'll go out on a limb here and say that Harry Potter was probably the best thing to happen to Stouffer's work, as her lawsuit has given her the chance to get her name out there and fish for sympathetic ears among those who like to cheer for the underdog. If Harry Potter had not been published, I am convinced that this poorly written, badly edited, and altogether amateur effort would have remained in the obscurity in which it has languished for the past 17 years. The fact that it was published at all is an insult to the thousands of talented childrens' authors in the world who have been unable for whatever reason to get their own work published.

It's pretty clear, when looking at Stouffer's website, that she considers this book and her other work to be quality literature, the kind of work that would be an asset to every child's library. She's obviously put a lot of effort into her "Muggles" world, and I admire her for that--I admire anyone who uses their imagination to create something and develop it. But I think if she wants to get anywhere significant with The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, it might be worth her time to get herself a good editor and take a few writing classes before she goes out to take on the world. A little more money spent on writing instruction and a little less on lawyers would probably do her chances at "real" publication a world of good.

If you have comments or questions about this review or just want to discuss it, email me. I'd like to hear from you.

Finally, I'm sure it's not necessary to say this but I'll say it anyway: the opinions expressed in this analysis are just that: opinions. Everybody has one--I just happened to write mine up and post it on the web.