'The Legend of Rah and the Muggles' a poor effort

Nancy Stouffer, author of "The Legend of Rah and the Muggles" (Thurman House, 267 pages, $19.95), has been talking for months about what she considers suspicious similarities between her books and the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling.

But there's one undeniable difference � Rowling is readable. Meant to be a children's tale, Stouffer's book is an excruciating mix of cliche, preachiness and just poor writing.

"The Legend of Rah and the Muggles" was first published in 1984 and later went out of print. It is being reissued by the Maryland-based Thurman House.

Stouffer, now calling herself N.K. Stouffer, has sued Rowling, charging that elements of her book appear in Rowling's works. Rowling and her publisher, Scholastic Inc., filed a lawsuit in November 1999, along with Time Warner Entertainment Co., which owns the film rights to two Harry Potter books. They are asking a judge to rule that Rowling's books do not violate Stouffer's trademark and copyright.

Stouffer's book is set in Aura, a once peaceful country now ravaged by civil war. After a nuclear devastation, the "elites" leave, abandoning the "have-nots" to life in a cloud-covered wasteland. But after 500 years, the descendants of those left behind are still there. They're called Muggles � small, bald, delicate baby-looking humans with potbellies.

"The Legend of Rah and the Muggles" tells the tale of two orphaned twin boys who come from a land across the ocean, and who are found and raised by the Muggles. The two brothers grow up, and eventually deal with issues of jealousy and rivalry.

What moral lessons Stouffer wants to teach are lost in her graceless writing. The story is thin, and some characters are completely unnecessary.

On Stouffer's Web site, she lists numerous examples of such "similarities," some of which are silly, like both authors putting a fleet of boats in their works. By that logic, Stouffer had better make sure that Jimi Hendrix's estate isn't feeling litigious, since the author refers to the "year of the Purple Haze."

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