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Potter author's dark new novel divides critics

LONDON--First reviews of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's novel for adults on Thursday praised its Dickensian scope and social message, but warned the gritty, even obscene tale was a far cry from Hogwarts.

Shortly before the release of the hotly awaited “The Casual Vacancy,” several reviewers said they were taken aback to read grimy scenes of sex and drugs, but added the author's most vivid writing was on the familiar ground of adolescence.

“I had just read a passage written by the world's favorite children's author in which a teenager is raped by her mother's heroin dealer, a man who may well be the father of the girl's own 3-year-old stepbrother, although it's hard to know for sure when the mum concerned is a prostitute,” wrote Allison Pearson in the Daily Telegraph.

She added that the novel, a story of poverty and politics in an English village — of which a million copies have been preordered — was “sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed, and full of cruelty and despair.”

But the Mirror tabloid labeled it “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Filth,” warning the author famed for her stories of young wizards was “sure to face stern criticism for featuring the C-word and F-word hundreds of times.”

Set in the picturesque fictional village of Pagford in southwest England, the black comedy deals with the fight to fill a slot on the parish council after the incumbent's sudden death, and hinges on the fate of a squalid housing estate.

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