Why You Should Read Harry Potter: Depth, Complexity, And Sacrificial Love

If my lengthy reviews of the books weren’t clue enough, I love the Harry Potter series. It’s my absolute favorite fantasy series. It’s one of the things that I reference a lot (along with The Lord of the Rings movies and The Princess Bride) in everyday conversation. Its world and characters were a large part of my high school life when I dabbled in fanfiction. Perhaps I have a bias in favor of it, but when I reread the series for this blog, it only reinforced my belief that these are some of the best children’s books out there. Here’s why:

Depth, complexity and nuance. End of story.

No, really. Compare my reviews of Harry Potter to another fantasy children’s series that I reviewed, Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series. What do I talk about in my reviews of Sage’s books? How fun they are, how the plots improve as the series go on, and the character development. What do I talk about in my reviews of Rowling’s books? Not just those three things, but also themes, ideas, thoughts that the books provoke, especially in the last two books. Simply put, Sage’s books are fun. They’re entertaining. But there’s really no depth. I don’t talk about the themes of Sage’s book because I don’t see them. In general, children’s books tend to be very one-dimensional in plot and/or character, and Harry Potter is not. Sagel’s books (and a lot of other children’s books) are fairly shallow. The plots are fairly simple; the characters predictable. They’re written to entertain, not to educate. Any messages in them are the type you see on an animated TV show: be polite. Don’t be rude. Friendship is great. Share your things. All great things, but also very simple, superficial, and frankly boring. On the other hand, Rowling’s books are challenging and thought-provoking. There’s depth. There’s complexity. There’s nuance. Read Sage’s series (which I loved, by the way. I’m not trying to condemn them), then read Rowling’s. There’s simply no comparison, because Rowling’s books are head and shoulders above Sage’s.

Frankly, this is the main reason why you should read Harry Potter (and any children’s book that has depth, etc.). The second reason is this:

Themes. Like I said above, most children’s book themes are sugary-sweet, rainbow-y heaps of goodness. “Don’t fight with your friends!” “Don’t be selfish!” “Think of others!” There’s nothing wrong with these themes, but they go hand-in-hand with what I said about depth. Shallow themes generally mean a shallow book. Deep themes generally mean a deep book. Sacrificial love, temptation, power, death, etc….these are themes that can be explored much, much more, and much deeper, than most other “fluff” out there (it’s called fluff for a reason). To reference current culture, why is Frozen better than, say, Wreck-It-Ralph? Because, disregarding everything except the message, Wreck-It-Ralph’s “Love yourself” does not hold up to Frozen’s  “Love others and give yourself up for them.” Maybe a better way to put it is that Frozen’s message is higher than Wreck-It-Ralph‘s. Frozen’s message of sacrificial love, by the way, matches Harry Potter’s. While a lot of children’s books emphasize love, not very many of them emphasize sacrificial love, and sacrificial love is a much deeper love and thus generally invokes deeper thought and feeling.

So, make sure you can handle the material in Harry Potter, make sure your children are old enough to handle it, and then sit down and read it, because not a lot of children’s books reflect the same amount of depth and complexity that these books do. And these two reasons that I wrote about can also be a great starting point for discussion about the book, because, once again, not a lot of children’s books can or have garnered as much discussion as Harry Potter. This is a series ripe for the plucking. Don’t miss out.

Series Week V: Wrap-Up of Harry Potter

Whew, sorry for the long wait! But finally, here it is: the wrap-up of Harry Potter!

Series Rating: 5/5

Let me just reiterate how much I love this series. I think doing these reviews just made me more appreciate the genius of Harry Potter. I took a philosophy class this semester, and apparently there is a lot of ancient philosophy in the Harry Potter books. Who knew? It’s basically the hero myth with magic. There are also some fantastic themes all throughout, especially in the seventh book, and these are possibly some of the best themes in any children’s book–or ANY book in the children’s to YA range, if I may so boldly state.

Plus, the plots in the first four books are so incredibly complex (especially for children’s books) with such attention to detail, worldbuilding and foreshadowing that it really just elevates the books above and beyond a lot of other children’s books. The character development is also superb, especially Harry’s and Neville’s. And have I mentioned the worldbuilding? Rowling created an entire society and culture for these books. That’s pretty impressive for a children’s book.

Favorite characters: Snape, natch. Also Luna and Neville.

I could also go into my favorite ‘ships (that’s “relationships”), but that’s heading into fanfiction (and potentially strange) territory, so I’m going to let this one slide and just say that, although 95% of Harry Potter fanfiction is awful or just plain weird, 5% of it is amazing (also, the only reason I’m bringing this up is because I was very involved in the Harry Potter fanfic community in high school). There are awards and things given out for HP fanfiction, you guys. There are entire sites dedicated to HP fanfic. It’s that legit. People care about good HP fanfiction. If you want to tread into the world of HP fanfic, be careful. Try Googling phrases like “best HP fanfic” and narrow it down from there depending on what you want to read. I’ll throw out a recommendation: if you want to read a fantastic Snape-adopts-Harry (like I mentioned earlier, fanfiction is so great for potential. Also, Rowling’s world and story is so completely good for things like AU, or alternate universe stories, things like “What if this didn’t happen?” or, alternatively, “What if this happened?”) fic, try A Year Like None Other by aspeninthesunlight. If the notion of Snape adopting Harry skeeves you out, see if this wins you over. Or not. Actually, it’s probably better if you don’t get pulled into the world of fanfic. You might never come out.

Favorite books, from most to least:

1.)    Prisoner of Azkaban

2.)    Half-Blood Prince

3.)    Goblet of Fire

4.)    Deathly Hallows

5.)    Order of the Phoenix

6.)    Sorcerer’s Stone

7.)    Chamber of Secrets

Yes, I enjoyed OotP more than SS. OotP is superior in writing and development.

Coming Up Next: Something new! I’m planning a new “series,” of a sort, for the blog that is less book-review and more application/opinion. Stay tuned for the first “Why You Should Read…” coming up hopefully next week! Then it’ll be back to Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

Series Week V: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 2007 by Scholastic. For more information on the world of Harry Potter, check out the Lexicon. For news, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.

Spoilers for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic


“Harry Potter is preparing to leave the Dursleys and Privet Drive for the last time. But the future that awaits him is full of danger, not only for him, but for anyone close to him — and Harry has already lost so much. Only by destroying Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes can Harry free himself and overcome the Dark Lord’s forces of evil.
In this dramatic conclusion to the Harry Potter series, Harry must leave his most loyal friends behind, and in a final perilous journey find the strength and the will to face his terrifying destiny: a deadly confrontation that is his alone to fight.”



“So does it say how to destroy Horcruxes in the book?”

“Yes,” said Hermione, now turning the fragile pages as if examining rotting entrails, “because it warns Dark wizards how strong they have to make the enchantments on them. From all that I’ve read, what Harry did to Riddle’s diary was one of the few really foolproof ways of destroying a Horcrux.”

“What, stabbing it with a basilisk fang?” asked Harry.

“Oh well, lucky we’ve got such a large supply of basilisk fangs, then,” said Ron. “I was wondering what we were going to do with them.”

~Rowling 103

“Death’s got an Invisibility Cloak?” Harry interrupted again.

“So he can sneak up on people,” said Ron. “Sometimes he gets bored of running at them, flapping his arms and shrieking…sorry, Hermione.”

~Rowling 408

“The house-elves, they’ll all be down in the kitchen, won’t they?”

“You mean we ought to get them fighting?” asked Harry.

“No,” said Ron seriously, “I mean we should tell them to get out. We don’t want any more Dobbies, do we? We can’t order them to die for us—”

There was a clatter as the basilisk fangs cascaded out of Hermione’s arms. Running at Ron, she flung them around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Ron threw away the fangs and broomstick he was holding and responded with such enthusiasm that he lifted Hermione off her feet.

“Is this the moment?” Harry asked weakly, and when nothing happened except that Ron and Hermione gripped each other still more firmly and swayed on the spot, he raised his voice. “OI! There’s a war going on here!”
~Rowling 625

Warnings: Violence, death

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

There were so, so many things that I liked that I don’t even know if I can expound on them all. I might just have to list them out.

First of all, Snape! Severus Snape! That moment when you read the chapter “The Prince’s Tale” and realize the depth of character that Snape has! That moment when you (maybe) realize how awesome he is! That moment when Dumbledore says, “My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?” and that unforgettable “After all this time?” “Always!” scene! That moment when Dumbledore asks Snape to protect the students, and you realize that he did, in his own way, when he sent Ginny, Neville and Luna to the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid rather than hand them over to the Carrows and the Cruciatus Curse! Need I go on? Snape is a fantastic character, full of depth and nuance and, yes, gray areas. Harry is the Goody-Goody, Dumbledore is the One with the Dark Past, and Snape is the Gray Hero (Antihero?). Rowling included bravery, and heroes, in all shapes and forms in these books, and didn’t just limit it to one particular type.

That being said, let me bring up the opposite view of this. Here is a link to an article written about Snape titled “Severus Snape Does Not Deserve Your Pity.” If you don’t care to read it, basically, the author of the article is saying that sure, Snape is brave, and yes, he was on the good side, but that does not excuse his behavior towards Harry and others. Plus, he was a terrible teacher. And the fact that he held on to his love for Lily for so long just makes him appear more weak than strong (that might not be in the article, but I’ve heard people say this). Okay, sure. I’ll give you all of those (except for maybe the love part). The author of the article is right, in a way. But she doesn’t see what I saw in Snape, way before the seventh book came out: namely, his potential as a character. I don’t pity him, I admire him (mostly). I think this is why I started getting into fanfiction: here was a medium where all aspects of Snape’s character could be explored, and where people could image what would have happened if Snape had gotten past his grudge of James Potter and seen Harry as Harry and not as an extension of James, what would have happened if Snape had become Harry’s mentor/teacher and, yes, guardian. It’s fantastic, the potential Snape has, the “what-ifs” that can be explored in regards to his character. That is why I like Snape. It’s why I like the whole Harry Potter world.

Neville, when did you become so awesome? Character growth, thy name is Longbottom.

The themes and messages that permeate this book are fabulous. Here’s just a few of the more prominent ones:

            Mercy. Harry’s reluctance to kill anyone he doesn’t need to, as seen in his aversion to Stunning the Imperiused Stan Shunpike. “I won’t blast people out of the way just because they’re there, that’s Voldemort’s job” and “Stan was Imperiused, if I Stunned him he could have fallen hundreds of feet.” Also, his (eventual) forgiveness of Dumbledore for Dumbledore’s mistakes in the past, which also falls into the category of “Realizing That Your Idols Are Not As Perfect As You Think.”

            The Woes of Power/The Corruptive Nature of Power. Best illustrated in Dumbledore’s past. Dumbledore admits that he did not seek to be Minister of Magic because he was afraid that the power would get to him, as it had once before. “Power was my weakness and my temptation.” He also falls for power once again when he finds the Resurrection Stone.

            Overcoming Temptation. Harry is obsessed with finding the Hallows and becoming unbeatable, the master of Death. He resists it eventually, after he realizes that the Horcruxes are more important. This leads, ironically, to Harry becoming the “master of death” anyway, but his intentions were different; he was not seeking it himself. “It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”

            The Importance of Intentions and Actions to Achieve a Goal. “Master of death, Harry, master of Death! Was I better, ultimately, than Voldemort?”

“Of course you were,” said Harry. “Of course—how can you ask that? You never killed if you could avoid it!”

“True, true,” said Dumbledore, and he was like a child seeking reassurance. “Yet I too sought a way to conquer death, Harry.”

“Not the way he did,” said Harry. After all his anger at Dumbledore, how odd it was to sit here, beneath the high, vaulted ceiling, and defend Dumbledore from himself. “Hallows, not Horcruxes.”

            Self-Sacrifice. Harry was willing to die to save his friends, which results in his friends being protected from Voldemort through Harry’s love. “His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms.” “Dumbledore knew, as Voldemort knew, that Harry would not let anyone else die for him now that he had discovered it was in his power to stop it.” “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” “You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.”

            Selflessness. Harry saved Draco and Goyle even though they had just tried to kill him. “…sometimes you’ve got to think about more than your own safety! Sometimes you’ve got to think about the greater good!”

            Truth. Harry’s emphasis that he wanted to know the truth about Dumbledore’s past, no matter what it was.

The infiltration of the Ministry is one of my favorite parts of the whole series. Also, all the awesome things that the D.A. gets to do at the Battle of Hogwarts, and Harry’s defeat of Voldemort. The movie version portrays it quite differently, but it’s still fantastic in its own right. Also, I’ve heard some people complain about Harry snapping the Elder Wand at the end of the movie as opposed to the book, where he just puts it back into Dumbledore’s tomb (because it doesn’t follow the book, gasp!). However, I think that the snapping of the wand is much more symbolic and powerful in regards to Harry’s character, and I liked that change a lot. I thought they did a fabulous job with both the HBP movie and the DH ones.

Finally, I loved Hermione’s “Are you a wizard or aren’t you?” to Ron. Call-back to Sorcerer’s Stone!

What I Didn’t Like:

The middle is very slow in regards to pacing. It’s the notorious “camping” section of the book that so many people despise. It’s a lot of wandering around, not much gets accomplished, and nothing seems to be moving forward at all.  And this is where Harry has his obsession with the Hallows, which makes you want to shake him.

Two mistakes are made in the book that are pretty big ones, in my opinion. The first of it is Hermione saying that she modified her parents’ memory and then, about 30 pages later, saying that she’s never done a Memory Charm. Perhaps she did something other than Obliviate on her parents…? The second mistake is that Colin Creevey died at the Battle of Hogwarts, but Colin Creevey is a Muggleborn and should never have been there in the first place. Maybe he snuck in when Neville called the DA…?

A lot of people say that the Hallows came out of nowhere, and I partially agree. The only one that Rowling really foreshadowed far in advance was the Cloak in the first book, and even that could have been just a useful plot device to get Harry the Cloak, and then Rowling realized she could use it later (sort of like how she used the Hand of Glory in HPB).

Overall Review:

The Deathly Hallows is slow in the middle and some of the plot devices Rowling uses are questionable, but the book is chock-full of fantastic messages that make this the best book in regards to theme and the showing of that theme through the characters’ actions and experiences. Snape’s story is finally told; everything is explained; and Harry is perhaps one of the best heroes/protagonists of any series ever due to his character. This wonderful tale of Good vs. Evil is one that I will recommend to anyone and everyone.

You can buy the book here: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)

And the movies (which I can consider the best in the movie series) here (and they’re really cheap, under $10):Harry Potter Double Feature: The Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2

Coming Up Next: I am going to try and post the Wrap-Up tomorrow; however, it’s the end of the semester for me and I have papers due, so it might not happen. Expect it in the next couple of days.

Series Week V: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 2005 by Scholastic. For all things Harry Potter, check out the Lexicon. Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.

Will contain major spoilers for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic


“The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet…

As in all wars, life goes on. The Weasley twins expand their business. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate—and lose a few eyebrows in the process. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it’s the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort—and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.”

~Back Cover


“Sir—I got a Ministry of Magic leaflet by owl, about security measures we should all take against the Death Eaters….”

“Yes, I received one myself,” said Dumbledore, still smiling. “Did you find it useful?”

“Not really.”

“No, I thought no. You have not asked me, for instance, what is my favorite flavor of jam, to check that I am indeed Professor Dumbledore and not an imposter.”

“I didn’t…” Harry began, not entirely sure whether he was being reprimanded or not.

“For future reference, Harry, it is raspberry…although of course, if I were a Death Eater, I would have been sure to research my own jam preferences before impersonating myself.”

~Rowling 61-62

He got to his feet, smiling, brimming with confidence.

“Excellent,” he said. “Really excellent. Right…I’m going down to Hagrid’s.”

“What?” said Ron and Hermione together, looking aghast.

“No, Harry—you’ve got to go and see Slughorn, remember?” said Hermione.

“No,” said Harry confidently. “I’m going to Hagrid’s, I’ve got a good feeling about going to Hagrid’s.”

“You’ve got a good feeling about burying a giant spider?” asked Ron, looking stunned.

“Yeah,” said Harry, pulling his Invisibility Cloak out of his bag. “I feel like it’s the place to be tonight, you know what I mean?”

~Rowling 477

“This is your copy of Advanced Potion-Making, is it, Potter?”

“Yes,” said Harry, still breathing hard.

“You’re quite sure of that, are you, Potter?”

“Yes,” said Harry, with a touch more defiance.

“This is the copy of Advanced Potion-Making that you purchased from Flourish and Blotts?”

“Yes,” said Harry firmly.

“Then why,” asked Snape, “does it have the name ‘Roonil Wazlib’ written inside the front cover?”

Harry’s heart missed a beat. “That’s my nickname,” he said.

“Your nickname,” repeated Snape.

“Yeah…that’s what my friends call me,” said Harry.

“I understand what a nickname is,” said Snape.

~Rowling 527-528

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

This book is hilarious. Rowling really pulls out all the snappy one-liners in this book that just make you laugh out loud while you’re reading. I’ve quoted a few of my favorites above. There’s always been humor present in the Harry Potter books, but Half-Blood Prince is easily the one where it shows the most (or perhaps the one where Rowling delivers the humor the best). It almost took over Prisoner of Azkaban as my favorite, but PoA has a bit more of a mindtwister plot. Granted, HBP and PoA have very similar general plots, in that Voldemort is not really the front-and-center antagonist/villain, but PoA has an extra sort of twist that’s completely unexpected, whereas HBP has an added twist with the expected (I’m talking about how in PoA, Voldemort is not the villain, and neither is the suspected Sirius Black—it’s Peter Pettigrew, something completely unexpected and not even explored by the characters. In HBP, Draco is indeed the villain, as Harry suspects, but the extra twist is that Snape is an apparent villain, too). Perhaps that’s why I like both of them so much, because the plots aren’t as cut-and-dry as the others.

I love the fact that we get to know more of Voldemort’s background. It makes him much more nuanced and takes him away from the typical villain that’s just there to give the protagonist someone to fight against. Learning more about Voldy’s background gives more meaning and purpose to Harry’s fight, and gives more reasons for us to consider Voldemort as a chilling, formidable opponent.

I talked about Order of the Phoenix being a sort of transition novel, both in terms of plot and in character. HBP is where Harry’s “coming-of-age” finally finishes. It started in OotP, with Sirius’ death, and now it finishes in HBP, with Dumbledore’s (his Wise Old Mentor). I think the best way to illustrate this is by two quotes from the book:

“…He simply knew that the task of discovering the truth about the real Horcrux had to be completed before he could move a little farther along the dark and winding path stretching ahead of him, the path that he and Dumbledore had set out upon together, and which he now knew he would have to journey alone” (635-636)


“And Harry saw very clearly as he sat there under the hot sun how people who cared about him had stood in front of him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him; but now that was over. He could not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort; he must abandon forever the illusion he ought to have lost at the age of one, that the shelter of a parent’s arms meant that nothing could hurt him” (645)

In HBP, Harry’s coming-of-age journey is finally complete, and his hero’s journey must now finish, as well.

Some other things I liked:

1.)    Rowling’s (and Dumbledore’s) emphasis on love winning out over evil and that love is more powerful than evil (that it is, in fact, something that evil does not understand).

2.)    Harry’s consistent self-sacrifice and selflessness and his continuous aversion to placing anyone he loves in danger

3.)    Harry’s horror at what he did to Draco with the Sectumsempra spell, once again illustrating Harry’s strength of character and how his goodness is appalled at the wrong he commits

4.)    This book leads to the all-important question: Whose side is Snape on? I fondly remember the debates I had over this. More on that when I review the last book.

5.)    I haven’t talked about the movie adaptations at all (probably because I don’t remember the first five at all well), but I thought that the last three Harry Potter films were fabulous. I especially liked, in the movie HBP, how they added the little interaction between Snape and Harry right before Snape goes up to the Tower where Dumbledore and Draco are. Fantastic.

(Around the 1:00 mark)

What I Didn’t Like:

A monster in his chest? Really? The love plotlines in this book get awfully soap-opera-y. Also, Harry’s attraction of Ginny really comes out of nowhere.

Ron makes a reference to Draco’s Hand of Glory as if it was something we have seen before, but there has been no mention of it in previous books. Maybe this was just to remind us that Draco has one, so Rowling could slip it in later for plot reasons, but it’s very clunky nevertheless.

Hints/Foreshadowing/Ruminations (Spoilers!):

–Keep in mind the Gaunt ring

–Keep in mind Ollivander’s disappearance

–Keep in mind Lily’s talent at Potions

–Keep in mind Mundungus’ theft of Black items

–Keep in mind Snape and Dumbledore’s argument in the forest

–Keep in mind the six Horcruxes and the fact that Voldemort only had five when he went to kill Harry

–Keep in mind the place Harry stashes the Prince’s book, and how he marks the spot where he hid it (and with what)

–Keep in mind Dumbledore’s insistence on Snape’s loyalty and what the ‘greatest regret of Snape’s life’ is

–Keep in mind that Draco disarmed Dumbledore on the tower

–Keep in mind Dumbledore pleading with Snape

–Keep in mind Snape’s insistence that the Death Eaters leave Harry for Voldemort

–Keep in mind Snape’s anger at being called a coward

Overall Review:

The Half-Blood Prince is a breath of fresh air after the long, trudging path of Order of the Phoenix. I loved the humor and the fact that we got to know more about Voldemort’s background, expanding his character as a villain. Harry’s character shines through and remains steadfast, and the revelations we find out in this book promise a thrilling finish in the last.

You can buy the book here: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)

And the movie here (it’s $4! If I didn’t already have it,  I would buy it!): Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Widescreen Edition)

Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Series Week V: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 2003 by Scholastic. For all your Harry Potter facts, check out the Lexicon. Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.

Will contain spoilers for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic


“There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it’s haunting Harry Potter’s dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

Harry has a lot on his mind for this, his fifth year at Hogwarts: a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey; a big surprise on the Gryffindor Quidditch team; and the looming terror of the Ordinary Wizarding Level exams. But all these things pale next to the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named—a threat that neither the magical government nor the authorities at Hogwarts can stop.

As the grasp of darkness tightens, Harry must discover the true depth and strength of his friends, the importance of boundless loyalty, and the shocking price of unbearable sacrifice.

His fate depends on them all.”

~Back Cover


“Now…how long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?” she asked, her quill posed over her clipboard.

“Fourteen years,” Snape replied. His expression was unfathomable. His eyes on Snape, Harry added a few drops to his potion; it hissed menacingly and turned from turquoise to orange.

“You applied first for the Defense against the Dark Arts post, I believe?” Professor Umbridge asked Snape.

“Yes,” said Snape quietly.

“But you were unsuccessful?”

Snape’s lip curled.


~Rowling 363

“Do you mean to tell me,” said Mrs. Weasley, her voice growing louder with every word and apparently unaware that her fellow visitors were scurrying for cover, “that you have been messing about with Muggle remedies?”

“Not messing about, Molly, dear,” said Mr. Weasley imploringly. “It was just—just something Pye and I thought we’d try—only, most unfortunately—well, with these particular kinds of wounds—it doesn’t seem to work as well as we’d hoped—”


“Well…well, I don’t know whether you know what—what stitches are?”

“It sounds as though you’ve been trying to sew your skin back together,” said Mrs. Weasley with a snort of mirthless laughter, “but even you, Arthur, wouldn’t be that stupid—”

“I fancy a cup of tea too,” said Harry, jumping to his feet.

~Rowling 507

“Well—it’s just that you seem to be laboring under the delusion that I am going to—what is the phrase? ‘Come quietly.’ I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course—but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing….but if you attempt to—er—‘bring me in’ by force, I will have to hurt you.”

“So,” sneered Fudge, recovering himself, “you intend to take on Dawlish, Shacklebolt, Dolores, and myself single-handed, do you, Dumbledore?”

“Merlin’s beard, no,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “Not unless you are foolish enough to force me to.”

~Rowling 620

Warnings: Violence, death

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

I actually enjoyed Order of the Phoenix a lot more than I expected. Rowling’s writing has definitely improved over the course of these books, and, writing-wise, OotP ranks above Chamber of Secrets.

One thing I noticed almost immediately was how much darker this book is compared to the previous ones. It’s noticeable in Goblet of Fire, especially at the end, but it really stands out here. Just take a look at the cover. It’s all dark tones and shadows. OotP takes the series into a darker place, but it also serves as a transition between the return of Voldemort in GoF and the inevitable final battle that will come. It’s a very transitional book, both plot-wise and character-wise. Harry realizes and learns various things in this book that catapult him out of childhood and innocence faster than he would have liked. He realizes that he’s starting to get a little reckless (after several hundred pages of his appalling attitude and stubbornness). He’s not quite there, yet, but this book puts him most of the way. Neville, too, is in transition—in previous books, he was forgetful and not very remarkable or particularly talented. In this book, however, he starts to learn and improve and is the only friend of Harry’s that is still conscious/not terribly wounded throughout the entire battle at the Department of Mysteries. It’s a wonderful sign of things to come. Ginny, too, finally starts speaking more than one sentence per book, and she is in a transition for something that will start in the next book. Like I said—OotP is a very transitional book.

One thing that I’ve brought up before that is really brought to the forefront of this book is Harry’s selflessness and desire to sacrifice himself for his friends. He immediately decides to run away from Grimmauld Place the moment he thinks that he might be a danger to his friends. He resists his friends accompanying him to the Ministry because he doesn’t want to put them in danger. He puts all guilt on himself, rather than others, when things go wrong, and he once again breaks rules only because he’s thinking of other people. As Hermione says, Harry’s got a “saving-people-thing.”

We learn more about Snape’s background, and start to understand why he despises Harry so much. Snape is gaining a little more dimension to his character, but he gains even more over the last two books, and I still want to hold off on talking about him until the end.

The battle at the Department of Mysteries, by the way, is the best action scene that Rowling has written yet. It almost completely makes up for the slow pace of the book as a whole.

What I Didn’t Like:

This book is huge and as a result it sometimes feels like you’re trudging through it rather than devouring (or even savoring) it. It’s slow at the beginning and in the middle, and it doesn’t really start picking up until the last quarter or so.

Harry’s attitude is appalling in the first quarter of the book. His inability to listen to those around him and to hold his temper is quite annoying (how many times does McGonagall have to tell you to keep quiet around Umbridge, and how many times do you have to cut open your hand, before you understand to shut your mouth, Harry?). Also, his stubbornness at refusing to practice Occlumency makes Snape’s treatment of Harry during the lessons almost understandable (I said almost. Nobody deserves jars thrown at them).

Hints/Foreshadowing/Ruminations (Spoilers!):

–Keep in mind Kreacher the house-elf

–Keep in mind Regulus Black

–Keep in mind the heavy locket they find while cleaning

–Keep in mind Snape’s memory

–Keep in mind the Hog’s Head bartender

–Keep in mind Dumbledore’s question to one of his silver instruments: “But in essence divided?” (I don’t know if this is correct, but I think it’s a reference to the fact that Dumbledore is starting to realize something about both Nagini and Harry)

–Keep in mind spattergroit!

–Keep in mind the Vanishing Cabinet

–Keep in mind the two-way mirror

Overall Review:

The Order of the Phoenix is a mammoth of a book, and as a result its pace is rather slow. Rowling is mostly using this book as a transition and set-up for the last two, making the atmosphere darker and getting her characters ready for their last stages of development. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it was too slow and trudging to be one of my favorites.

You can buy the book here: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

And the movie here: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Widescreen Edition)

Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Series Week V: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 2000 by Scholastic. For all things Harry Potter, check out the Lexicon (CONSTANT VIGILANCE, there are spoilers!). Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.

Will contain spoilers for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic


“Harry Potter is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn’t happened for hundreds of years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal—even by Wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.”

~Back Cover


“Ced’s talked about you, of course,” said Amos Diggory. “Told us all about playing against you last year….I said to him, I said—Ced, that’ll be something to tell your grandchildren, that will…You beat Harry Potter!”

Harry couldn’t think of any reply to this, so he remained silent. Fred and George were both scowling again. Cedric looked slightly embarrassed.

“Harry fell off his broom, Dad,” he muttered. ‘I told you…it was an accident….”

“Yes, but you didn’t all off, did you?” roared Amos genially, slapping his son on his back. “Always modest, our Ced, always the gentleman….but the best man won. I’m sure Harry’d say the same, wouldn’t you, eh? One falls off his broom, one stays on, you don’t need to be a genius to tell which one’s the better flier!”

~Rowling 72-73

“The Imperius Curse can be fought, and I’ll be teaching you how, but it takes real strength of character, and not everyone’s got it. Better avoid being hit with it if you can. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” he barked, and everyone jumped.

“Now, if there’s no countercurse, why am I showing you? Because you’ve got to know. You’ve got to appreciate what the worst is. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re facing it. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” he roared, and the whole class jumped again.

~Rowling 215, 217

“Can you remember your parents at all?” said Rita Skeeter, talking over him.

“No,” said Harry.

“How do you think they’d feel if they knew you were competing in the Triwizard Tournament? Proud? Worried? Angry?”

Harry was feeling really annoyed now. How on earth was he to know how his parents would feel if they were alive? He could feel Rita Skeeter watching him very intently. Frowning, he avoided her gaze and looked down at words the quill had just written:

Tears fill those startlingly green eyes as our conversation turns to the parents he can barely remember.

“I have NOT got tears in my eyes!” said Harry loudly.

~Rowling 306

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

So, Goblet of Fire is about twice as long as Prisoner of Azkaban, and its thickness can be a little intimidating. Most large books like this one tend to be slow and draggy in places, which, thankfully, this book (mostly) avoids (most people complain about the bad editing job [because of the length?], and it does take a long time to get through). Goblet of Fire has possibly the most complex, intricate plot of the series, and it’s done so well that everything just completely falls into place at the end. Rowling uses the “explanation by the main antagonist/villain” to explain all the hints/reveal everything and it is used quite effectively here, I think. Prisoner of Azkaban was unique, and a refreshing departure from Rowling’s usual formula, but Goblet of Fire has such a complex plot, and interesting mechanics and new aspects of the world are revealed and makes for a wonderful read, that it is just as good, even if it has a different feel to it.

I want to focus on Ron and Cedric Diggory in regards to characters. Harry’s development is fairly obvious, since we’re seeing everything through his eyes. Hermione’s, too, is quite noticeable—she’s a little more flexible and not as straight-laced. Ron gets more aspects of his character revealed here: his jealousy. It’s something that’s not very noticeable in the first three books, but really comes to light here, and will show up even more in later books. Ron’s jealousy is his fatal flaw, as it were; it stands in the way of his friendship with Harry and Hermione (in different ways) and causes a lot of heartache when there needn’t be any. Ron often lets his anger (as seen in Prisoner of Azkaban) or jealousy get in the way of his friendship, and many times it is his emotions that hold him back in various things. Also, in regards to Ron, it is in this book that we first get a hint about his potential relationship with Hermione.

comfortablylaura on deviantart

Cedric Diggory is quite obviously set up as a foil/rival to Harry. Harry and Cedric are compared throughout the book, and to many people Cedric comes out on top, which Harry doesn’t quite like. Cedric also dates the girl that Harry likes, an obvious rival tactic. His father describes him (Cedric) as a gentleman, and Dumbledore calls him a “good and loyal friend, a hard worker” and he “valued fair play.” Cedric is also, to put it frankly, nice. Rowling set Cedric up as a rival, I think, to better show Harry’s traits. Draco is so opposite to Harry that she needed someone like Cedric to do it adequately. And, I think, by showing Cedric in this light, she shows how Cedric’s traits are also very similar to Harry’s (perhaps not the hard worker part, however…Harry is quite lazy in this book). She also sets up this more favorable rival, I think, so that Harry realizes Cedric’s traits, and that he is a decent guy (unlike Draco), and so Cedric’s death at the end is just that more devastating to both Harry and the reader.

Oh, the dreaded “I see no difference” line by Snape. I think it was fanfiction that redeemed him for me, I really do. 

What I Didn’t Like:

It can be a little slow and a little draggy in places, but there’s just so much going on and so much unfolding and being revealed that it doesn’t last very long.


–Keep in mind Harry’s scar visions/dreams

–Keep in mind Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth

–Keep in mind what Ron said about Percy and his ambition

–Keep in mind Dumbledore’s insistence on Snape’s loyalty

–Keep in mind what Dumbledore said was the reason behind Harry’s scar hurting

–Keep in mind the “flash of triumph” in Dumbledore’s eyes

–Keep in mind what Dumbledore asks Snape to do

–Keep in mind Hagrid’s job over the summer

Overall Review:

The Goblet of Fire is quite long, but the length is counteracted by its complex plot and many revelations that are perhaps the most intricate in the series. There is a lot of character dynamics and development going on and the ending shows that the tension, conflict, and action will only increase from here on out. The Goblet of Fire is the midpoint of the series, but in many ways, it is also the climax.

You can buy the book here:

And the movie here: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Single-Disc Widescreen Edition)

Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Series Week V: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 1999 by Scholastic. For all things Harry Potter, check out the Lexicon (spoilers)! Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.

Will contain spoilers for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic


“For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts…he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.”

~Back Cover


“Lumos,Harry muttered, and a light appeared at the end of his wand, almost dazzling him. He held it high over his head, and the pebble-dashed walls of number two suddenly sparkled; the garage door gleamed, and between them Harry saw, quite distinctly, the hulking outline of something very big, with wide, gleaming eyes.

Harry stepped backward. His legs hit hist trunk and he tripped. His wand flew out of his hand as he flung out an arm to break his fall, and he landed, hard, in the gutter—

There was a deafening BANG, and Harry threw up his hands to shield his eyes against a sudden blinding light—

~Rowling 33

“On the count of three, Neville,” said Professor Lupin, who was pointing his own wand at the handle of the wardrobe. “One—two—three—now!”

A jet of sparks shot from the end of Professor Lupin’s wand and hit the doorknob. The wardrobe burst open. Hook-nosed and menacing, Professor Snape stepped out, his eyes flashing at Neville.

Neville backed away, his wand up, mouthing wordlessly. Snape was bearing down upon him, reaching inside his robes.

R—r—riddikulus!” squeaked Neville.

There was a noise like a whip crack. Snape stumbled; he was wearing a long, lace-trimmed dress and a towering hat topped with a moth-eaten vulture, and he was swinging a huge crimson handbag.

~Rowling 136-137

“Gryffindor leads by eighty points to zero, and look at that Firebolt go! Potter’s really putting it through its paces now, see it turn—Chang’s Comet is just no match for it, the Firebolt’s precision-balance is really noticeable in these long—”

~Rowling 260-261

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

I love the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s so welcoming after the boring drudge I find Chamber of Secrets. It’s also got quite a unique plot, as, for the first (and only) time in the series, Lord Voldemort is not the main antagonist; that is, the plot doesn’t have much to do with Voldy directly. It’s also quite unique because of the cool mechanic that Rowling uses at the end. It’s quite fun and brain-twisting, especially if you think that Dumbledore probably only suggested it to Harry and Hermione because of what he witnessed throughout the course of the night (i.e., Buckbeak’s mysterious disappearance). This becomes especially awesome/mind-bendy when you think about his reactions at Hagrid’s—he must have realized what was going on instantly, and acted accordingly. Why else would he be amused instead of puzzled? Unless, of course, Dumbledore just enjoys watching other people flounder, especially people of whose actions he disapproves (which is also true).

Rowling didn’t much like writing about Quidditch (I think), which is why she is always coming up with reasons to not include it. I’ve always enjoyed the Quidditch scenes, though, especially the ones in this book. These matches, especially, show Harry’s determination and grit. Plus, Lee Jordan’s commentary, and McGonagall’s “interruptions,” is some of the funniest dialogue in the series.

Ekara on deviantart

I had forgotten how…angry Snape gets at the end here. “A severe disappointment,” indeed. His reaction makes a little sense if you take into consideration the small bit of back story revealed in this book, and it will make more sense in future books when more is revealed. I want to discuss Snape in way more detail, but I will refrain from doing so until the last book. There’s a lot to his character, both positive and negative, and I want to be sure to explain both sides adequately.

First instance of selfish rule-breaking: Harry’s trips to Hogsmeade. Notice that he gets punished, of a sort, for it (as in, he’s caught).

What I Didn’t Like:

I’ve always found Ron and Hermione’s arguments very annoying, petty, and stupid, but that’s the way Rowling is trying to portray them, I think. Get used to it, because there’s a lot more where that comes from.

Ginny speaks about one word here. In fact, I don’t think she really starts taking form as a legitimate character until the fifth book, which is sad, because then an event that happens in the sixth book comes from way out of the blue.


–Keep in mind Trelawney’s predictions involving Harry

–Keep in mind what Harry hears when dementors are near

–Keep in mind Dumbledore’s mention of Trelawney’s two real predictions

–Keep in mind the life debt that Wormtail owes Harry

Overall Review:

The Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my favorite, and, in my opinion, one of the best books in the series. It has a unique (for the series) plot and an interesting mechanic is used. Professor Lupin is a wonderful new addition to the cast, and Dumbledore is as awesome and mysterious as ever. There’s some great moments of tension, realization, conflict, and mystery in the book and it’s a wonderful read that more than makes up for the often-boring, slow Chamber of Secrets that came before.

You can buy the book here: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

And the movie here: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Single-Disc Widescreen Edition)

Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Series Week V: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 1999 by Scholastic. For all Harry Potter facts, check out the Lexicon (spoilers). Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.

Will contain spoilers for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic


“Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys had been so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardy. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature who says that if Harry returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls’ bathroom. But then the real trouble begins—someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects—Harry Potter himself!”

~Back Cover


“Harry?” said Mr. Weasley blankly. “Harry who?”

He looked around, saw Harry, and jumped.

“Good lord, is it Harry Potter? Very pleased to meet you, Ron’s told us so much about—”

Your sons flew that car to Harry’s house and back last night!” shouted Mrs. Weasley. “What have you got to say about that, eh?”

“Did you really?” said Mr. Weasley eagerly. “Did it go all right? I—I mean,” he faltered as sparks flew from Mrs. Weasley’s eyes, “that—that was very wrong, boys—very wrong indeed….”

~Rowling 39

“Now—be warned! It is my job to arm you against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind! You may find yourselves facing your worst fears in this room. Know only that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm.”

In spite of himself, Harry leaned around his pile of books for a better look at the cage. Lockhart placed a hand on the cover. Dean and Seamus had stopped laughing now. Neville was cowering in his front row seat.

“I must ask you not to scream,” said Lockhart in a low voice. “It might provoke them.”

As the whole class held its breath, Lockhart whipped off the cover.

“Yes,” he said dramatically. “Freshly caught Cornish pixies.”

~Rowling 101

“We will be able to cure her, Argus,” said Dumbledore patiently. “Professor Sprout recently managed to procure some Mandrakes. As soon as they have reached their full size, I will have a potion made that will revive Mrs. Norris.”

“I’ll make it,” Lockhart butted in. “I must have done it a hundred times. I could whip up a Mandrake Restorative Draught in my sleep—”

“Excuse me,” said Snape icily. “But I believe I am the Potions master at this school.”

~Rowling 144

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

There’s a lot of humor in this book that Rowling sneaks in between all the tension, and even if it might not make you laugh, it will make you smile. I especially loved Harry’s stay with the Weasley family and pretty much everything involving Mr. and Mrs. Weasley after that. I also found Percy’s little plotline humorous, and it occurred to me that this is possibly the most we see of Percy in any book, as well as some of the funnier moments involving him. We actually see more of Percy in this book than Ginny, which is saying something, since Ginny is…well, you know (and if you don’t, you’ll find out). In fact, Ginny’s introduction is extremely understated.

Snape gets off some killer lines in this book. My favorite is the one I quoted above, but the moment when he and the other teachers starts egging Lockhart on in the end is pretty good, too.

We’re introduced to Fawkes in this book! Yay, Fawkes! He’s one of the only “good” (for lack of a better word) magical creatures that we see in the entire series, really. He also gets most of his screen time in this book, too, and it is some awesome screen time.

Fanart by TwiggyMcBones

What else? Hmmm…this book really starts off the Draco/Harry rivalry. Also, Parseltongue is something that is not used enough in the series, but it is very cool.

Finally, I still really enjoy Rowling’s set-up and build-up of the plot. She throws in all these hints from different places and in different ways, and it comes together really neatly. Again, nothing is without a purpose, and it lets the reader try to figure things out along with Harry. One of my favorite hints was Ron’s joke that Riddle’s award was because he killed Myrtle. I read a theory once that speculated that Hermione is usually right except when she’s emotional, and Ron is usually wrong except when he’s joking. Looks like that’s the case here, eh?

What I Didn’t Like:

I have never liked Chamber of Secrets. It’s not a bad book. It’s just not very interesting. The first half is pretty good, but the second half is a drag to get through. I’m not even sure why. It’s simply unable to hold my attention. It seems to take forever for things to get moving, and then everything is spaced so far apart that it’s very choppy in terms of conflict and action. There needs to be downtime, yes, but it seems to me that there is too much downtime.

As I mentioned above, Ginny doesn’t appear much in this book, which is odd seeing as she’s so central to the plot. Perhaps Rowling did that on purpose, because of what Ginny is doing? Come to think of, and this is something I will have to keep in mind, does Ginny even really show up at all until book five? And by show up, I mean have more than a few lines to remind readers that she exists.

Lockhart, you’re annoying.

Hints/Foreshadowing/Ruminations (Spoilers/Clues—recommended for readers of all seven books only, or those who like spoilers, because I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone accidently):

One thing I’ve noticed: if Rowling mentions something more than once, it’s probably important. In Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry wonders if Snape can read minds. That comes up again in this book.


–Keep in mind Tom Riddle and his heritage

–Keep in mind the diary, and the basilisk fang

–Keep in mind Harry’s Parseltongue ability

–Keep in mind Borgin & Burkes in Knockturn Alley and the cabinet Harry hides in

–Keep Dobby and Lucius Malfoy in mind, too

Overall Review:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has the same tightly-knit plot that Sorcerer’s Stone had, with wonderful little teasers and hints scattered throughout that show that there was a great deal of thought put into the story. However, it failed to hold my attention after the first half, and it really drags during the second half. It’s also not nearly as memorable as the first book and is very forgettable once you read the others.

You can buy the book here: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

And the movie here:Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Single-Disc Widescreen Edition)

Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Series Week V: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 1997 by Scholastic. Fun fact: it was titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone outside the United States, but it was changed to Sorcerer because the publishing company (or Rowling) thought children wouldn’t want to read something that had “Philosopher” in it. For all things Harry Potter, check out the Harry Potter Lexicon (warning: spoilers). Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy, Realistic (as a reminder, again: my genre of Realistic is for those books that are set in the natural world)


“Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He’s never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him…if Harry can survive the encounter.”

~Back Cover


“Tricky customer, eh? Not to worry, we’ll find the perfect match here somewhere—I wonder, now—yes, why not—unusual combination—holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple.”

Harry took the wand. He felt a sudden warmth in his fingers. He raised the wand above his head, brought it swishing down through the dusty air and a stream of red and gold sparks shot from the end like a firework, throwing dancing spots of light on to the walls. Hagrid whooped and cpalled and Mr. Ollivander cried, “Oh, bravo! Yes, indeed, oh, very good. Well, well, well…how curious…how very curious…”

He put Harry’s wand back into his box and wrapped it in brown paper, still muttering, “Curious…curious…”

“Sorry,” said Harry, “but what’s curious?”

~Rowling 84-85

“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making,” he began. He spoke in barely more than whisper, but they caught every word—like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. “As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses….I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death—if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”

~Rowling 136-137

“Devil’s Snare, Devil’s Snare…what did Professor Sprout say? – it likes the dark and damp—”

“So light a fire!” Harry choked.

“Yes—of course—but there’s no wood!” Hermione cried, wringing her hands.


~Rowling 278

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

I don’t think there has ever been a fantasy series (or book series, total) that has impacted the present day and age as much as Harry Potter has. This series has spawned eight movies, 665k (and counting) fanfiction stories on fanfiction.net alone, numerous videogames, a supplemental website called Pottermore, a theme park, the Potter Puppet Pals, and three unofficial musicals, not to mention countless memes, references, and catchphrases. And don’t forget the bands and the songs!

I consider myself very well-versed in the Potter world. I’m one of those closet Harry Potter nerds who never reveals how nerdy she is over Harry Potter until someone else reveals their obsession first. I’ve read the first four books multiple times, the fifth and sixth book two or three times and the seventh book twice (before this series). I was very involved in the Harry Potter fanfiction world throughout high school (and let me say right now, 90% of this fanfiction is awful. But 10% is very, very good, and worth reading). I haven’t re-read the whole series since the seventh book came out, so I’m excited to delve into this world again.

That being said, let’s take a look at the first book in the series. Rowling has definitely got a wonderful world set up here. The world-building done in this book has that lovely sense of awe and amazement as the reader experiences it through someone who has never seen the world before—in effect, Harry is the reader as he views the wizarding world for the first time. So much is revealed in just this book alone—but there is still so much to find out. Rowling gives us enough to want more, but leaves things back so that we are constantly finding out new things, with Harry. The world is just so complex; it’s amazing.

From this first book alone one can tell how planned this series is. Everything that Rowling introduces has a purpose. Everything. If something seems irrelevant, it’s not. Rowling is wonderful at foreshadowing and throwing hints out, not just about the plot of the book you’re reading, but about the events that will be revealed in future books, as well. I can think of several revealed in this book already, which I will elaborate on further in another section.

Let’s move on to the characters. I will start with my favorite character, which is Snape. I don’t know when I started liking Snape. All I know is that before the seventh book came out, I was a hard-core Snape fan, which is interesting because he’s almost entirely one-dimensional up until the last three books. Maybe it’s when we get to see more of him and his motivations, starting in the fifth book, that I started liking him. I believe that Snape is one of the more popular characters, which is really funny because Rowling has stated in an interview that she doesn’t understand why people like him so much, since she based him off of some particularly nasty teachers she had. And don’t get me wrong, Snape is nasty. But perhaps it’s the mystery surrounding his character that gets people intrigued, and then they start liking him because of that mystery. In any case, Snape is my favorite character, but in the first few books, he’s just a really nasty teacher who has some inexplicable grudge against Harry. I’ll talk more about him when his character starts getting fleshed out.

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Harry is the protagonist, so of course it’s almost impossible to not like him. What I’ve noticed, just in this first book alone, is that Harry almost always thinks of other people before thinking of himself. He breaks rules, yes, but in every single case he is breaking the rule for another person, except for maybe the midnight duel with Malfoy (and even then, he was breaking it because of Malfoy, not because of some whim of his own). I’ll have to see if this is true in future books; it will be interesting to see throughout the books why Harry breaks a rule, and if the pattern ever changes, and why it does.

This is getting to be a long entry, so I’ll just talk briefly about Hermione and Ron. They’re the average sidekicks. There’s not much to say about them, really, except that Hermione is sort of a stereotypical bookworm with no friends (at first), and Ron is the opposite personality so that there’s conflict involved between the friends as well as outside of them.

Long book series beg for long character development, and I am excited to both see and discuss the development of each character throughout each book. There is minor development in each book, but it really builds over time. The most notable example is probably Neville, but that’s something to discuss way later in the series.

Some memorable quotes!

What I Didn’t Like:

I am not going to poke the sleeping dragon that is “there’s magic in this book oh no”…..at least, not yet.

Not going to lie, Rowling’s downplay of and humorous take on the Dursley’s treatment of Harry was a bit…off-putting. It’s clearly a neglectful and borderline abusive (maybe not even borderline) relationship, but it’s played for laughs rather than treated seriously. Maybe it’s because this book is for children? Rowling clearly wants to establish a profound difference between Harry at the Dursley’s and Harry at Hogwarts, but still…

Wait, Harry just lets his cloak just stay in the tower for all that time? He never once goes back to get it? It’s up there for about a month!

I said above that nothing Rowling introduces is purpose-less. This is great in one respect, but bad in another, in that it makes everything obvious, and everything falls in place neatly and tidily. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, and this is a children’s book so it’s almost mandatory that it’s not very complex, but for older readers such as myself, The Sorcerer’s Stone is good for nostalgic purposes (if you’ve read the book before) or introductory wonder (for first-timers) but not for literary accomplishment (I am not saying Rowling is a bad writer. I pretty much said the opposite in my above section).

Hints/Foreshadowing/Ruminations/Thoughts (Spoilers/Clues—recommended for readers of all seven books only, because I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone accidentally):

There were two points in the book where I laughed out loud; not because the text was particularly funny, but because I’ve read the series before and know all the revelations that take place. These quotes (and some of the other things in this section) are especially nice if you take into consideration the “controversy” (for lack of a better word) that surrounds the last book. The first quote was, “Could Snape possible know they’d found out about the Sorcerer’s Stone? Harry didn’t see how he could—yet he sometimes had the horrible feeling that Snape could read minds.” The second quote was, “Bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me….I suppose that’s written in the stars as well.” My response to these quotes is a big HA! and a “I see what you did there, Rowling.”

Here’s a list of “Keep in minds”:

–Keep in mind how everyone (and this is more noticeable as the books progress) says that Harry looks like his dad, but with his mother’s eyes (in fact, I think that Harry actually finishes this sentence for someone in a “Yeah, I know, stop saying that” kind of way in a later book).

–Keep in mind how Harry got his invisibility cloak

–Keep in mind Ollivander’s quote, “The wand chooses the wizard”

–Keep in mind that Dumbledore doesn’t tell Harry why Voldemort is after him (thus insinuating that there is some reason)

–Keep in mind that Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands are “brothers”

–Keep in mind everything revealed about Snape, such as the fact that Harry’s father saved his life, and his overall nastiness towards Harry in particular

–Keep in mind the boa constrictor at the zoo

–Keep in mind the pain in Harry’s scar

–Keep in mind Hagrid’s brief mention of Sirius Black

–Keep in mind Mrs. Figg

Overall Review:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a wonderful start to the series. It introduces an incredible new world, intriguing characters, and has a darn good plot to boot. It’s an incredibly influential series, and with good reason. Rowling also puts in some lovely teases about future events, and the book’s “surprise” ending shows a complexity that a lot of children’s books don’t have. It’s the start of a magical adventure, and anyone should want to see what comes next.

You can buy the book here: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)

And the movie here: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Two-Disc Special Widescreen Edition)

Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets