It’s difficult to say anything unique about the most successful book series in history. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is momentous, captivating, obsessive, magical and intelligently written. The array of characters have become household names and our appetite for magic, good versus evil, humour, friendships and action-packed thrills, is excellently accommodated in these books.
I have watched the films multiple times but not read the books until now. I come from a fanatical HP family where my wife and children have been pressing me for years to read the books, telling me I will learn so much more of the Harry Potter world – I finally gave in – damn my stubbornness.
Something deeply affects lovers of Harry Potter in that they want to relate themselves to Hogwarts’ houses such that the Sorting Hat is applying itself to the public. Oh, I’m Hufflepuff, I’m Ravenclaw – just look at social media account bios. The characters represent the various individual personality traits rather than treating each character with challenging layers of attributes. This is expected with a young adult theme but means we read the stories for the adventure.
As the first book in the series, The Philosopher’s Stoneestablishes the main characters, background, friendships, particularly between Harry, Hermione, Ron and Hagrid, and the subtly laid plot fragments that will play a part as the story develops over the 7 books. This is where J.K. Rowling excels in her ability to weave segments of the plots and subplots into a narrative that is enthralling and highly imaginative. Take what seems to be simple dialogue during the sorting hat scene.
“‘Not Slytherin, eh?’ said the small voice. ‘Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that – no? Well, if you’re sure – better be GRYFFINDOR!’”
For those that know the full story there is a subtle puzzle piece presented in that decision making, and the intrigue builds.
The connections and twists are superbly structured and as we know that Harry is THE ONE Voldemort couldn’t kill, which gives Harry his fame and notoriety. The connection between the two is established in this book and runs deeper than first expected.
“Mr Ollivander touched the lightning scar on Harry’s forehead with a long, white finger. ‘I’m sorry to say I sold the wand that did it,’ he said softly. ‘Thirteen and a half inches. Yew. Powerful wand, very powerful, and in the wrong hands … Well, if I’d known what that wand was going out into the world to do’
‘I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand gave another feather – just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother – why, its brother gave you that scar.’”
In the lead up to Harry becoming a Quidditch player, he demonstrates his bravery and willingness to stand up for injustice and against bullying. These attributes along with those from Hermione, Ron and the overseeing Dumbledore will be crucial in the battle against the evil wizard. Dumbledore is headmaster of Hogwarts and is famous for defeating Grindelwald (another plot fragment planted) and for his work with his partner Nicolas Flamel in making the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone is a substance that can transform any metal into gold and produces the Elixir of Life. Who might want that??
The Harry Potter books are extensively filled with creatures and monsters that come from myths and legends from many sources and Rowling weaves them imperceptibly into her own tale of magic, fantasy and supernatural adventure. Part of her genius is to show rather than tell, to build the landscape in our imagination, and to leave the muggles world so tantalisingly close, it is so intelligently done that we’re just immersed in her magical world.
I would highly recommend this book and series, and whether it’s one of your favourite genres or not, it deserves to be read by everyone. It wouldn’t be my favourite but delighted to have read it and satiated that nagging voice in my mind (and elsewhere :)).