The Order of the Phoenix *Just About* Rises from the Ashes

*Or, ALL THE SPOILER WARNINGS, how to get an innocent man killed*

harry potter review

Harry_Potter_and_the_Order_of_the_PhoenixHello all! It’s finally time for my most controversial Harry Potter review. Yup- we’ve made it to book 5 and I’ve so far managed to survive the wrath of fans… but I think this one might just do me in 😉 As I mentioned in my complicated relationship with Harry Potter piece, I have never been the biggest fan of this book (and for those that are gonna get offended by that statement- either muffliato a minute and hear me out or, you know, just don’t read this). Because of that, I was extremely strategic this time round and made sure to read it fresh, at least I wouldn’t in the hope I wouldn’t dislike it as much as I have in the past. And you know what? It kind of worked… kind of.

I won’t pretend this book cast a Cheering Charm over me- especially since you could reallllly feel the length of this one. More of the plotlines felt unnecessary and while I conceptually like the idea of the beginning and end centring on the Ministry, it took far too long to get to that point. It took 20% of the book, which in a book this huge is *150 pages* to get to the school and consequently the actual plot- and the fact that I spent a large amount of time calculating the pages should tell you how bored I got with it. I’m sorry to say this, but some of the fat should’ve been trimmed here.

I also spent most of the book with a mild case of irritation. Part of that came down to the repetitive and pointless conversations about the “secret weapon” that go nowhere fast. So many of the conversations about it just went in circles- which, if you compare this with conversations in the Philosopher’s Stone, where every time Flamel is brought up, we learn something new, made it all the more irksome. Just dropping in the occasional “we still don’t know what the secret weapon is…” doesn’t build the mystery in quite the same way.

Some of this can be blamed on how infuriatingly little Harry is told. For some reason, most of the adults in his life (like Molly Weasley), seem to think the most dangerous thing for a boy that’s nearly been murdered on multiple occasions is… knowledge. WHAT?! This is why I use the term “the Dumbledore” to describe the wizard who refuses to give information for *reasons*. Doofus Dumbledore (yes, I am going there… maybe I should’ve imperio’ed fans not to read this review) doesn’t seem to understand that *truth* is the most powerful weapon (which is funny, cos the whole book seems to be about the baddie *SEEKING INFORMATION, so he seems to get it). I understand that secrecy is important for plot development, but you can still have a character die without it being for reasons this dumb. One of the reasons I think this whole issue comes about is because Dumbledore just knows too much from book 1. I get that this is supposed to be because “he’s the best wizard” and all that jazz, yet it actually comes across as though he’s got far too much power in comparison to Voldemort (which definitely comes out when he whoops his ass in the last fight scene 😉 ). In fairness, a lot of this can be put down to *serious character flaws*– ie Dumbledore is too proud/stupid to tell Harry the truth and Harry is to proud/stupid to go and ask. Which don’t really excuse them- just makes sense.

harry potter how dare you

Pipe down Harry!

Speaking of Harry’s character, this is the HELLO PUBERTY book. And the thing is, I was just coming into that magical time of hormones when I first read this book, and I’m pretty confident to say that it doesn’t get turned on and off like a faucet. Either way, I didn’t like his temper and thought he spent way too much of this book jumping down everyone’s throats. And I know some people are going to say “oh but this reflects trauma”- ermmm no, there’s more to trauma than shouting and the occasional magically induced nightmare, sorry. Also, hitting the CAPS LOCK for paragraphs on end to express anger is annoying.

And since this is a theme, I was annoyed by Ron again (I don’t know why anyone’s surprised at this point, I’ve been saying it since book 1). First of all, why is anyone surprised he gets off from weird trumped up charges at the beginning of the book? And secondly, Ron saying “you always get away with stuff” made me legit yell at the book so do you!!!! I also don’t get why he ever thought it made sense for him to be a prefect– he’s definitely got the same disobedient streak as Fred/George (just to add insult to injury in my criticism of Dumbledore, I’d have just made Neville prefect- cos, why not?)

Okay, you may not think I’m justified in my dislike for Ron, but I think we can all agree that Umbridge is the MOST LOATHSOME Harry Potter character. I HATE Umbridge. I have to say her characterisation, from that early “silvery laugh” is magnificent. But again, it makes me seriously scratch my head at Harry’s actions. I genuinely can’t decide if I admire Harry’s restraint for not cursing Umbridge or wanting to throttle him for not standing up to her more (I probably lean towards the latter, though I understand why people feel the former). At least have the good sense to go to another teacher! I can’t believe that most of them would have stood for it and there were so many ways to catch her out. Evidently, Dumbledore stopped her shaking Marietta- so why assume that they’d let her basically stab children in the hand. McGonagall would have probably stabbed her with the quill if she’d have known.

Incidentally, I’ve been remiss in not mentioning Minerva thus far. She’s one of the few sensible adults in Harry’s life and I just love her “Have a biscuit, Potter” line. Though she’s not the only adult looking out for Harry. For all his rashness, Sirius definitely has Harry’s best interests and *has the most logical views*. There is an ongoing theme in the book of Sirius comparing Harry to James- what’s infuriating in the film adaptation is that he mistakes Harry for his father in his final moments. Which, not only takes the sting out of his death, but also ignores the fact that book-Sirius grows into his godfather role and ends up coming to his rescue in a fatherly fashion. The film version is also poor on multiple accounts, as it ignores the fact that Sirius is basically right the whole book- you’ve got to learn to defend yourself with a sociopathic cult leader on the loose.  

And I know that I shouldn’t have liked it, but I always have fun with the Snape vs Sirius rivalry- honestly, anything that gets us closer to a Marauder’s story makes me happy. Speaking of which, Snape’s memories are *traumatic*- yet again, I don’t like the film’s version, because to my mind neither is the good party- especially in the larger context of them both antagonising each other. Still, even if you want to go with the view that James was the bully… Snape’s basically the equivalent of a racist here, so…

Anyway, this is part of one of the *many* aforementioned subplots. It makes some sense to me that Harry isn’t keen on the Occulemency lessons- given the poor choice of teacher- yet even when he’s given the reasons why, he still has little interest in learning (cos of course Harry knows best…). Honestly, I get the feeling that a longer book just gave Harry more opportunities to be an idiot. And to sulk- exemplified by the fact Ginny has to tell him “hey, no, you’re not possessed” because he won’t leave his room.

What saved the book for me was how much the book picks up from the point when Fred and George stage their epic exit. While I don’t like how we got to the end point and got irked with Dumbledore, I can’t deny that “he’s got style”. I actually liked the addition of Grawp and some of the imagery that came with it. And finally, finally, Hermione gets to play the hero in getting rid of Umbridge!

I have been neglecting Hermione this review, because I’ve been saving this point for the end: Hermione is right- about everything! Well, more specifically that Harry has a saving people thing. Indeed, his hero complex is KILLER- because, frankly, I genuinely believe they all got Sirius killed. And no, I don’t blame him for being rash and going to the ministry to save a bunch of kids- that’s the time to be rash. Not, say, when you’re an arrogant teen that thinks your high school club can save the day without knowing what’s going on. I mean *prepare for some heavy sarcasm* don’t assume that the Order member is putting on an act for Umbridge’s benefit and wait for him to come back. And of course, why don’t you grab that big juicy prophecy while you’re at it?

Nonetheless, I can’t entirely blame Harry for feeling like he’s got no one to help him when all the adults in his life are useless – which is why I say they *all* got Sirius killed. And yeah I view Sirius as a martyr to their stupidity. His death is devastating, not just because he’s a great character, but because, my goodness, Rowling does his death well. He gets his hero’s death, protective to the last, and the grief pours in waves from that point. Other than a brief interlude of CAPS ruining the moment, I’d say this ending is done perfectly. Seeing other people’s reactions and the gradual overbearing weight of it gives the death the space it needs. Indeed, the subject of grief is handled beautifully for much of the series.

There was as usual a lot of set up for later books- especially with the prophecy. I can be iffy about such things, however it was sufficiently vague enough for me to not mind it *too much*. Although perhaps this was down to knowing how things turned out, because in the past that was another sticking point for me. Overall though, based on my enjoyment this time round, I gave it:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Phew- I know I probably pissed a lot of people off with this, but that felt like expunging a fifteen year old wound. How do you feel about book 5? Let me know in the comments!

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Obsidio was OUT OF THIS WORLD!

obsidioI don’t get that many new books- but I simply *had to* have this one. I mean, you guys know how much I adored Illuminae and Gemina (although I know a fair number of you are new here- in which case welcome! And just to get you up to date at the speed of light: hi, I’m the Orangutan Librarian and I *love* these books!). I mean what’s not to love about a space adventure told in a “found files” kind of way?

I will admit that every time I start one of these books, I do have some trouble getting into the format. Don’t get me wrong- I think it’s phenomenally unique and different- only that sort of thing is always a double edged sword for me, because it takes a while to get used to. That said, each book has been inventive in its own way and I always end up completely immersed in the experience.

More importantly, as a conclusion this was devastatingly emotional. Unlike the first two, there wasn’t the entire universe on the line, but in a way that made it more poignant. Instead of floating around in the vast hypothetical territory of the previous books, this was more grounded and focused on individuals. While it was action packed and explosive like its predecessors, what gave me goosebumps was feeling closer to the people whose lives were on the line.

All the characters felt so real to me- I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat terrified of what might happen to them. The cast was expanded here, which meant we had less time to spend with some of the favourites we’d met in the last two books. But never fear- everyone still got space to breathe and the finale they deserved! Plus, I found the new characters added to the plot in a significant way and were a sympathetic link to the drama going down.

And boy was there drama! The *evil corporation* was upto no good and there was mischief a-foot closer to home as well. Speaking of which, spoilers for the first two books, who knew a murderous AI could be so hysterical?

Overall, this was an entertaining and gripping series- and the only reason it’s not getting a full feast of bananas is cos I’m nitpicky about how long it took to get into it and one grammatical question mark.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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So have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Consumed by the Goblet of Fire

harry potter review

*Spoiler Line: PROCEED WITH CAUTION*

goblet of fireSo I will admit that I didn’t write as much in the way of notes for book 4, because I was pretty gripped from the start. I know it sets a very different tone, but I’ve always liked that creepy opening and how it builds up the sense that this is going to be a very different book from what’s come before… although not too different, since it’s quickly followed by the humorous introduction of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and then flies into the Quidditch World Cup (who else was devastated that they never included that in the films?)

It’s not all fun and games though and things quickly take a dark turn (one could even say that moment of cheer was just a Wronsky Feint 😉 ) with a hint of all the grim  things to come. I’m talking, of course, about the Death Eaters- I mean, who wasn’t freaked out by them as a kid?!? Or even as an adult?! That injection of terror is incredibly powerful and seeing the mistreatment of muggles is a strong moment in the series, pushing the message of anti-racism very effectively.

I am always impressed with the plot of Goblet of Fire, although I did notice more kinks this time round. For instance, while Barty Crouch is an excellent villain and I love how he outsmarted everyone, I couldn’t help but wonder… how?! I mean, did it never occur to Dumbledore that Harry was put in the Tournament because someone wanted him to win it? Especially as it becomes apparent that he was never in any danger in the first two rounds and he seems to do remarkably well. But I guess child safety is never the Hogwart’s headmaster’s biggest concern and Harry’s happy to throw caution to the wind in an effort to win. Like I said, I really enjoy this plot and the dramatic showdown in the graveyard is dead epic, so it’s probably best not to think about it too much…

That said, Voldy is a moron– Wormtail points out to him that literally any wizard would have done and that abducting Harry seems like a waste of effort- but does he listen to his advisor? No, of course not, he has to go with the convoluted plan and gets lucky that Dumbledore’s not paying too much attention to all the strange goings on at his school. And then when he has Harry in his grasp he goes and gives him his wand back, affording him a chance to escape (but whatever, he’s obviously not checked out Peter’s Evil Overlord list, which Cameron Graham introduced me to yesterday).

Speaking of characters I’m not always so keen on, I liked Ron less and less in this one (sorry!). It started with him being touchy about Harry’s gift (who, to be fair, is splashing the cash about). But then he’s a *total* jerk about the whole champion thing and is the walking embodiment of jealousy… until he can bask in the glory of his friend’s success again. He only takes a break from that to complain about not getting a good enough date to the Yule Ball (just try that irl and see how attractive you are to women).

I’m not exactly under the spell of the romance in Harry Potter– but I have to say that the introduction of Cho Chang as Harry’s love interest is sorta endearing. Sure, it’s stupid and immature, but that’s kind of what you’d expect at that age. I personally think that Rowling got the trials and tribulations of first crushes down to a T here. Even if I think some of the pairings leave a lot to be desired.

Still there are other things that leave more of a sour taste in my mouth– namely that this is the year of the SPEW subplot. I’m not fond of it at all. Not only does it slow down the story and make the book feel a little overlong, but I find it makes Hermione a bit irritating. I get that it’s representing her as a mini activist and so it makes sense that she’s pretty oblivious to what the House Elves actually tell her they want, but maybe she could have just asked. Although, I do think it’s solid character development and ends up being another example of the ongoing Hermione is always right theme in the series. Whatever Hermione says is always a good metric of where the narrative is heading- which is why she gets to have such a central role in the Rita Skeeter plot. And I have to say, while I’m on the fence about some of the other storylines, I’m not even remotely bugged about how that part plays out 😉

Okay, so I know I’ve been hypercritical in this review, but I wouldn’t take it too personally, cos this is still one of my favourites. And like I said at the start, I was too absorbed to take notes (clearly most of what I wrote were all the parts I had a question mark over)Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it this time round as much as I usually do though, which is why I’m giving it:

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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So what do you think of book 4? Am I being a bit harsh? Let me know in the comments!

Captivated by Prisoner of Azkaban

*I solemnly swear that there will be spoilers*

harry potter review

Harry_Potter_and_the_Prisoner_of_AzkabanAlohamora! So I actually read the first three in a row- I didn’t intend to, it just sort of happened, can’t imagine why 😉

The first thing I love about Prisoner of Azkaban is the contrast of the good birthday with the bad birthday in the last book. It shows how well these books are interconnected.  

Like Chamber of Secrets, there’s also a strong connection between the hero’s journey and the villain’s. In fact, in this one I’d say it’s even more pronounced, with the so-called baddie being a troublemaker at school and the added bonus of this being about Harry’s father. From beginning to end, it’s a deeply personal story.

In fact, this book explores his childhood trauma in both explicit and symbolic ways. The dementors, possibly the scariest of all Harry Potter creatures, are fantastic at showing how some people are more susceptible than others (not in a way that shows weakness, but that accounts for differences in personality and experiences).

Speaking of symbolism, I also love the use of boggarts- especially the idea that ridiculing something reduces your fear of it. I think Rowling is exactly right with this perception- it takes things much further than the idea that “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself”- because mocking something scary reduces the reverence you might have for it. So I do somewhat like how fear his handled here- although I don’t consider it especially wise to be afraid of fear. I know, I’m simultaneously disagreeing with both FDR and Lupin, but given how rash Harry is as a character anyway, someone should have told him that a) there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fear if you don’t want to rush in blind to stupid situations (*cough* book 5 *cough cough*) and b) bravery is actually about overcoming fear.

But whatever, that doesn’t detract from how awesome this particular book is. Like the second book, Prisoner of Azkaban beautifully builds on the wizarding world. Best of all is Hogsmeade, made even more satisfying for having to wait for it. And I also love the use of self-references in the writing, like “could have produced the world’s best patronus” when Gryffindor wins the Quidditch final, which is pretty dang cool.

I also loved the characters- both new and old– especially Crookshanks and Buckbeak 😉 Okay, they may be animals, yet they are so full of personality! Plus they serve a great purpose, not only for the plot, but also for Hermione’s increasing interest in activism. Her development as a character takes such an interesting turn and shows what a huge heart she has. Basically, I think Hermione kinda rocked in this book.

Even better than that for me, this book introduces my favourite character in the whole series: Sirius Black. Now, I know this might be a funny thing to say considering I’ve not bothered with any of Harry Potter spinoffs, but I would love a Marauders book (not play/film/slam poetry event mind, a book written by Rowling). I am so emotionally invested in their story and I *adore* how it’s done. It’s why I can never pick between book 2 and 3. As horrible as it is to hear Sirius’ story, it’s also amazingly well done and I don’t think I’d ever have guessed the *plot twist*.

Sirius’ escape is, in the end, bittersweet. There’s a sense of Harry’s hopes of a normal family relationship flying off and my heart aches every time I reread that. At the same time, the book leaves behind the message that Harry has found his father in himself, and that those who are gone never truly leave us. Right now I am typing and retyping this sentence trying to put into words how perfect that moment is and I just can’t do it justice!! I think my feelings around it are something like: awwwww-arghhh-so-good!!

Once again, the book comes full circle, from Owl Post to Owl Post Again, making this structurally flawless. It’s no wonder I flew through it faster than the speed of a Firebolt.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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*Mischief managed!* So what did you think of Prisoner of Azkaban? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!  

Geekerella- You Shall Go to the Ball!

*Received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

geekerellaI’m sorry, cheesy title, but I had to go there 😉 As you probably know I have a weakness for fairy tales and, above all fairy tales, I have an unhealthy habit of reading and watching *every single* Cinderella related story I can get my hands on. It’s one of those things I can’t really explain, but I’m addicted to the tale. So when I saw this book which had not only one of my favourite stories, but also involved fangirling over a space drama, which hello is very me, I just had to have it.

One of the best things about it was the world building for the in-book show Starfield that the heroine loves. I read somewhere that the author actually wrote out a plot for all the episodes and you can totally tell. The slogans are fun and realistic, the details were out of this world, and loads of it reminded me of cult classics like Firefly (incidentally one of my favourite shows). There was a spanner in the works in how it reminded me of some other shows I’m not hugely fond of, so I have to admit there was a bit of a disconnect for me there. That said, I never felt left behind by the story and I adored the virtual trail of glass slippers that led back to the classic fairy tale. All the subtle connections between the two stories were stitched together in an exquisite gown that most certainly ignited the stars.

The fandom within the story also worked well. I appreciated how the book explored the theme of finding your place in make believe, whilst tackling the issue of gatekeepers (the “you’re not a real fan” brigade) and having to deal with very real issues at the same time. It made a lot of sense that the main character, Elle, would disconnect from reality like this and acknowledged her loneliness through this topic in a way that gave the narrative plenty of heart.

I did get very emotional reading this (yes, it made me cry 😉 ) and experienced a pretty much all the *feels*. I went from chuckling to squealing to laughing at the speed of light. In terms of plot, it did take some time to reach the midpoint unfortunately, but eventually we had lift off! There weren’t really any surprises in terms of narrative, we all know the story by now, yet ultimately it took off into the stratosphere.

I won’t say that it was the most intergalactic romance I’ve ever come across, however, I did feel a spark there. Sometimes (Cinder)Elle(a) was a bit mean to her prince, but I could live with that. Plus, the side romance of Cal and Sage was so cute!! I really liked what was done with Cal’s stepsister character and that it wasn’t all textbook fairy tales.

That said, if you’re worried the mean step-relation role won’t be filled, oh boy no fear there! I always love to loathe certain characters and the stepmother is no exception. She most definitely lived up to her reputation here- though she was much more 21st century in terms of cruelty. I did get the sense that the author was trying to bring forth more modern ideas, giving Elle a bit more autonomy outside her home life, which made a certain kind of sense- sometimes it’s hardest to confront the biggest problems.

All in all, there was lots to like about this unique Cinderella adaptation!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

(Re)entering the Chamber of Secrets

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*Somewhat spoilery*

harry potter and the chamber of secretsLet’s get straight back into the world of Potter with the Chamber of Secrets. I love the start to this one- specifically because it is so horrible. Okay, that sounds wrong, but the dreadful Dursleys and Dobby’s cruel-to-be-kind schtick always make me feel so sorry for Harry. And while there is a recap, which I’ve never been crazy on, this was such a strong start.

In fact, book 2 takes everything that was awesome about book 1 and builds on it. The details are *amazing*- especially since we get to go to the Burrows and see what a wizarding household is like. I adore the immediate contrast between the rigid order of the Dursleys with the healthy bit of chaos at the Weasleys. Most notably, I love that moment when degnoming the garden is described as “boring work”- which expresses a gulf between what’s normal for wizards and what’s normal for muggles. Plus we get so much more in the way of world building thanks to this visit to the burrows, such as the use of Floo Powder, which ends up contributing to the Harry’s-suspicious-of-Malfoy subplot (I love how he’s both right and wrong on that score).

Everything about this plot is watertight and well thought out. With the introduction of Lockhart, there’s an expansion on the theme of celebrity, which really sets things up nicely for later books. Even more importantly, Chamber of Secrets adds to the topic of discrimination in a chilling way. I know that a lot of people view the later books as much darker, yet for me personally, this one is twisted in a way that makes me somewhat queasy. And normally that would make me dislike a book, but here it only enhances how I feel about it. There’s just something phenomenally on point about a narrative that focuses on the beast in the belly of the school rising up to create chaos (again, thanks Dr Peterson for that). It can be exceptionally fun to do a psychoanalytical reading of the basilisk and the clever messaging of “see no evil” (or at least don’t look directly at it), which it carries.

And as you might have guessed from my last review, I enjoyed psychoanalysing the characters too. A lot of the characters are expanded so well here. One thing that leapt out at me this time was how resentful Filch was because he’s a squib. I did make a note that Ron laughed at him for that- which definitely gives an insight into wizarding attitudes. On the flip side, he does stand up for muggleborns for the whole “mudblood” thing, even though he doesn’t get anything out of it (in fact he gets to eat slugs for his trouble), showing a more noble side. Still, I couldn’t help but love Hermione more for her principled stance in this one, coming up with sophisticated and brilliant plans to take on the heir of Slytherin.

Harry Potter, on the other hand… man, he can be a bit of an idiot. I know it was Ron’s idea to fly in the car, but on one level he certainly likes the idea of getting attention and is a very show-off move. Even if it does look great on the cover of the book, there were far better solutions other than, you know, casually breaking the law for no good reason. This may sound like an odd thing to say if you haven’t read/don’t remember the book, but it’s almost like he’s not smart enough to be the villain. The reason I mention it is because one of the best parts of this one is where Harry spends a huge amount of time worrying if he’s the heir of Slytherin. What I love about that is not just the friction it creates in the story where everyone (including Harry) is wondering whether he’s evil, but how it resolves with him proving his Gryffindor credentials once and for all. Even better, it undermines Voldy’s view of the importance of lineage (in fact, people who’ve read the rest of the series know exactly how it came about), because he has the capabilities to be the heir of Slytherin. And yet he chooses not to- in the wise words of Dumbledore: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”. As far as I’m concerned, this is exactly right and is the perfect messageif only it had stuck with that *sigh*.

But rather than getting bogged down with what is to come, I have to say that this is quite possibly my favourite of all the books (though it’s pretty hard to choose). Yes, it may be spine-tinglingly scary at times, but there’s something to be said for a story that has me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Frankly, as grim as it gets, it reminds me why nothing makes me happier than books.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So what do you think of Chamber of Secrets? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Musings on the Philosopher’s Stone

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Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover*Possible spoilers for later books*

As I mentioned in my last post, I had so much fun with this reread! It was such an emotional and nostalgic journey, retracing Harry’s steps from the cupboard under the stairs to Diagon Alley to Hogwarts hero, that I was completely swept up in the magic of it all! Even though I’ve said my relationship with Harry Potter can be quite complicated, if you’re thinking this will be full of serious griping straight away, I’d say you’ll be sorely disappointed with this review 😉 (but also don’t expect pure gush- expecto patronum the unexpected 😉 )

I adore the writing in the earlier books. From the first line, the subtle humour comes across, there are lovely elements of foreshadowing and so much personality in the characterisation. My exact words in my notes were: gosh that’s how you write a children’s book. And while there’s some things I’m not crazy about, like the use of ALL CAPS to express anger (I’m an everything-is-italicised person- JK 😉 ), it’s used minimally in book one, so I didn’t mind it.

Rowling’s precision in this book allows for the most wonderful world-building. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all about how much I love the idea of owl post or how much I still dream of playing Quidditch (on a broom, not a spacehopper). There are so many glorious details- everything from the Mirror of Erised to the Chocolate Frog cards- that it would be impossible for me to cover everything! Not only is it incredibly vivid, but there’s a trunk load of secrets packed in- it’s no mystery why this captured the hearts of so many children!

Speaking of which, I realised recently how brilliantly coded Harry Potter is and what a master Rowling is at creating a thrilling plot. There are so many hints for things that happen wayyy later in the series- like Sirius getting a mention or Hagrid saying about Gringotts “Yeh’d be mad to try and rob it” (*wink wink nudge nudge*)- which are all that more satisfying for knowing where it’s headed. It’s no wonder I spent so much time between books combing through for hints of what was to come.

This also came into play for the characterisation– for instance there is plenty of set up for Hagrid’s role in later books. There isn’t as much for Dumbledore here- he’s somewhat more distant- but that adds a wondrous layer of mystique to his character. I do question him being careless with Harry’s life, while not trusting him with the truth- but I figure that comes more from my attitude towards him in later books than anything in this book (or perhaps is just more evidence of Rowling’s mastery with foreshadowing).

I absolutely *love* the moment the Golden Trio become friends– it’s probably my favourite part in the whole book. It allows for Hermione’s character to develop *so much* in a really short space and I love getting to know her more here. I’m a bit iffier when it comes to Ron cos I’ve always liked him the least- but I have a good friend (hi Jenni if you’re reading!) who ingeniously broke down why Ron actually makes total sense as a character. She basically pointed out that everyone knows someone who’s basically average across the board and doesn’t really stand out- and personally I prefer that to the “he’s got hidden depths argument”. That said, once I saw him as more of an everyman, I felt a bit freer to think of him in terms of the “Big Five” personality traits (yes I’m a dork- what of it?) and considered that one of things that grates on me is that his disagreeable temperament makes him somewhat rude, but more importantly competitive, which doesn’t balance out with his lack of conscientiousness, consequently leading to his lack of productivity and the development of his resentful side (told you I was a dork 😉 ).

Anyhoo, he’s basically a mini version of his later self- much like Harry. Draco Malfoy’s very obvious goading to go to a midnight duel totally works because he’s incredibly rash and doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions. Incidentally, while Draco comes across as a snotty nosed git here, I have to admit I was pretty impressed with his scheming and love how he used Harry’s weakness against him at the age of 11. I may not be a Slytherin, but that’s smart as hell. And like everything else, there are a lot of clues for later books about things that might cause a problem later on– like the whole subplot around saying Voldy’s name.

In terms of Voldy’s introduction, I have such mixed feelings about the “Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die” line. I mean it’s so awesome in the ahh I know where that’s going kind of way, but it also nods to some of the attitudes towards evil that I had issues with the later books. I did however think the symbolism of killing something as pure as a unicorn only leading to a cursed life was SO PERFECT. I also liked how believable the Dursley’s cruelty was, partly thanks to its specificity. Plus, I loved the obvious (to all of us now) misdirection with Snape- who really does seem irredeemably evil in book 1.

The one real downside for this book is that it’s the one I’ve read the most, so I never get as fully excited about it and always feel a little fatigued by the end. Because of that I have trouble rating it- given I usually give it between 4 and 5, I went for an indecisive…

Rating:  4½/5 bananas

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Phew- first review done! I hope you liked reading it (and I didn’t make anyone too mad with my analysis). What do you think of the Philosopher’s Stone? I’d love to hear your thoughts!