Normally, I start my reviews with where I got the book or why I bought it, but I already explained that in the previous post. Instead, I will tell you why this is my favorite book of the series. It is most certainly not the best-written but for me it is the most magical (pun intended).
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the introduction to the magical world of Harry Potter. It is a very obvious example of a secondary-world fantasy: a story where the real world and the magical world intertwine. I have read a lot of these kinds of books, especially in the sword and sorcery subgenre, where Harry Potter is also situated. I think J.K. Rowling really took to the genre and I always love the set-up of these stories best. That is why the first arc is my favorite!
I think it is always the hardest to set the scene for these kinds of stories and J.K. Rowling does a wonderful job of it. Yes, the writing style is kind of childish, but the story is wonderfully drawn up in my opinion. And let’s be fair, it is a children’s book! I like the fact that it is written for children and easy to comprehend for its target audience. (Also you cannot deny that her writing got better over the years/books)
For those who need to read this next part: FOR SHAME! Get out from under that rock you’ve been living and face the real world: read the books and/or watch the movies, for god’s sake! (if you haven’t read it: watch out – spoilers ahead)
The first paragraph of the book sets it all up very nicely: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” I mean this just screams: something strange, mysterious and definitely NOT normal is going to happen! I love it!
The Dursley’s are Harry Potter’s aunt and uncle and he has been living with them since he was 1-year-old. They don’t treat him right, like at all. How child services hasn’t been called to that family’s home, I do not understand. Basically, he has had a crappy childhood and been living in the closet under the stairs. His aunt and uncle loathe him exactly because he isn’t normal. It all comes to blows on his eleventh birthday when he is visited by a giant named Hagrid who tells him he is a wizard, just like his parents, and that they didn’t die in a car accident but were killed by an evil wizard. This signifies the biggest change in his life: he escapes a rigid situation where he was clearly unwanted and goes into a new one where he is revered for something he doesn’t remember. So his parents were killed by THE most evil wizard of all time, and he should have died too, but he didn’t. Somehow, the curse backfired and killed this evil wizard, who is called Voldemort, but is referred to as “he who shall not be named” (because what’s in a name, right?). That is why he is famous and Harry has a hard time living up to his reputation but along with the help of his friends, he finds his bearings and is very happy in his new situation.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true secondary-world fantasy without a good battle between good and evil. Voldemort is the personification of evil, while Harry and his friends represent the good. So of course, Voldemort, who was reduced to some kind of phantom living off one of his followers (it is never really explained exactly how he survived and what he has become), comes back to the school to find The Sorcerer’s Stone. The sorcerer’s stone is said to have the ability to turn lead into gold and create an elixir of life that will sustain someone well beyond their years. The Voldemort-ghost thinks that drinking this elixir will restore him to his former self and body. And obviously, Harry, being the little boy with the hero-complex that he is, decides that only he can stop this from happening as nobody else will listen to him or even recognize the possible danger. He confronts Voldemort and his follower and rescues the stone from the clutches of evil, almost dying in the process. This blatant breaking of numerous school rules obviously makes him the hero of the school, even being rewarded by the headmaster in “house points” (a system where good behaviour is rewarded and bad punished by points for one of the four “houses” you were sorted in at arrival) and winning Gryffindor the “house cup” (a cup granted to the house with the most points).
That is how I see it now however. When I first read it in 2000 when I was ten, I saw it as the ultimate “good overcomes evil” and a major happy ending where the good guys were rewarded and the bad guys punished.
So, you book lovers, what did you think of Harry Potter? Are you with the hype or think it is completely overrated? And which is your favorite book? Let me know in the comments!