Before embarking on the internationally popular children’s series known as Harry Potter, I admit that I was extremely nervous. Hogwarts. Harry Potter. Magic. Wands, Wizards, and witches, oh my. Unfortunately, I did not care for the book when it first came out and I regret not giving it a second chance at a younger age. I read the first book along with everyone else but it never stuck. So years later, I found myself suddenly obsessed with the story of the green eyed, messy haired English boy with the lightning scar known as Harry Potter. I read all seven books in a matter of months (I am a surprisingly slow reader and have a bad habit of reading on the surface before I give a book a second read and dive deeper for more meaning behind the story). Trying to digest so much information in such a short period of time, one book after the other, proved to be a bit difficult and frustrating. While everyone else read the books as they came out, I crammed an entire wizarding world into one read. I was confused at certain parts, overlooked others and had so many questions that needed to be answered. I also chose to read the books first and watch the movies after. Not that any movie does the book justice, but so far these are doing a great job.
As far as I know, Alex Danay is THE Harry Potter guru. She knows anything and everything about the author, the books, the characters and what happens after you close the last book. Naturally, I bombarded her with my rants, emotions, thoughts and questions which she kindly answered for me (with slight annoyance at times, not that I blame her ;)) I was also nervous about writing this blog post. Not that it will serve as a review of the series, as I will not be discussing each book in depth in case any of you who read this post have not yet experienced the wonder of Harry Potter. Instead, this post will be about my thoughts on the series and the woman I compared to Shakespeare, whose artistic writing ability has earned her a spot in the Hall of Fame of English Literature.
For those of you who know the titles, I will list my favorites by book number: Book 3, 6, 2, 7, 4, 1, 5. As is the case with any introductory book to a series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone did just that; introduce the character of Harry Potter, his story, and the wizarding world in which he would quickly call home. Readers were also introduced to Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger who become Harry’s right and left hand. Harry encounters his first mission to retrieve and destroy the Sorcerer’s Stone which aids Lord Voldemort in the ability to become stronger and harness his power. Harry also meets the Dark Lord himself for the first time.
The second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, spent some time retelling what happened in the first book, just as a reminder to readers. As he encountered in the first book, Harry learns more about his past and why Lord Voldemort, the most evil and powerfully dangerous wizard of all time is after him. Harry encounters some form of Voldemort in all seven books. Whether the Dark Lord chooses to take the form of another wizard, appears as a memory, or surfaces at the forefront of Harry’s dreams, Lord Voldermort not only instills a sense of fear in all of those at Hogwarts, but a strong sense of bravery and courage in Harry himself, which prove to be his most admirable traits right until the very end.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a solid favorite among many because of the introduction to Sirius Black, the accused murderer of several Muggles (non-magical people) and as the man who sold out Harry’s parents, Lily and James Potter, to Lord Voldemort. Black turns out to be more than a friend to Harry, for reasons I will not further explain. Well into their third year at Hogwarts. Harry, Hermione and Ron learn about new secrets, spells and curses and enjoy every minute of Gryffindor House defeating Slytherin in Quidditch. (The other two houses are Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff).
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, introduces readers to yet another beloved character, Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, the man with the magic eye and Hogwart’s newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. (The position is said to be cursed and each book, a new professor is introduced as you will read). The Goblet of Fire itself, is the cup from which student’s names are drawn to participate in the TriWizard Tournament, an intense and dangerous competition to select the best student from the schools of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, other overseas wizarding schools. Harry’s name is selected from the cup and although he is underage, he must participate. It is later revealed who put Harry’s name in the cup, why and what happens to Harry’s other competitors. The theme of this book is death so prepare yourself. In my opinion, this is where Harry Potter starts to get dark.
Book five of the series titled, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is my least favorite book. A highly political themed book said by some to mock the George Bush presidency, it took me forever to get through this book. I will not tell you what happens in this book as it is very difficult to explain in some parts, but the Minsitry of Magic is in full effect in this book along with possibly the most hated Professor at Hogwarts; Dolores Umbridge. The Order of the Phoenix as you will find, is a group comprised of experienced wizards, some you will already know and love and others you will meet for the first time, who’s sole purpose is to protect the wizarding world from Lord Voldemort. Another dark read, you will continue to experience sadness along with Harry at the loss of a great character.
Book six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is said to be a cousin to the second book as you will see a bit of a similiar storyline. Professor Severus Snape is the star of this book, along with the dozens of memories that Harry witnesses alongside Dumbledore. One of the greatest losses Hogwarts has ever seen occurs in this book and I urge you to keep reading, even though you may not want to. Harry’s hunt begins for Horcruxes, separated parts of the soul in which Lord Voldemort has hidden in various objects that hold the most meaning to him. If you destroy the Horcruxes, you destroy Voldemort. While simple in theory, Harry and his friends later find that their mission from Dumbledore may seem near impossible to complete.
While I got a bit teary-eyed in many of the books, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, made me shed those tears the most. The final installment of any series is a bittersweet read. On the one hand, I was so excited to see how the famed story of The Boy Who Lived finally comes to an end. On the other hand, it meant that my first read of this ingenius story would also come to an end. As expected, many characters meet an untimely end in book seven, all in the fight to rid the world of Lord Voldemort. The hunt for the Horcruxes continues and there are pages and pages of camping and hiding under the Invisibility Cloak. I will not tell you how Harry’s story ends, but I will tell you this; Harry would never have been able to live through all seven books were it not for his best friends, Ron and Hermione. While each book has its own theme, I believe that friendship is a prevalent theme in all seven stories. I found the epilogue corny and extremely predictable but then again, the hardest part of writing any book is the introduction and conclusion. Authors have to end a story somehow. But alas, Harry Potter would not exist to any reader if J.K. Rowling kept her magic to herself.
I equated her to William Shakespeare, which for those of you who know me, is the highest compliment any writer can receive. A writer myself, I will never be able to do what J.K. Rowling did and I challenge others to attempt it. Not only did she successfully introduce a widely popular series of children’s books, she created an entire world for readers, Wizards and Muggles alike to escape to. For that JKR, I take my hat off to you and lean forward in a gracious bow. The descriptive characters, the story, the detail, each thread fully connected from Book 1 to Book 7, all of it is amazing. I sometimes can’t put into words how incredible these books are. I have never really read a series like this before and now that I have finished, I am in a state of depression. I started The Tales of Beedle the Bard, another JKR book that is Harry Potter related as it is a collection of children’s stories for witches and wizards (what we know as fairytales). There is also Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for those who have completed their first read of Harry Potter, but still want more.
I also believe that literature such as this should be offered as a college class. Harry Potter at University, imagine that. While it is not a classic from the 17th century, Harry Potter is sure to become it’s own classic, if not already. The books offer everything required of a literature class, even as a fiction course. From descriptive battle scenes and unique characters to the intense foreshadowing of things to come. I can’t wait to see which University will pick him up first.
I plan on rereading the Harry Potter books again over the summer. This time around, I will have a keener eye to detail and will never again question why JKR chooses to tell her stories in certain ways. The story of Harry Potter as The Chosen One and The Boy Who Lived, is a story that can be read over and over again with new discoveries at the turn of every page. So I thank you, J.K. Rowling, for introducing us to such loveable characters in a dreamscape of a world where magic exists around every corner. Thank you for your glorious gift to the literary world.
The Duchess of New York