Published on: June 26th 1997
Published by: Bloomsbury
Series: Harry Potter #1
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This book is part of the Harry Potter series. You can find my reviews for the rest of the series below:
Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (Harry Potter #1)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7)
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy.
He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.)
Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!
The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.
My love for Harry Potter wasn’t immediate, in fact it took 4 years after the release of this book for me to read it. (check out my Harry Potter story) It’s hard to review a book which I have read countless times and that everyone knows so well, but I’ll give it a go and let you into the things that I think are amazing about this book.
“You’re a wizard, Harry.”
Forget Harry, it’s Hermione who is the star in this book. I remember the first time I read this book and I remember hating her. She was the smart and annoying girl and she was bugging my favourite pair, Harry and Ron. But as I got further into the book she really grew on me. We see this vulnerability underneath the annoying exterior, this need to prove herself in this world full of magic which in a lot of peoples eyes she should have no part of. And it’s Harry and Ron’s acceptance of her exactly as she is, annoying parts and all, that really lets her shine as a character. It’s that confidence that chills her out slightly, and although she is still all about the smartness, she is a little bit less annoying!
“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery…”
The world of Harry Potter is somewhere that every child (and adult!) has wanted to escape to at some point in their muggle lives. A world so full of wonder and magic that even something as common as a train station can have it’s own secrets and a magical story hidden inside it’s ways. This world that J.K. has created is so much more then a “believable” world, but instead a world in which we want to and can fully immerse ourselves in and stand right alongside Harry whilst he tries to navigate this wondrous new world. Just the scale of it all is extraordinary and every time I read it I am in complete awe of how just one mind can create something so beautifully magical. From the biggest thing like Hogwarts Castle, to the smallest things like the names of their school books. She creates a currency, a professional sporting league, a directory of creatures and a mass of spells that one can learn in their first year at school. I have often wondered in J.K herself is a witch, because how else could she have thought up all these beautiful details of this incredible world that she created for us.
“Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”
(never tickle a sleeping dragon)
Quidditch, you can’t not bow down to the woman who invented Quidditch! There have been stories involving witches flying on brooms for decades, but it wasn’t until J.K.Rowling came along with her fantastical mind and though ‘why don’t we make this into a sport?’. The way in which it is written, each of the games filled with such excitement and I literally followed it word for word, normally I find myself scanning with action sequences, but not these ones, I wanted to know every little detail.
“Flint nearly kills the Gryffindor Seeker, which could happen to anyone, I’m sure, so a penalty to Gryffindor, taken by Spinnet, who puts it away, no trouble, and we continue play, Gryffindor still in possession.”
Another massive high five must go to J.K. for her invention of Voldemort, by far one of the most evil and most feared bad guys I have ever read. To create a characer who even 10 years after he is “killed” his name still strikes fear in people. Before Harry Potter the thought of a bad guy who was refered to as “You Know Who” or “He Who Shall Not Be Named” would have seemed the strangest thing ever, but it works very well. This first book is both Harry’s and our introduction to the magical world and follows a relatively carefree adventure that focuses on the wonder and magic of life. Harry’s fear in this book comes from getting hit by a bludger during Quidditch or failing potions class, but as a reader we feel that ever present unease in the pit of our stomachs that something is coming.
“Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
I have to mention the Mirror of Erised in the review because it has to be one of my most favorite magical things in the entire Harry Potter world. Something I only realised recently is that the word ‘Erised’ is actually the word ‘Desire’ spelt backwards, and that is what the mirror is all about. The scene with the Mirror is one of my most favourite and it is this beautiful moment which shows Harry at possible his most vulnerable of the entire series. The Mirror is such a beautiful idea and it has often made me think about what I would see if I stood in front of the mirror.
We spend a lot of our lives dreaming of the things that we want, but it’s never truly obvious to us what our greatest desire is deep down in our hearts. We all hope that it will be something loving or noble but really it could be absolutely anything, and it is that desire which shows who we truly are and for Harry it is all about his desire for family. I have always wondered how Harry’s desire would change throughout the series, as he creates his own family out of those important in his life, and what, by the end of it of the series, he would see when he stood before the mirror.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”
And finally I get to Harry’s wand and the chapter in this book when he first visits Ollivander’s which has to be one of the defining moments in Harry’s life. We are told of how “curious” it is that Harry should end up with the wand he does, and Ollivander teases at the wands potential and therefore Harry’s. But reading that chapter for the first time I didn’t know and appreciate what an important moment it was for Harry and what him receiving that wand would come to mean further down the line.
My favourite thing about the wands in Harry Potter is that they are not just a stick of wood. J.K makes that clear right from the start from the first time that Harry visits Olivander’s wand shop. Wands have feelings and allegiances and they make the choice of which Witch or Wizard they end up with, not the other way round.
“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr Potter. That much has always been clear to those of us who have studied wandlore… These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand.”
This review was not easy to write for two reasons, firstly because I first read this book over ten years ago and secondly because there is just so much that I love about this book. It was the first one, the one that pulled us in, that introduced us to this world, to Harry, to Hogwarts. It was the start of everything, and how do you put that into words?
Re-Readability: I have lost count of the amount of times I have read this book
I would recommend this book to fans of: Fantasy, Magic, stories about Good vs Evil, stories about family and well, just everyone!