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Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

By / July 27, 2011 / no comments

The first book in Rowling’s seven book wizardry extravaganza is quite undeniably one of the most popular books to have ever been written. For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past fifteen years the Harry Potter books tell the story of orphan Harry James Potter and the discovery of his secret magical powers and the role he plays in the safety of the hidden world of witchcraft and wizards.

The first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known as the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States) begins on a seemingly ordinary night on a quiet street in Surrey, England. Three people gather, an elderly man, a stern faced woman and a huge bearded motorbiker, and they talk about a strange and confusing series of events, including tragedy and murder, and why this means that they must leave their charge – a sleeping babe wrapped in blankets – on the doorstep of one extremely regular house on that extremely regular street.

This tiny sleeping child is Harry Potter, whose parents supposedly died in a car crash, leaving him with a lightening bolt shaped scar across his forehead. He is raised by his mother’s sister, Petunia and her husband Vernon an office worker in a drill company. However on his eleventh birthday a series of very bizarre events lead to the discovery of Harry’s true identity, he’s a wizard.

From there he learns that his parents were murdered by an evil and power hungry psychopath named Lord Voldermort and that Harry’s true place is at Hogworts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a magical castle hidden somewhere in the UK. After a fantastic journey on a huge red steam train from a hidden on secret platform at London’s King Cross station Harry finally begins to feel at home and accepted at Hogworts, finding friendship in two fellow students Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

All is not well however as Harry discovers that there is a dangerous secret being kept at Hogworts and that his parent’s murderer, supposed dead for over a decade, will do anything to get his hands on the fabled Philosopher’s Stone; which brings eternal life.

This first book introduces you to magical world for the first time, and it does so in a smooth and comfortable fashion, introducing both you and Harry to strange wonders never yet experienced. Doing it this way manages to make the transition into the world of magic an easy and pleasant experience. Rowling has built a strong and multi-layered world with immense amounts of detail, yet it is written in such a way that it doesn’t feel tedious or as though you are being fed all the information at once as is the case with many fantasy novels. Through Harry’s eyes you encounter wands, monsters and spells with their magical properties, purposes and history laid out in small, easily consumable chunks. This means that the book never ceases to envelope you in its world or characters, whereas many epic fantasies have a habit of pulling you aside in a rather obvious fashion and explaining every newly encountered item referenced.

The books biggest triumph however is its characters. The friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione blooms beautifully and you can not help but take the characters straight into your heart. All the characters, teachers, students and bad guys alike have truly believable personalities, all with their own eccentricities and flaws which more often than not help to make them the truly loveable and long standing characters they will become. These friendships and relationships drive the book forward, providing comical respite and emotional engagement along the way. It is this aspect of the book that is at it’s heart, without the intense and realistic friendship dynamic between the three key characters the book would never make it past chapter one.

This is very fortunate because Rowling’s writing style is hardly going to fill you with high expectations and encourage you to read on. Oftentimes her grammar is appalling and it makes the sentences seem overly complex and can be very irritating at times. Thankfully she writes speech very well and it is often that which contributes to the strength of the characters relationships.

The first book in the series does have a more adolescent feel to it as well; the simplicity on it’s surface gives way to much darker suggestions on second readings but it can make an adults first attempt a little frustrating at times. It hasn’t stopped the book becoming the immensely popular phenomenon it has though, which you would expect for many people should speak for itself.

Many adults still scoff at the Harry Potter phenomenon however, but I suspect that if they read the books they too would become captured by the characters and the brilliance of the story which combines all the best aspects of fantasy and adventure in one. Truly the story is excellent and I would wager half of Rowling’s fortune on the minds of naysayers changing before they even reach the halfway point of book one.

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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