What follows is not a review, as such – these books have been reviewed to death, they have spawned films, fan fiction, websites, fan clubs and even theme parks. I myself enjoyed the studio tour here in the UK, and frequently do Harry Potter themed food for Halloween🙂
But, the challenge is to share what I have read, so here goes!
Book 28 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling. The first book of the series in which we meet Harry, and are introduced to Hogwarts and its life of magic, friendship and evil. What I enjoy about this one is the magic – the sense of the impossible becoming possible and Harry’s delight and amazement. It is also lovely to see the burgeoning friendships that support Harry throughout his experiences. I have read this book a few times and even now the sense of wonder at the magical world makes me feel happy.
Book 29 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling. The second book, where we find out that Harry has the hallmark of a dark wizard, and that fame isn’t reality! This book brings us Dobby the House-Elf, Professor Lockhart, Cornish Pixies, and a memory that can take form. This book starts the journey towards the darkness of the series; with a ghost haunting the toilets and Petrified people around the castle, this book has a heaviness and sense of foreboding throughout. It feels like the cold darkness of the Chamber permeates the story.
Book 30 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling. With a prisoner on the loose trying to reach Hogwarts, Ron and Hermione at loggerheads and Hagrid trying to save a Hippogriff from execution, Harry has a lot to think about. But when he starts to see the Grim, he worries whether he is going to live long enough to care… This third book focusses on the impact of actions – the choices the characters make and how they affect the future is the theme throughout. This book also plays with the paradox of time travel, and the opportunity to put things right. Finally, it introduces us to the Dementors, whose soul-sucking kiss is a pretty strong concept for children’s books.
Book 31 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling. In this book, Harry is mysteriously entered into a competition to compete in the Tri-Wizard tournament – a dangerous and challenging contest set up between three Wizarding schools of Europe. In the classroom, there are other challenges to survive – not least the humiliation of articles written about him by gossip queen Rita Skeeter. But it all pales into nothing when Harry’s fate is revealed, and the world changes for everyone… This book is far longer than the previous ones, full of details that expand the world, if not the story itself. This is where the darkness really takes hold – murder, torture, cruelty, fear and anger fill the pages, with the slight leavening of first romances and school dances. This is the point at which Harry leaves behind his childhood.
It’s been a while since I re-read these books – not since The Deathly Hallows came out, actually (2007) – and my opinion of them has changed over time. Accepting that the first three are definitely for younger people as the stories get more complex and adult in tone as Harry ages, I think I prefer these nowadays. I love the magic: the joy of seeing this whole new life open up. From secret alleyways to auto-knitting to ghosts who live in U-bends via thinking hats and moving pictures, there are so many fun concepts to delight the reader that it’s hard not to think positively about them.
As I re-read four, I could feel how dense it was, how the story had too many strands to contain in a normal-length book, and it took me far longer to read this time than first time round. The magic was darker – curses, hexes and dark magic dominate the storyline. Mistrust is a key theme, and that sets a distinctly different tone to other books. Even friendships are damaged in this one.
Those who love the series will love the series. Those who don’t, don’t. I continue to enjoy the books but as I get older, I guess I enjoy the innocent joy of new experiences within the earlier tales more than the dark foreboding of later ones. However, this was never my favourite story of the series and perhaps I’ll change that opinion with the next book.
For now though, I am leaving Harry where he is and reading a couple of new stories. I’m taking my own summer holiday from Hogwarts now!