Harry Potter Novels

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

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Harry Potter was a bright eleven-year old who lived with his miserable aunt and uncle and their horrible son Dudley. Harry’s parents were killed when he was a baby and he had lived with his relatives ever since. Dudley and his friends were bullies who tormented Harry whenever they could. Harry could only recall a handful of days in his life when he had been truly happy.

But on Harry’s eleventh birthday, he suddenly discovers that his parents were wizards and he is being invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Here, he will learn to function in a world of magic users that is kept hidden from "muggles" (non-magic users such as his aunt and uncle). He will be taught to make magical potions, perform incantations and even join the Quidditch (a sport played while riding broomsticks) team! Harry eagerly accepts the invitation but will soon find out that amongst all the advantages the school offers, bullies, evil wizards and other dangers are also in the mix.

Although this is not a complex story, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The entire premise, a world of magic users living amongst us "muggles" without our knowledge, is fresh and inventive. The story is very easy to read (adults can finish this book in a day or less), yet the story still had a plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. Character development is adequate for a juvenile fiction work and it is easy to empathize with poor, long-suffering Harry. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

If you want a light-hearted, easy to read book that you can’t help but enjoy, grab your Nimbus Two Thousand broom and hop aboard for a wild ride!

Reviewed by: Alan

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

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Harry has spent a miserable summer with the Dursleys (his aunt and uncle and their miserable son Dudley). He can’t wait to get back to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year. But shortly before the summer is over, an elf named Dobby appears to warn Harry that if he returns to Hogwarts, disaster will surely strike.

Naturally, Harry ignores the warning (otherwise we wouldn’t have a story) and returns to school. Suddenly, students are being turned to stone apparently due to a student breaking into the mysterious Chamber of Secrets created by one of the founders of the school. Who is behind these nefarious deeds? Could it be Harry’s archrival Draco Malfoy, who seems nastier this year than ever before? Or could it be the mysterious gamekeeper Hagrid who was expelled from Hogwarts years before for reasons known only to a few? Or could it be the person that the majority of the student body suspects…Harry Potter!

A light-hearted romp through the world of wizardry and witchcraft unfolds once again in the second volume of the wildly successful Harry Potter series. Rowling sticks with the same winning formula she established in the first book. Harry goes to school, there is a mystery to be solved, and Harry and his friends solve it and save the day! Rowling managed once again to provide a plot twist at the end so that the ending was different from what I expected. While certainly not deep, thought-provoking literature, this book was entertaining; easy to read and often made me chuckle. I believe Harry is going to be at the school for 5 more years. But, Rowling still has plenty of room for character development as Harry enters adolescence.

This book was a thoroughly enjoyable break from reality. I’m off to the bookstore (in my car, not on my broom) to grab the next book in the series.

Reviewed by: Alan

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

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Azkaban is an infamous prison that holds wizards and witches that have committed unspeakable acts. For twelve long years, Sirius Black has been confined in Azkaban for killing 13 people with a single curse. Black was the heir apparent of the Dark Lord, Voldemort who killed Harry’s parents 12 years ago.

Now Black has escaped from Azkaban and cannot be found. However, prior to making his getaway, the guards heard Black muttering "He’s at Hogwarts… he’s at Hogwarts." And since Voldemort’s downfall, when he failed to kill Harry Potter, was also the downfall of Black, the Ministry of Magic thinks he is likely to come after Harry when he returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after summer vacation.

Despite the danger, Harry is anxious to return to school after spending another miserable summer with his Aunt and Uncle and their spoiled son, Dudley. Dealing with his archenemy Draco Malfoy on the Quidditch (a game played while riding broomsticks) pitch would be enough to keep him occupied. But this year, he might also have to protect himself and his friends from falling afoul of Sirius Black’s revenge. But is a thirteen-year-old student wizard up to dealing with a dangerous wizard like Black?

This third installment in the Harry Potter series is similar to the first two books. Harry and his friends have some mysterious stranger trying to cause grave mischief at Hogwarts and they need to uncover the plot and save the day. However, there are a few differences between this book and the others.

First of all, it is over 100 pages longer than the first two. This is most likely due to the publisher prodding Rowling to stretch out the story to produce a longer book that can better justify the price. However, the additional pages give Rowling plenty of room to reveal more of the mysterious events surrounding the attack on Harry’s parents by Voldemort. I’m assuming that only in the 7th book in the series (Harry’s last year at school) will all the events surroundings Harry’s parents’ demise be revealed — most likely in Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort (just speculation… Ms. Rowling hasn’t revealed anything to me).

The story was entertaining without requiring any deep thought from an adult reader. Personally, I enjoy the entire premise of a wizard world existing alongside of the regular Muggle (non-magic user) world. This is nice, light reading for adults while continuing to be solid young adult fiction. When I was young, I used to read the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and Tom Corbett. I’m sure I would have found Harry Potter enjoyable also. There is nothing here that parents should find offensive. Of course, Harry will be 14 years old in the next volume so he might finally start developing an eye for the ladies. But I’m sure, given the young adult audience, Ms. Rowling will handle that innocently and tastefully.

I expect the next volume will follow the same formula as the first three. As my grandfather always said, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!" Given the wild popularity of these books worldwide, Rowling certainly has hit on a winning formula that young and old readers alike can enjoy. So if you need a break from some "serious" fantasy novels, be sure to give Harry Potter a try.

Reviewed by: Alan

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

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Harry is off for his fourth year (out of seven) at Hogwarts, the wizarding school, which he attends. However, this year at school there is a special event to be held… the Triwizard Tournament. A competition between Hogwarts’ students and the students of two other wizarding schools, the competition has not been held for hundreds of years due to the dangerous nature of the contest (there have been deaths). The tournament will be limited to only students 17 years and older (Harry is 14), but we all know somehow Harry will get involved. In addition, of course, Harry’s scar (received when the evil Lord Voldmort tried to kill him as an infant) has begun to hurt. This could mean that Voldmort is trying to return from the grave to reestablish his power base. Can Harry and his friends foil Voldmort’s plot and win the Triwizard Tournament? Ho, hum… who really cares?

I liked the first three volumes of this series, but the format is beginning to wear a bit thin in volume 4. The basic plots in all the books are: 1) Harry goes to school, 2) solves big problem with the help of his friends and 3) comes out smelling like a rose when all seems lost. I suppose repetition of a theme works for "young adult" fiction, but is certainly does not hold its own for adult fiction. I tried to keep in mind that this book is written for young adults, but there are a few serious flaws that I feel need pointing out. For one thing, it is too long (734 pages!), especially for younger readers. The editor could easily have shed 200 pages by doing the following:

  1. Condense (or eliminate) the first 10 chapters (except chapter one) which plod along through the Quidditch World Cup (a sport played on broomsticks) and are irrelevant to the main plot.
  2. Get rid of the numerous references to oppressed house elves (in fact eliminate the house elves altogether!) which added absolutely zero to the plot.

Rowling did an acceptable job of blending the two plots together, but the plot revolving around Voldmort fails to resolve itself in this volume and is a gratuitous set-up for the planned three final volumes of the series. Due to this fact, Goblet of Fire merely serves as a placeholder in the series. We all know that Harry will have a final confrontation with Voldmort and have to defeat him, but does this plot really need to be stretched out over three more volumes? What is this, a Robert Jordan series?

One bright spot is that the main characters (Harry, Hermione and Ron) are well developed along appropriate lines for 14 year olds. The girls are maturing faster than the boys are, and the boys are still mainly interested in pursuits other than girls. However, Harry and Ron are beginning to be attracted to the opposite sex, and this will probably be further explored in the next volume.

So, if you do not mind a formulaic plot, dive right in. It still is entertaining, but this series is starting to get a bit creaky despite its young age (a seven novel series is ambitious after all). I hope that Rowling and her editors will breathe new life into the series in volume 5 as they work towards the final confrontation with Voldmort. These books are fine for kids, but for adults, something with a bit more substance would be preferable. Now that the Harry Potter juggernaut is on a roll, there will probably be no stopping it! I will be approaching volume 5 with a bit less enthusiasm than I previously had.

Reviewed by: Alan

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