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Fantasy Index


A novel by J.K. Rowling
(1997, Bloomsbury)

Harry Potter, book 1

An 11 year old boy discovers he is a wizard, and embarks on an adventure at a wizard's school, making friends and thwarting an evil plan.


-- Second reading (trade paperback)
April 16th to 23rd, 2013


The second time reading this book, to my younger son, now, I was just as impressed as the first time. The characters are really well drawn, and there is so much background built in that it makes me wonder how much of the Grindewald story was already in existence before this series was written. While I still wonder about how easy it was to reset the magical simulation at the end, because any smart wizard could apparently figure it out, the security measures had to be achievable in case the proper person needed to enter.

The first time I read this book, I was amazed at how funny it was, especially at the beginning, and how much detail went into the magic, the situation, and the character journeys. As I was reading it for the second time, now knowing everything that happened in the later books, I see so much extra detail, stuff that is not necessary for the enjoyment of the story as it stands, but which shows how much of this was laid out in advance. Even the smallest details from future books have their seeds here in the first one. It’s truly a great book, the beginning of an amazing journey.

Some of the details I recognized immediately from the movies the first time I read the book, such as the owner of the motorcycle that Hagrid drives in the first chapter. But others were more subtle, mostly in the cases where the subsequent parts of the story were cut from the movies. I realize now how important Neville is to the story, in that it could have just as easily been him in Harry’s place, and some of the details are already there. The story of Professor Snape also has a history here, having known Harry’s father, and how he saved Snape’s life.

This is the kind of book that doesn’t have to be read a second time, but gives even more enjoyment because of the references to things that haven’t happened yet.


-- First reading (trade paperback)
April 16th to 23rd, 2013


I waited until the movies were all done with before reading the first book in this series for the first time. It is truly a great novel, even considering how short it is. While the movie touched on most of the events in the book, as usual, they only scratched the surface, paying tribute to each event, in a way. The book had wonderful descriptions of what and why the characters are doing. The most important element in the first half of the book is the wry humor from the narrator - I couldn't believe how funny it was.

Spoiler review:

In the interests of getting the most out of these novels, knowing that the author injected some elements into the movie that would benefit the later story, I decided not to read the book until I had seen all of the movies, so I could try to take in as many of the subtleties as possible, as if it was the second time I was reading the books.

So it was fun to see names like Sirius Black appear in the first chapter, and understand why the Philosopher's Stone was so important -the wizard was still using it! Even though it's mentioned briefly in the movie, I somehow hadn't made the full connection. Things are more clear here.

Pretty much half the book takes place before Harry gets to Hogwarts, and it is in this half that the author's wry humor shines. It's hilarious to note Harry's amusement reflected through everything that happens in his uncle's house, and even events where Harry wasn't present, like when his uncle goes to work and tries very hard to pretend that things are normal. The movie didn't need to capture all of this, though it was quite fun to see Vernon and his family squirm with all the magic going on around them.

The second half of the book, while not exactly serious from the narrator's point of view, does contain fewer snide offhand notes, most likely because the characters are not as stupid or funny as Harry's adopted family. His friendship is instant with Ron, of course, and Hermione is such a motor-mouth that it's a wonder anybody can have an actual conversation. She is less of a friend, until the end, than she is in the movie.

I don't remember the tower scene in the movie, where Harry and Hermione (where was Ron?) take the baby dragon to the roof so that Ron's brother's friends can pick it up on their way to Romania. This, of course, gets them and Malfoy in trouble, so they have to go into the Dark Forest, where Harry even got to ride on the back of a centaur. I don't recall how they got in trouble in the movie.

Most scenes in the book are present in the movie in some form, but they were each expanded a little to give a lot more information, allowing me to understand some of the scenes better. The movie is just as good as the book, I think, especially in the way that it turns some of the more difficult concepts into a bunch of beautiful visuals. The truest form of this is the way Quidditch is shown, much easier to understand than the description in the book, as simple as that was.

The climax, as a series of tests put before anyone who wanted to find the stone, makes as much sense as it does in the movie, except here there are more of them. To safeguard the stone, why take the chance that somebody could get through, as both Quirrell and Harry get through easily enough. It appears that Quirrell needed coercion from the other teachers, while Harry and his friends were collectively smarter!

The book was so enjoyable that I think I'll read the second one in the very near future.


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