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

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
4.5
Book Name: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Author: JK Rowling
Publisher(s): Bloomsbury (UK), Scholastic (US)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Auido Book
Genre(s): Fantasy / YA
Release Date: June 30, 1997 (UK), September 1, 1998 (US)

Dear Mr. or Ms. Reader,

It is my duty to inform you that you have been accepted to delve into an enchanting world that exists alongside ours. A world that is as real and tangible as the one we live in, but filled with dragons, flying broomsticks, banks run by goblins, and a castle where aspiring witches and wizards live and learn the power of magic. It is a world of mystery and magic that will ensnare the senses and pull the soul toward a journey that will last seven long, dangerous years full of excitement and wonder. For this is the world of Harry Potter.

Yeah, I’m going to put it right out there and say early on that I’m a Harry Potter fan. I had caught onto the craze just before the movies came out, and never really came out of it. The books grew up with me, or would it be more accurate to say, that I had grown up with the books? Most of my friends were Harry Potter fans. My mom, who harbors no affection towards fantasy, loves the series. And to this day my best friend and I have long discussions about the books, the movies, and its role on helping move fantasy into the mainstream culture for the time it did, and the impact the series has had on how books are marketed to the young adult market.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as that is the proper original title) is the story of a boy named Harry Potter – a rather quiet British chap who lives with his aunt, uncle, and their delightful son…in their cupboard below the stairs. Yes, you can almost hear the whine of the siren as Social Services gets on the Dursley’s for this little bit of upbringing. Part of me wonders if Harry could match Christopher Titus in a “whose upbringing was the most dysfunctional” contest. The abuse goes a bit further from place of residence, as the Dursley’s refuse to call him by name, have no photos of him, and rebut him for even bringing up the idea of magic. The Dursley’s are the poster parents for abuse: going far beyond just neglecting Harry to indulging their child Dudley’s every whim. Because, yes, spoiling your child is abuse as well.

Following a rather strange event on Dudley’s birthday, Harry begins receiving letters that are addressed specifically to him: to the point that they include his cupboard and everything. And thus begins the great battle of Harry and Vernon Dursley as they wrestle for control over the letters. It takes the appearance of a half-giant named Hagrid to not only tip the battle in Harry’s favor, but also to reveal to him that he is a wizard who has been accepted to the finest school to teach witchcraft and wizardry: Hogwarts.

And thus begins Harry’s descent into the wizarding world and the truths behind his origins: of how his family was murdered by the Dark Lord Voldemort, a man whose name is still not mentioned for fear of the man himself, and how Harry somehow defeated said dark lord when he was but a baby. He also learns that this has made him the most popular person in the entire wizard world, if only because he survived where countless others did not. This fame becomes a sticking point throughout the series, as Harry copes not only with the various judgments of total strangers, but also how he tries to both rise up to and separate himself from this accidental claim to fame.

Most of the book takes place in the wizard school of Hogwarts, which is run by the enigmatic Albus Dumbledore. Here Harry is sorted into his proper house and meets with a new cast of characters, both friends and enemies. From the loyal yet overshadowed Ron, to intellectual Hermoine and devious Malfoy, to the bumbling Neville, who in my opinion begins his rise to becoming a hero not in the fifth book but right here when he takes on Malfoy’s minions single-handed during a Quidditch match…and loses, but it’s the thought that counts, right?!

The period in Hogwarts is broken up into a series of short stories and misadventures that all tie into the overarching plot that there is something being hidden in Hogwarts, something that someone is seeking for an unknown purpose. Every action and subplot serves the dual purpose of spurring the narrative forward and exposing more of the intricate subtleties of the wizarding world. The reveal at the end may come as a huge shock to many readers, and helps to introduce us to the first of many threats to Harry and everyone he knows and loves.

The story is written in a very light, dry fashion which works for either a children’s story or a writer’s first venture; which this book is both. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone serves as both a literal and metaphorical introduction to fantasy; Harry’s trip through the world of wizards, magic and castles parallel’s a readers first time through the tropes and tidbits of the fantasy genre, leaving both character and reader full from their meal yet craving more at a later time.

Perhaps my one major sticking point with Harry Potter’s world is the concept of magic blood and how one can be a witch or wizard. Couples who are witch and wizard or ones where one person is magical while their partner is a Muggle, will produce a child with magic blood, which in a biology debate would translate to the ability to use magic as a dominant gene and being a Muggle would be recessive. However, as Hermoine is testament to, two Muggles can conceive a witch or wizard, which would argue in favor of magic being a recessive trait. One could argue this little detail forever, small as it is. At least it leads to more compelling discussion than hearing that Dumbledore is gay.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s/Full Metal Alchemist’s Stone is a fun little journey through a world of magic that would satisfy both veteran fantasy fans who want to return to the times when fantasy could be light and whimsical while telling a good story, or for young readers who want to sink their teeth into fantasy. Later entries become much darker, which allows for readers and Harry to mature and delve into more serious and epic adventures.

Scores

Heroes: Harry starts off a bit mundane, but rises to the occasion. – 5/5

Villains: When you’re someone whose legacy is that no one would dare speak your name even after your supposed demise, that’s saying something. – 5/5

Plot: The main plot is a bit thin, but the subplots add a fine layer of meat. – 5/5

Narrative: The style is littered with the dreaded “ly” adverbs, but is to be expected in a children’s story. – 4/5

Magic: There’s plenty to be had, and the focus is more on studies and incantations. Even so, we never get to see an actual lesson. – 4/5

World: A whimsical world of magic and mystery with a dark underbelly. – 5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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6 Comments

  1. Overlord says:

    Wow – I can’t believe that until today we hadn’t had a Harry Potter Book review on Fantasy-Faction!!! A great look at a classic book there and I like the FMA reference ;-D

    Also, can you believe it is coming up to 15 years since the book was released in the UK? Wow…

    • ChrisMB87 says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I was shocked by that too, which was the reason I wrote the review in the first place (on top of at the time I was writing it, I didn’t know how much time my two jobs would leave me to put down reviews on a regular basis, so I wanted to do something light and simple). While my review may be fifteen years too late for any impact, it was nice to just look back at something that’s played such a part in how fantasy and kids books are written and marketed today.

      Also glad you liked the FMA reference. I couldn’t help but instantly think about that when rereading the description of the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone.

  2. Ardith says:

    Why did the publishers insist on changing the title in the States? if it was “because children don’t know what a philosopher is” perhaps reading would do them good.

    RANT OVER

    Also chris don’t dwell on magical Genetics, it gets more confusing when you consider squibs. Magic Happens.

  3. Khaldun says:

    Such a great series. The characters are really what make it good. The plots tend to be a bit circular in nature (go to school, some mystery, figure out the mystery, solve mystery, go home for summer) but they are all still great reads (although I didn’t enjoy the last book nearly as much as others in the series). I’m just so happy that it got a generation of kids reading (and I’d still rather they read Harry Potter than Twilight).

  4. I love this series. My only beef with it, really, is in the last book–The Magnificent Trio is off looking for horcruxes while all the good stuff is happening at Hogwarts. I always wanted to see some of the tension and conflict back at the school with Ginny, Neville, Luna, et al. But it wouldn’t have fit with the formula or the POV structure, so I understand why she didn’t include it. Has she published any of that stuff? Because you have to believe she wrote it…

  5. […] However, the second rule is essential: You must never eliminate words or phrases that are essential to the meaning of the quote. For instance, here’s a quote from ChrisMB’s review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: […]

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