My Favorite Series in Review: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone

I’m rereading the Harry Potter series right now and will assume from here on in that you have read the books and/or seen the movies or do not care to. Consider yourself warned!

I finished Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone for the third or fourth time last night. There’s something kind of wonderful about rereading the series, knowing what Harry’s going to become, understanding where the story is going, and still somehow being captivated by every twist and turn the journey takes. And while some will say that JK Rowling hadn’t quite come into her own as an author when Stone was published, I disagree. It’s a compelling read with vivid descriptions of people and places you can’t help visualizing. You feel that you are there with Harry as he suffers in his cupboard under the stairs, takes his first trip to Diagon Alley, rides the train to Hogwarts, and explores the castle’s every nook and cranny, uncovering more all the time. And while the drama may hit harder in later books, the expert storytelling is already there, already developing into and hinting at this adventure on which Harry is embarking.

If anything here is flawed, it’s the characterization of certain people who remain fixtures throughout the series. I know not everyone feels the way I do about these characters, but I’ve always held onto these feelings, and I’m actively trying this time to appreciate each character for who they are and what role they play in Harry’s life. Perhaps most controversially (if this can even be considered controversial), I’ve never been overly fond of Rubeus Hagrid, the first wizard Harry formally meets. (Granted, their meeting is by no means formal, but he’s run across magical people before without realizing it, and this tangent is not particularly worthwhile.) From what I can gather, Hagrid is endearing due to his obviously magical nature, his tenderness toward Harry, and his love of all things beastly. I do find him essential to some great storylines later in the series, but here, I don’t always see the purpose of a gentle giant.

I’m also not crazy about Hermione. She comes across as shrill and high-strung in the first book, a powerful ally, to be sure, but also a nagging one that can be hard to handle in anything but small doses. There’s nothing small about her presence here and later. I know she grows up a lot, and by the seventh book, she’s an extremely strong, even complex character. But it’s not time for that yet.

Despite those qualms in the form of key characters, though, I love this book. It builds a world you don’t want to leave, with heroic figures in many forms, some of which you’ll only come to perceive as heroic much later. (I think you can guess who I’m talking about here.) There’s a fearsome villain with known allies, a delightfully incorrigible rival for Harry (I am an unabashed Draco lover—which will become clearer around book six), and a colorful cast of supporting characters, including the delightful Weasley twins, the stern but fair Professor McGonagall, and, of course, Albus Dumbledore, one of the wizarding world’s best.

I already started Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while I was waiting for my train this morning. It’s delightful from page one, and I’m looking forward to seeing Harry grow all over again.

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