This review idea comes from Canon Review reader Maggie W., who is a big fan of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and wanted me to read and review the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Before I read this book, I must admit that I had very little knowledge of Harry Potter and his world. Sure, I heard the names Harry Potter and Voldemort and Quidditch and the like, but my knowledge on the subject was sparse. To be honest, I just had no interest in the whole Harry Potter saga. For all I knew they all flew around on brooms and turned each other into frogs, which, actually, wasn't too far from the truth. However, that's only really part of the story. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter in the beginning is just a poorly treated kid who lives with his aunt and uncle who are his only living relatives. He sleeps in a closet, gets treated like dirt by his aunt and uncle and is constantly picked on by his spoiled cousin and his posse. One day, a letter is addressed to Harry that will change his life forever, as he learns that he is a wizard, like his parents, and is taken to Hogwarts school to learn the skills to become a great wizard. However, Hogwarts proves to have its own hurdles to climb for the young Potter. A few notes about this book, and I am warning you in advance that there are SPOILERS ahead:
- There are two different titles to this book, which is kind of strange. The original book was titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but for reasons beyond me, it was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when the book was first sold in America. Anyway, just to clear up any confusion, I'm going to keep referring to this book with the Sorcerer's Stone title, because that's what my copy of the book says.
- The Harry Potter saga, so to speak, has taken some criticism from religious types for promoting witchcraft and for having Satanic undertones. To that I say hogwash. The idea that Harry and his friends could be seen as some sort of Satanic cult was the furthest thing from my mind after finishing the book. This book is a fantasy story, full of magic and wizards and other things beyond the realm of possibility, not a Wicca guidebook or some sort of religious text. But I guess some people just think that anything that doesn't fit their strict, buttoned-down philosophy just has to be evil. Go figure.
- Harry's life before discovering his magic skills really sucks hard. He lives in a closer under the stairs and is treated as an afterthought by his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys. Interestingly enough, the Dursleys are portrayed as the type of people who would complain about a book like Harry Potter being evil and what not, as the Dursleys are the ultimate conservative family unit, looking down at anything different. Their son Dudley actually reminded me of a couple of people I knew, as he's a big spoiled brat who bullies people, including his doting parents, to get what he wants. Then again, if I had the misfortune of being named Dudley Dursley, I'd be a miserable person to be around as well. Anyway, back to Potter, whose life sucks because he lives in a closet and the only things he had are things Dudley can't use anymore. Even though the Dursleys seem to treat Potter as a third-class citizen, they take extreme measures to ensure that Harry never learns of his magic skills (which are only significant enough to nearly destroy the baddest wizard of them all, Voldemort, after he fails to kill a then two-year old Harry). You would think they would have been happy to rid themselves of Harry for nine months out of the year, but due to their fear of the unknown, the Dursleys go to great extremes to keep Harry from receiving his acceptance letter to Hogwarts.
- One problem I have with the story, and it may be just me being picky, but I wonder why it took the main villian in the story, whose name I won't mention so as not to spoil to story, so long to come up with a plan to steal the Sorcerere's Stone in order to free Voldemort. I mean, it took him until the last week of school to finally decide to go after the stone. Surely he could have come up with a way to get past the various protection devices to get the stone in less than nine months. Or maybe not, I don't know. I will say that Rowling did a great job of concealing that character's main intentions, as the story led you to believe that it was another person trying to steal the stone, so the reveal came as a huge surprise to me.
- Rowling mixes in a lot of familiar aspects of the common concept of wizardry, such as wearing robes, using magic wands, and flying on broomsticks, but she also throws in a few original ideas of her own in there. One of them is the sport of Quidditch, which as best as I could tell is a bizzare mixture of soccer, basketball, and dodgeball played on brooms in mid air. The person with the hardest job in Quidditch has to be the goalkeeper, who must defend three different goals at different heights against four other people, all the while trying to dodge two heavy balls hit by the game's 'beaters'. The beaters can't score, but they do get to hit the crap out of heavy balls with clubs, so that would probably be pretty fun. Harry eventually joins his house's Quidditch team as a seeker, whose lone purpose is to catch a small, elusive golden ball called the snitch, which only seekers can touch. Catching the snitch not only scores 150 points (regular goals are worth 10 points) but also ends the game. Seekers are usually the fastest players on the teams, however, they also are the person most likely to take a severe beating in the game due to the importance of catching the snitch. Well, I guess the game makes sense to them, because I could barely make heads or tails of what was going on during the Quidditch parts of the book. Seems like it would be mass chaos in mid-air and one hard game to officiate.
- One of the things that I think made this story so popular is that, even though this is a school and land of wizards and magic, the characters are all relatable in some way. There's the know-it-all overachiever (Hermoine), the rich snob who bullies those he considers 'under' him (Draco), the clumsy, but likable oaf (Neville), and the extremely strict teacher that all the students hate (Snape). Rowling does a great job of making these seemingly larger-than-life characters seem like regular people, making the story easily accessible to both kids and adults reading the book.
Overall, I'm surprised to say that this was quite an entertaining read. It is an engaging story that kept me interested from beginning to end. It's not very long, so one can read it in a few hours. Even though it's considered a kids book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a book that can be enjoyed by all readers from 8 to 800. I'll give the book a 7.3 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments about this or previous posts, or ideas for future reviews or posts, than share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at KtheC2001@gmail.com.