Posted by: beansai | July 28, 2007

The “Harry Potter Series” Review

*Now I know this is long, but stick with it and I hope you will find it more than worth it.  Also, remember that I am doing an overall review for seven books in one go, so considering that, I don’t think the length is that bad. Enjoy!
 
      When the hype about Harry Potter first began several years ago I scoffed at the idea of ever demeaning myself to reading a series that seemed to be nothing more than a current literary fashion trend.  The movies only managed to feed my fire of obstinate dislike.  While the idea was cute, I found the over all theme over-done and unoriginal.  I was ruthless in my cut downs of Harry Potter and its obsessive followers.  In my own head the people that read these books had no appreciation for real literature, like the classics of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte or James Joyce and Leo Tolstoy, etc.  I resisted this Harry Potter movement through six installments of the series.
            Though I had friends that thought Harry and Hogwarts were all the rave, I would still frown and scowl when they attempted to persuade me to read the books.  I had seen the first two movies and felt that the second was nothing more than a replication of the first with little more than minor plot changes and I couldn’t even remember ever seeing the third movie.  Here, I must admit, was my worst act of injustice to J.K. Rowling.  I know from past experiences that movies never equal their printed counter-parts and are often nothing more than a glimmer of the true genius contained within the words, but I did not listen to the bell that undoubtedly went off in my brain.  Instead I judged the book by the movie, partly to defend a stance I had long maintained and also from an antipathy to conforming to social norms.  In other words: I was trying to make a statement in my rejection of a series that was well accepted in the mainstream culture.  I suppose I thought it made me unique to hate what everyone else loved.  Well, all that has changed.
            My attitude adjustment came, surprisingly enough, when I saw the fourth movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  It was so unconventional to see a student DIE in a “children’s” fiction series.  I must confess that I was intrigued by this morbid turn of events and finally my curiosity was peaked, and I wanted to know who else would die.  This is the point when the series took a turn for me from the happy go lucky, the good guy always wins (with minimal loss to self and others close to him) series, to one that had a more realistic depth to it.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know that Harry Potter has wizards and witches and magic, so I don’t mean realistic in that sense, but truer to life in the sense of the characters’ emotions and the fact that there are not actions without consequences.  For once the good guys were dealing with the serious and fatal penalties of their actions. 
            At this point I proceeded to borrow all the movies from a friend of mine and watch them again.  This is when I realized that I had never seen the third movie, or at least didn’t remember anything of it that I had seen.  Since I was still contemplating the change of events that I had not expected in the series I decided to borrow the currently released books from the same friend that lent me the movies.  I can’t recall whether it was Christmas or my birthday, but my friend bought me five of the books in paperback instead of just lending them to me and I owe her a big thanks for this act of generosity, because how could I possibly not read them now after someone has bought the entire current series for me?  So I read them (including the sixth book, which I borrowed from her in hardback).
            The books contain a depth of character and plot from the very beginning that is completely unexplored in the theatrical versions.  There is an amazing range of characters and variety to their personalities that you find in everyday life, but it was, amazingly enough, not that difficult to keep the amount of characters in line.  Every once in awhile throughout the series I found myself pausing to recall where I had seen a character before, but it never impeded the momentum of the novels or the rate at which I read them.  The language, all in all, is fairly simple and straight forward, which helps keep it at a level for kids to read, but manages to convey an intelligence so that those of us who are not in the age group that this series was originally geared towards, do not feel as though we are reading a watered down story.  It’s like a kid’s movie with subtle adult humor that the kids laugh at simply because their parents are laughing, but they don’t really get the joke.  I was never bored with the series, though the characters and their choices often infuriated me, but I can’t say that this is a downside to the books.  The frustration I felt resulted from characters making stupid decisions and careless mistakes (something we all do) and so this added to the reality of the characters for me, no matter how annoying I found it.
      While I feel that these books are primarily character driven, that doesn’t mean that J.K. Rowling was ineffecient in creating the world in which the books take place.  Granted, the setting is still here on Earth and even mingles with our current cultures, but Rowling does an impeccable job creating the culture and lingo of the wizarding community.  She makes it very unique in regards to language (words used for spells and such), magical residences, modes of transportation, etc.  Primary examples of her detailed settings are Hogwarts and the Minisitry of Magic.  While I envisioned the layout of Hogwarts differently than the movie-makers, it never mattered, because in my head the layout of the school was always plausible with the characters’ actions.  I never had to stop and think if it would be physically possible to accomplish what the author was asking of the characters.  Rowling also does a wonderful job with the physical descriptions of the characters, to the point that they stay with you.  You know you have the “Harry Potter” syndrome bad when you’re walking  down the street and you see someone and decide they would make a good Lupin or Sirius (for the record I don’t agree with the actor choices made in the movies for either of those characters).
            While I enjoyed the first few books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the series really began to grow on me with the fourth book and on (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Order of the Phoenix, the Half Blood Prince, and the Deathly Hallows).  Perhaps it is because this is the point when it takes a darker, more adult tone and all the intricacies of the connected plots finally start to make sense and come together.  Rowling does an amazing job of making the characters come to life and as I continued to read, it felt as though I was seething with their emotions.  Harry’s emotions are exceptionally poignant and prominent in the series (for obvious reasons) and I think Rowling did the character justice in having him deal with emotions like jealousy, anger, disappointment, frustration as well as elation, relief, love and so on.  In these novels you get the dichotomy that you have in every day life, plus every shade of grey.  This isn’t simply black and white emotions that Rowling has etched into words, but all the strings that come along with them. 
            The series effectively accumulates tension and storylines nearly to the bursting point and then you finally breathe at the end.  The question that has been on so many people’s minds is whether or not Harry Potter dies.  Well, I’m not about to tell you.  You will just have to read the series and find out for yourself.  The ending comes with a mixture of emotions: happy, sad, disappointment, curiosity, etc.  Disappointment?  Yes, but perhaps not in the way you think.  I was completely satisfied with the ending of the series and the climactic events that occurred throughout, but the ending was tantalizing and gave glimpses into a future that has been rumored never to be possible.  I have heard that J.K. Rowling intends to completely retire Harry Potter and never continue on with these characters, but there are so many open-ended mini plots and characters that I was disappointed to not learn more.  Granted, I have always been one of those people that wanted to know what happens after “happily ever after”, not just the events the occurred for it to take place, so maybe I was the only one that had any reservations about the wrapping up of the series.  Either way I was left with a bunch of questions regarding all the characters that are not mentioned at the very end as well as some in regards to those that were.  While the overall conclusion of the series is more than efficient to end it, I wanted to have all the minute details, but I understand that it would require an entirely new book to simply wrap-up the wrapping-ups in regards to the hundred-some-odd characters that have developed throughout the seven books; so I won’t hold it against J.K. Rowling for leaving some ends untied, and neither should you.  The final book also has some amazing character revelations that you would never expect and it made for a nice turn of events and even managed to raise my eyebrows a few notches.    
            Now I don’t believe in spoiling the endings of books or movies, so I’ll refrain from saying too much on the last installment and hope that your curiosity has been intrigued enough to encourage you to take the plunge and give Harry Potter a go.  This series is more than worth the money and has enormous re-read value.  You learn something new every time (and yes, I’ve read books 1-6 twice).  I indignantly and yet humbly (I hate being proved wrong) admit that Harry Potter has lived up to the hype given to it for so many years now.  I was sad to see it end, but am thrilled that I swallowed my pride and committed to reading this series.  Rowling has outdone herself and she deserves all the income she could possibly get from this series that started on scraps of paper and napkins.  After finishing the books I am more than interested in how they are going to manage to rival the amount of content given in the books for the movies without making them five hours long.  I don’t pity the people that have that job, because once you’ve read the books you notice every hole in the scripts, characters, and plots that the movies have.  If I haven’t convinced you at this point that this series is worth reading, then go read it simply to come back and post here and tell me that I was wrong.          

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Responses

  1. Hmm… Great review 🙂

  2. Thanks. 😀


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