Harry Potter is a young boy forced to live with his horrible extended family he receives an invitation from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn the ways of magic and become a great wizard. However, he’ll soon find out it’s not all fun and games in this fantastical new world.
Guess who’s back for another Potter-thon! Awww yeah. But this time I’m not reviewing the films (or, at least, not all of them) – I’m reviewing the novels! That’s right, the books I’ve long been scolded by people for not having read yet I’m finally getting to. Happy now? Geez.
Anyway, starting now, I will be reading and reviewing each Harry Potter novel until the release of Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which I will then conclude my marathon with a review of. So, if you guys thought you could get rid of me with the end of my last Potter-thon, think again! *evil laughter*
Now, without further ado, let’s get onto the actual review of the first novel in the HP series, Sorceror’s Stone, shall we?
The first thing that jumped out at me as I read this book was J.K. Rowling’s unique style of writing. It’s a bit difficult to describe, but in a nutshell, it’s very… Well, British. Which certainly isn’t a bad thing; heck, I’ve always been one to use the British way of spelling things (I guess I just don’t know where I’m really from considering I reside in California and all) and in this novel, at least, it was a very charming sort of writing that was a nice contrast to the same old type of descriptions you find in any given novel from an author like Troy Denning. It’s a very “light” style – I would even go so far as to say childlike at times – not having the detailed, intimate prose of someone like Stephen King or Matthew Stover. While this is the sort of writing you have to tread really carefully with – if you’re lazy about it, it can quickly turn into the sort of style you roll your eyes at and don’t take seriously – but in this case it’s actually very refreshing, especially if you’re at all tired of very heavy reading and want some variety thrown into the mix.
Technically speaking, however, Rowling’s writing isn’t the most grammatically correct; she often… used… ellipses… three or four… times in one sentence… to name one example. But I like to think of things like that as a sort of unique touch by the author, even if they can be VERY overused. Every writer is allowed something like that. I mean, have you noticed how much I use semi-colons in my reviews? I usually can’t go a paragraph without using at least two of them, so I’m not really one to judge.
Despite the fact that Rowling doesn’t have the sort of writing style that lets her get really descriptive with things like characters and their thought processes, however, she actually does really ace character development and general characterization. She somehow doesn’t need to show readers an intimate look into the characters’ heads; in fact, we only ever get Harry’s POV, and despite this fact we’re still given a supporting cast of very fleshed out characters. You immediately feel like you know each and every one of them, something that can’t be said for other certain authors that are “better writers” and attempt to make well developed characters by giving us glimpses inside their heads, but just, well – crash and burn on the road of failure.
Of course, part of the reason why you immediately feel such a closeness to the characters is also because they’re all just so darn likable. Well, except for Hermione in the beginning before she becomes friends with Harry and Ron. At that point she was actually a total bitch. Seriously (SIRIUSLY! Oh, wait, I can’t use that joke, we’re not to Prisoner of Azkaban yet…). But I digress. Other characters not given much screen time in the Sorceror’s Stone film adaptation are also given MUCH more attention in the novel, offering an even richer cast past (I rhymed!) what we see in the movie (“We know our names are Gred and Forge!”). I do wish, however, that certain people – specifically, Professor Quirrell – were fleshed out a bit more, so that perhaps the twist at the end could have had a bit more impact than it did. As it is, do we really care if someone who we haven’t even seen that much of turns out to be the villain? No. No we don’t.
I suppose that isn’t a problem just limited to him, though. Let’s take a moment to analyze the villains of Sorceror’s Stone. Yes, analyze them. No, this isn’t a video so you can’t zone out at the mentioning of that. You stay right there, get your cursor AWAY from that Youtube tab and read on, damn it!
Okay, so first off, we have Harry’s family: The classic evil, bully cousin, the Aunt who just cares about appearances, and the Uncle who’s pretty much just a grown version of said cousin (this all sounds so familiar to me…). Got it. Oh, and they all hate Harry. Can’t forget about that.
Next we have Professor Severus Snape who, even though we later find out later in the novel that this isn’t REALLY the case, does serve largely as the antagonist of the plot. He’s the classic mean teacher who no student likes, who’s also an all around bully and is sinister just for the sake of being… Well, a big meany face. He hates Harry, too. Oh, and just count the rest of the Slytherins into the position of Snape, too. Considering Severus is the head of the Slytherins, they’re all pretty much the same person (and of course, they hate Harry).
Do you see a pattern here? The villains of this novel are extremely… Well, simple. They’re not really developed at all; they all serve their jobs as antagonists well, and that’s about it. It’s as if Rowling, because she wanted children to be able to relate to her story more, depicted characters that were almost caricatures of figures kids generally dislike in real life: Evil teacher, evil family, evil bullies, etc. (evil mass murderer who’s made it his goal to kill you and take over the world. You know, the usual). I guess that’s to be expected considering the novel is geared toward children more than adults, never meaning to be something really deep and complex, but considering the fact that Rowling did prove she could write satisfying characters without much effort, I refuse to believe she couldn’t also have written well developed villains, as well.
While we’re getting the negative points out of the way – well, would it be blasphemy in the eyes of most people if I said that the novel version of Sorceor’s Stone didn’t actually make certain things in the film make anymore sense than they did then – in other words, none at all? I was told by multiple people, “Oh, don’t worry, every complaint you have about the movies will be cleared up when you read the novels! Believe me!” Well, guess what guys, that wasn’t the case. In fact, some things made even less sense while reading this novel than they did while watching the film! Seriously (don’t worry, I won’t make the name pun again)! That’s about the last thing I expected, too, but it simply can’t be denied.
Case in point, the detention of Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Malfoy. Some of you may remember that in my review of the movie, I was extremely annoyed at the stupidity of the notion that a fitting detention would be to split up a group of eleven year olds – eleven year olds. I want you to think about that for a moment after reading this next sentence – and send them out into the Forbidden Forest to find something that is killing unicorns and drinking their blood. Something that is likely a terrifying, ferocious monster who would gladly eat them all. Yeah. Once again, take a moment to let the stupid set in. In the Sorceror’s Stone novel, however, it gets even better if you can believe it. Hagrid, seeing that something is apparently wrong with Malfoy and Neville (who had gone together to search apart from Hagrid, Harry and Hermione) leaves Harry and Hermione alone in the middle of the forest to investigate right after they had possibly seen whatever it was that was killing the unicorns. So, you know, the evil unicorn-eating creature could be waiting right there when Hagrid just up and leaves those two alone, defenseless except for a few basic spells that would be nothing against a Dark wizard. Oh, don’t worry Hagrid, go ahead and leave. It’s not like there’s any obvious danger of Harry and Hermione’s souls being devoured or anything.
There are more examples of this sort of thing, but suffice it to say that in certain story-specific aspects, I thought the movie actually dealt with things a bit better than its novel counterpart. Because I like stories to, you know, make sense.
It was certainly an interesting experience to read the Sorceror’s Stone novel after seeing the film, something that most people have been utterly horrified at when I’ve told them (yay for being different… and uncool!). The book certainly expands a bit more on things than the movie, delving even more into the universe the film only really shows hints at throughout the course of it. J.K. Rowling has a very unique style of writing, one that’s very simple and vaguely childish, but highly enjoyable nonetheless, even if you’re not in the audience this type of writing is targeting (children). The characters and story are both wonderful, as well, making Sorceror’s Stone a great way to start off the Harry Potter series and a very entertaining, solid novel in its own right, even if it’s a bit lighter than the novels I usually prefer to read.