Book Reviews

The Secret Library #BookReview: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Children’s Urban Fantasy. Magic. Friendship

 

Blurb

“Turning the envelope over, his hand trembling, Harry saw a purple wax seal bearing a coat of arms; a lion, an eagle, a badger and a snake surrounding a large letter ‘H’.

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!”

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For those of you who don’t know, I’m a serious Potter-head. My house is Ravenclaw, my Patronus is a beagle, and my wand is Holly wood with a Dragon heart string core, 13″ (surprisingly swishy!)

Like most folk in their late twenties, I grew up with the books, and the film series. The latter of which began at the tender age of 11, just like Harry and his friends, and finished at age 21, when my childhood felt truly over. In fact, Deathly Hallows Part 2 signified the end of my youth.

So, let’s just say this review has been a long time coming.

 

Harry Potter is Urban Fantasy…

Let’s be real. The Harry Potter series is an urban fantasy. Witches, wizards and other magical creatures living parallel to oblivious human beings. Children’s urban fantasy, but hey, we’re splitting hairs here.

 

…for everyone!

It may not be quite the same for children as adults, but this is one of those children’s books that grown-ups can enjoy, too. While the “orphan living with abusive extended family” thing is fairly common, Harry discovering not just his new-found wizardry, but his life-changing legacy, is a compelling plot.

I’ve yet to come across more than one person who hasn’t read the Harry Potter books, or seen the movies yet (HEATHEN!), so I probably don’t need to explain Harry’s adventure in The Philosopher’s Stone. (FYI all y’all from the USA – this is the original title!) Harry goes to the magical witch and wizard’s school, Hogwarts, makes two very close friends, and spends his school year trying to protect the Elixir of Life from his old enemy: Lord Voldemort.

I love this book for more reasons now than I did when I was a child, because the messages run deeper now. The theme of racism, the fight against a narcissistic monster determined to overthrow the world, and of course, the importance of strong, female characters. All these things bear a huge relevance to the world today, and it’s nice to feel just a little like we can do something about the similar problems we’re facing.

 

It’s The Fantasy We Wanted As Kids

The day-to-day of school is a hard slog, and once you’ve read Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, you’ll be watching the windows for the owl with your Hogwarts letter. This book is a really fun adventure that hooks you right from the start, and the magical world is so unique that we wish it all secretly exists. Sports played on brooms, and lessons where we might explode our cauldrons are the things school was missing.

 

The Characters Are Well Defined

Before Harry turned into a moody teenager, he was a fairly clueless, but curious boy, and we wanted to follow him. Hermione was super-smart friend we didn’t want, then really wanted. Ron was the other side of Harry’s clueless coin, and the comic relief.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was the innocent, fun book before the series got deeper, darker and more complicated. Before characters we were rooting for turned into people we questioned. This book is a tangible piece of innocence that, once the glass has broken, is a nostalgic trip to an adventure we wish could happen to us.

 

I recommend this book for the fun of it – for some childhood nostalgia, for some close-to-home fantasy that feels integrated into the fabric of our own world. But I recommend it to your kids even more, because they’ll get a unique kick out of it, and teach them some valuable ethical lessons.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is available everywhere. I mean, everywhere! Look online, go to a bookstore, or have a listen on audiobook (and check out its hilarious fan-fic and parodies on YouTube – Snape…Snape…Severus Snape.)

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone gets Fin’s stamp of approval!

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