Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 2/18/03 w/ Additional Edits
With the release of the fifth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix approaching for June 21, 2003, many fans of the series are now going back to each book for clues or references that might lead to the highly anticipated book. Creator J.K. Rowling has already become a masterful storyteller that has bewitched millions of reader’s that include a horde of young children, adults, and literary critics who are fascinated with each story about a young little English boy who is destined to become a great wizard. With each book in the series that either outdoing the previous book or leaving things open for the next, it leaves many readers hungry for more and more. To begin this series of reviews of each individual Harry Potter book, we begin with the one that started it all, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (in the U.K., it’s called Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone).
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone is our introduction to a young orphaned English boy named Harry Potter who has never really known about happiness since he lives with a vindictive family called the Dursleys that included a fat-boy with a tantrum named Dudley. One day, Harry Potter discovers that his late parents were wizards and is sent to the mysterious British school called Hogwarts were Harry finds friends, enemies including the powerful Lord Voldemort, a sport called Quidditch, dragons, and an evil plot to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone which Harry suspects a teacher in the school.
Creator J.K. Rowling leaves twists and carefully crafted subplots where the reader has to read the book repeatedly to find all sorts of clues. Rowling’s new take on a detective story is still refreshing since it’s original release in 1997. Like many children’s stories, there’s a level of innocence in the story but unlike most children’s story, there’s more emotional settings and scary undertones that seems to channel back into more humanistic territories rather than the escapist fantasy world that most children stories take place. Again, this is the genius behind J.K. Rowling in her approach to telling stories and she always have challenged herself with each story in the Harry Potter series, even toying with a certain formula that she has in each Harry Potter book. While The Order of the Phoenix is ready to start a new chapter in the young life of Harry Potter, it is The Sorcerer’s Stone were the world is introduced to the Boy Who Lived.
The story begins in a little town in England where we are introduced to a big, beefy man with a large mustache named Vernon Dursley who had a thin, tall wife, Petunia and a small baby boy named Dudley who often throws tantrums and stuff and to the Dursleys, there was no finer boy anywhere else. The Dursleys also had a secret they wish people would never found that involved Petunia’s sister, a witch who is married to wizard named Potter and had a baby of their own named Harry and to the Dursleys, witchcraft and wizardry was unacceptable in their home. Then one day, Vernon sees strange things around him as people walking in wizarding clothing, owls flying around the building, and a cat reading a map and giving him stern looks. On that faithful night in 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, as the Dursleys fell asleep, an old wizard by the name of Albus Dumbledore arrives with the cat who turns out to be a witch, Professor McGonagall as Dumbledore tells McGonagall about little Harry Potter, who had just survived a curse that couldn’t be blocked, as they wait for a big man named Hagrid who arrives on a flying motorcycle with the baby Harry as Dumbledore decides that Harry should be living with the Dursleys until he is ready to accept his fate.
Nearly ten years later, Harry Potter has grown into a small, skinny boy who is often ignored and treated horribly while living and sleeping in a closet while his cousin Dudley has grown into a big, fat, spoiled little brat who often throws tantrums for not getting whatever he wants. One day on a trip to the zoo with his relatives and a friend of Dudley’s, something strange happens when Harry starts to talk to a snake and glass that opened had freed the snake while Dudley and his friend get trapped into the snake house. All of a sudden, Vernon and Petunia Dursley’s fear about little Harry Potter increase. Then on another day, a letter arrives from Harry as the Dursley’s fear increase and all of a sudden after a horde of letters sent by owls keep arriving, the Dursleys try and hide away from the people who keep trying to send letters to Harry until one night on a rocky sea shore in England, Hagrid arrives to give Harry something he never had, a birthday cake and the letter he was supposed to receive which was an invitation to join Hogwarts, a mysterious school of wizardry and witchcraft while confronting the Dursleys for not telling Harry about his parents and feels sorry for Harry for living with the worst sort of Muggles (non-magic folk).
Hagrid, a loveable big man, tells Harry the truth about his parents who were wizards and how they got killed by an evil wizard name Lord Voldermort, a name many wizards and witches fear to say, who also tried to kill Harry but got stumped on that night and faded away as the only thing Harry got from Voldemort was a scar on his forehead which is why in the wizarding world, Harry is famous. The Dursleys however, aren’t happy and they make Hagrid angry after Vernon insults the name of Albus Dumbledore with the famous line, “I AM NOT PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS” where in response, Hagrid gives Dudley a pig’s tale who was eating Harry’s cake.
Hagrid accompanies Harry to get his school things in London where they go to an old pub called the Leaky Cauldron where people see the famous Harry Potter including a twitchy, stuttering young man named Professor Quirrell, who teaches the Defense Against the Dark Arts, as Hagrid leads Harry to a secret wizarding street called Diagon Alley where Harry learns that he inherited a fortune from his parents as he gets all of his school things including a snowy owl he named Hedwig. Then there’s a part where Harry buys his wand and the wand he buys has a similar core to the one Voldemort had as the wandmaker Ollivander tells him.
After getting all of his school things, Harry is dropped off by the Dursleys to King’s Cross where Harry is having trouble finding the secret platform for 9 ¾ until he meets up with a wizarding family all with flaming red hair named the Weasleys. Harry becomes friends with the youngest boy Ron Weasley and his troublemaking twin brothers Fred & George, and their elder, pompous brother Percy. Immediately, Harry and Ron become best friends as they eat all sorts of candies including Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans that had all sorts of flavor including chocolate, peppermint, liver, spinach, boogers, and ear-wax (I recently tried the ear-wax, disgusting). The boys also meet a clever Muggle-born girl named Hermione Granger who seems to know a lot about Harry more than he knows himself. They also encounter a blond, pale boy named Draco Malfoy, who seems to be better than everyone and always treat someone like Muggles and the Weasleys as second class, while being accompanied by his cronies Crabbe and Goyle.
As they arrive at Hogwarts, Hagrid accompanies all the first-year students on a boat trip around the castle-school where they meet up with Professor McGonnagall who leads them to the Great Hall for a sorting ceremony where they’ll get sorted in the school’s four houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Malfoy and his cronies get selected into Slytherin, a house that has a reputation for bad wizards and witches, while Ron, and Hermione get into Gryffindor, Harry meanwhile wears the sorting hat and the hat considered him putting in Slytherin but ends up putting him in Gryffindor where he meets up with eats dinner with Hermione, the Weasleys, their friend Lee Jordan, and fellow first-years Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, Pavarti Patil, Lavender Brown, and round-faced forgettable boy named Neville Longbottom. Harry scopes around the teachers including Albus Dumbledore where he sees a pale, black-haired teacher named Snape, who is the head of Slytherin house and teaches Potions, who for some reason has a strange look at Harry.
The new students have their first experience at Hogwarts where Harry and Ron knew immediately not to cross their house-head McGonnagall who is very stern but polite while they meet the house ghost, Nearly-Headless Nick who helps them find their classes while they learn Herbology from Hufflepuff head Professor Sprout, a small midget-like teacher named Flitwick who is the head of Ravenclaw and teaches the students Charms. Harry’s first week goes fine until he comes face-to-face with Snape who seems to have a special loathing against Potter during their first Potions lesson and always favored his own students at his own house rather than anyone else and for Potter, Snape was a teacher you love to hate.
Harry introduces Ron to Hagrid who is the gamekeeper at Hogwarts and share insults about the school’s caretaker Argus Filch while Harry and the rest of the first-years get their first flying lesson with Madam Hooch where Harry steals the show after Malfoy tries to get him trouble after stealing Neville’s Remembrall. Impressed with catching the Remembrall, McGonnagall immediately puts him in the Gryffindor Quidditch team as a seeker where Harry learns about the game of Quidditch (a sport sort of like soccer but played on a broomstick where the seeker has to catch a tiny, golden snitch to score an extra 150 points) from team captain Oliver Wood while Harry himself gets the best broom there is, a Nimbus 2000. While Harry is happy with getting a new broom, he nearly gets in trouble when he, Ron, Hermione, and Neville encounter a three-headed dog and Hermione wasn’t impressed with the way Ron and Harry nearly got them killed.
Hermione starts out as a clever know-it-all, who is trying to be the best student in the world, but after she almost gets pummeled by a troll who is defeated by Ron and Harry who saved her life and she becomes friendly with them. Even as they learn a secret plot where a teacher might be trying to steal a secret possession, which turns out to be the Sorcerer’s Stone. The book by then goes on with intense Quidditch matches, surprising twists, and moralistic compromises about right and wrong as Harry Potter and the gang try to do things right while trying to save the school.
Easily, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone is the best introduction to Harry Potter and is one of the best books in the series. Even hardcore fans of the series can go back and find clues including small characters that we don’t know at first but might find out in later series. Full of spellbinding plots, intense adventures, mysterious twists, and strong emotional paces, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone is one of the best children stories that even adults can enjoy.
Harry Potter Reviews: Novels: Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
The Films: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
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