Archives For J.K. Rowling

There is always a lot riding on the final entry in a great series, but I don’t think expectations for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows could have been higher. The Harry Potter series was already far and away the best-selling book series ever published and the fans were ravenous. J.K. Rowling’s last book about the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends needed to be great. It needed to be epic. And most of all, it needed to be satisfying. I can tell you, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does not disappoint in the slightest. Click to read more

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The penultimate chapter in the Harry Potter series has arrived. It’s time to talk about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’d like to warn anyone who might read this review that there will be SPOILERS. But not just spoilers for Half-Blood Prince. I fully expect that anyone reading this already knows what transpires between Snape and Dumbledore. No, this review will contain SPOILERS for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Again, I imagine most people reading this review have already read the entire book series, but there may be a few of you who have only seen the films, in which case I’d be giving away events that take place in Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Now that we have that housekeeping out of the way, I’d like to get right into my review of what I consider the very best book in the Harry Potter series. In my mind, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince may be a clear stepping stone into the final book, but I also think it is the best, most compelling book in the series. Click to read more

When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released back in 2003, I loved it like everyone else, but like everyone else I was a bit put off by the darker, more angry Harry. Dude, I know Voldemort is back and that kid from last year died, but can’t you lighten up just a little? Harry’s teen angst made for a book that was not only the longest in the series, but the most aimless and boring. All I can ask myself now is, what the hell was I thinking? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a remarkable book. Click to read more

Technically it all began with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK in 1997. But that’s only technically. The true beginning was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, published July 8th, 2000. Potter Mania can all be traced to that one date. It was when Harry Potter began its term as the reigning king of the publishing world, breaking records and setting the rest of the world on fire.

I had started reading the Harry Potter books about a year earlier. The first book had been given out as a school reading assignment. I scoffed at the assignment. A story about a boy who fins out he’s a wizard and then has to go to a wizard school? Why would I ever want to read such a thing? I was already a snob at the ripe old age of eleven. In retrospect, I was a total moron. Thank Jeebus I had a teacher who forced us to read good books! Click to read more

Coming off a book like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling had a tough job ahead of her. Not only did she need to live up to her previous work, Harry Potter was officially a phenomenon. Kids across the UK and North America lined up at Midnight to buy Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, an unheard of occurrence in the world of publishing, and the expectations were huge. Rowling delivered a book that broke all preconceptions of what kids would read. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is dark, dense, complex, and long. Really long. It’s also really great. Click to read more

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is an all around amazing book, but perhaps my very favourite thing about it is its inclusion of time travel as a plot mechanic during the final act. I love time travel more than is probably healthy, so to see it show up in my favourite series of novels is a dream. But I love time travel for more than just its ability to provide crazy plots. I have long stood by time travel as a form of communicating depth and emotion through a variety of means. I find that time travel provides the perfect mechanic for allowing characters to reflect on themselves, their pasts or their histories. Back to the Future, for example, is a time travel movie, but the time travel is mostly used as a device to let Marty see what his parents were really like as teenagers, as well as discover some of his own courage. Similarly, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban uses time travel to create an emotional climax for Harry.

Rowling begins to weave in her third act time travel twist right from the start. Hermione is taking more classes than logic allows. She disappears and re-appears at random points before, during and after classes. It doesn’t make any sense, but in reality this is Rowling setting up the device she will properly introduce later. Amazingly, she doesn’t just limit the set-up to pure foreshadowing. Hermione is using her Time Turner to get to all her classes, but it takes a huge toll on her. She has always been a girl striving to learn as much as possible, and some of that might be overcompensating for not coming from a magical family, or maybe its just that her lack of magical background makes her that much more interested in that world. Whatever the motivations, Hermione is a major overachiever. In the real world Hermione might just take extra classes, night courses, summer courses and do all kinds of extra-curricular activities to soak in all she can. In Rowling’s universe time travel enables Hermione’s personality; she incorporates magical concepts to explore facets of Hermione, and later she uses the same concepts get into Harry’s mind. Click to read more

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was, for many years, my favourite in the series, and reading it again gave me a newfound appreciation for what Rowling accomplished with it. It’s with this third book that Rowling begins the weighty process of moving Harry into adulthood and preparing him for his own mortality. She maintains many of the childish elements of the series while pushing it more into the realm of serious suspense, drama and emotion. I really believe that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the best novels ever written. The prose isn’t War and Peace, but the depth of humanity in the book is astounding, particularly for what is still ostensibly a book for kids. Click to read more

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had its share of dark and scary moments, but it is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that properly introduces the series to the dark tone that so often defines it with each subsequent book. J.K. Rowling proves here abilities once again with this feature. She wisely incorporates suspense and horror into the series for the obvious reasons of reader engagement. There’s no question that the scarier the books get, the more we need to know what will happen. It’s classic popular literature technique and Rowling is one of the its modern masters. But her mastery of darkness is not limited to mere reader appeal. She instead interests herself more in the way the darkness is representative of real life. In that respect, Chamber of Secrets is also the first book in the series to seriously explore the ills of humanity through the dangerous plight of Harry Potter and the larger community of wizards. Click to read more

Going in, you could say J.K. Rowling has a lot to prove with this second novel in the Harry Potter series. The first book, though not very long, and very much aimed at children, is very entertaining and surprisingly dense in both plot and theme. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets continues that perfectly. Once again, the novel is not very long and it is still a children’s book, but this book contains even more plot and even more depth to plunder. But what really sets Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets apart from its predecessor is its darkness. Where the first book was more interested in liveliness and wonder, this second entry tries for bleak and ominous mood that sometimes borders on genuinely scary. Click to read more

If there is one defining characteristic of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone it is an overwhelming feeling of awe and wonder. Sure, the rest of the series exhibits wondrous magic and locations, but never is that sensation so distilled as in the very first entry. One could off-handedly attribute this to the fact that Philosopher’s Stone is, in fact, the first entry in a series set in a fantasy universe and wonderment comes with the territory. I suppose this is somewhat true, though I do also think that J.K. Rowling’s ability to relay that universe to the reader is remarkably adept and puts Harry Potter one notch above most other children’s fantasy. Still, I do believe there is something more at work here. Something that goes beneath the merely superficial concept of “new=awe”. No, I think even in at this early stage, Rowling is ever mindful of the thematic underpinnings of her prose. The wonder on display in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is essential to the idea of a young boy moving into the next stage of his life; a stage in which anything is possible and the world is there to discover.

The Harry Potter series explores many themes and concepts, but one of the most fascinating is its exploration of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Each book in the series advances the characters through their lives year by year, encompassing all those subtle changes that happen over time and that ultimately shape them for the rest of their lives. Harry in particular is the most developed, not just because he is the main character, but also because the books are generally told in the third-person subjective. Nearly everything we see and experience is through Harry’s eyes. As readers we grow with Harry as he grows; as he moves through the wizarding world and his years at Hogwarts we gain an insight into his development as a character and as a constantly changing human being. Click to read more