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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)

The American version of the first novel in J.K. Rowling's fantasy series.

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Let's take a careful look. . .

  • Mar 25, 2003
  • by
It's now been some years since the "Harry Potter" books first came out. Unless I am mistaken, book # 5 is due on shelves soon. In addition, two major motion pictures have now been produced.

During this time, I have been repeatedly asked, as a parent, as a clergyman, and as a student of fantasy literature, what my "opinion" of the series is. After having read all four books, and having seen the first movie, I am now prepared to comment.

Some people, especially those in the conservative Christian camp, decry the books as inherently Satanic, dealing, as they do, with "witchcraft", etc. As a conservative Christian father and clergyman, I must admit that I do NOT agree with this assessment -- an assessment made, all to often, by persons who have not actually read the books in question. Do I understand "why" some would suggest this? Of course I do. The difference, however, lies in the nature of fantasy literature. As can be seen in other fantasy series, (Katherine Kurtz' "Saint Camber" stories come to mind) the characters in the "Harry Potter" stories are endowed at birth with certain gifts, powers, etc., not typically applicable to ordinary persons. Much like "The Force" in the "Star Wars" stories, this power can be used for good or for evil and is, in and of itself, neither. It is this point which firmly seperates "Harry Potter" from those who actually believe in and seek to practice the Dark Arts -- activities which conservative Christians -- rightly -- condemn as anti-Scriptural.

Thus, it is within this deliberate "suspension of belief" that these stories must be judged. Are they good fairy tales???

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is light reading. Don't go expecting "The Lord of the Rings" here -- or even "Saint Camber". You just won't find it. This being said, it was reasonably enjoyable light reading. I'll grade it as follows:

Plot: B -- a bit predictable and using many stereotypic conventions. Nonetheless, there is a bit of creativity shown, most especially in the "Quiddich" concept.

Character Development: C -- lots of stereotypes here, some of which work better than others. Dumbledore, for example, is quite good (though little is actually learned about him). Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle are the typical school bullies found in any story of this sort -- regardless of magic. The animosity of Professor Snape toward Harry, while emphasized, is never satisfactorially explained. Nor are the reasons behind the disgrace and expulsion of Hagrid -- an evidently important character. The Dursleys are hideous to the point of caricature -- which is, I believe, the point. The whys and wherefores of Harry himself: who he is, from where did he come, etc. are touched on -- barely enough.

Setting: B+ -- here the author does use a bit of imaginative creativity. Platform 9 3/4 is great. So are the various types of candy available. (An Every-Flavored Bean, anyone?). The various descriptions of Hogwarts fascinate (and are obviously caricatures of the English school system). Yet, for all of the author's creativity, still much emphasis is placed on traditional mythological conventions: unicorns, centaurs, dragons, even pointy hats and brooms. The originality only went so far.

Overall, I'll give the book 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4 -- while recognizing the book for what it is, rather than trying to force the book into something it is not -- neither Satanic delusion -- nor great fairy-story literature. Much of the book (and a great deal of the humor) seems very tongue-in-cheek -- and I strongly suspect that this gentle satire goes way over the head of the typical pre-teen/young teen reader of the book.

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More Harry Potter and the Sorcerer'... reviews
review by . January 07, 2010
Late to the party--again? I didn't read and review The Da Vinci Code until everyone else in the world already had, and I know I'm late to the Potter party as well--even in my own house. I'm the last to start reading the series (after my wife and college-age children), and I have studiously avoided the movies, preferring to get my first impression from the original content.    Which is Rowling's howlingly successful series about young Harry Potter, a comically downtrodden (demonstrated …
review by . July 04, 2010
   I ran across the first harry potter book quite by accident.  At the time I was living with my boyfriend on the north shore of Oahu and we would hang out on the beach almost everyday.  I love to read on the beach and one day I was out of my own books, so I began scouring through his bookshelf.  He had 3 of the Harry Potter books, which I had never heard of, so being a fan of series I thought I would try it out.  I thought it would be another 'young adult' …
review by . July 20, 2010
This is the very first and one if the best books  in the Harry Potter series. I read this when it first came out, and then my mom read aloud to my little sister. In this book we meet young Harry in his pre-Hogwarts days when hes still living with his aunt and uncle. Watching Harry's day to day life is almost tear-wrenching, they are so mean and hateful towards him you can't help but feel badly for him. Rowling set the reader up perfectly for the rest of the story by getting us …
review by . July 12, 2010
When I picked up the novel and read its title, I was puzzled. But upon reading it, I was thrilled to have discovered it (not hard since JK Rowling is most of the most recognizable names). I would recommend this book for people of all ages. The plot transcends any gender or age barriers. How can you say no to a battle between good versus evil?   The plot begins with the introduction of Harry Potter, the seemingly ordinary boy trapped in a miserable life and forced to obey his uncle and …
Quick Tip by . October 05, 2010
I had so much fun reading this book and think that it is wonderful how this entire series can bridge many ages/generations!
Quick Tip by . September 29, 2010
I shall always love this one. My son became an avid reader because of it.
review by . July 12, 2010
Looking back at the Sorcerer's Stone, there was SO MUCH planning that went into the series from the beginning. I honestly never thought I would fall in love with a book about witchcraft but I think it's more about just accepting people the way they are and having tolerance for differences. All of the Harry Potter books are good but I really do just love the first book.   This is a book where all age groups can like the movie. There's adventure, love, good themes, and anything …
review by . July 02, 2010
This book is the first one in the Harry Potter series, and in my opinion is one of the best. You first see Harry living with his Muggle (non-magical) aunt, uncle, and cousin who torment him to no end. They treat as an inferior person, making him sleep in a closet under the stairs. Harry notices that strange things have been happening about him; he then finds out that he is a wizard, and his whole life changes. The book introduces Harry's soon to be best friends, Ron and Hermione, as well as …
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
ive read this book entirely too many times. i think its around 30 now. a very good start to what is in my honest opinion the best book series of all time. harry potter haters say what you want. but find a series more well written, with an everchanging cast of characters, and an equally changing magical world, coinciding with a normal world, and that has made as much money, and ill understand what your saying.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
One of the most perfect series-starters ever written; also works well if you never pursue the rest of the series. A lovely introduction to a world of mundane-plus-magic. The reader is instantly taken with Harry, learns with him, enjoys the excitement of it all. Worth re-reading!
About the reviewer
David Zampino ()
I am a 44-year-old historian and theologian.
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About this book



ISBN-10: 0439708184
ISBN-13: 978-0590353427
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Children's Books, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks, Scholastic Press
Format: Novel
First to Review

"Absolutely enchanting"
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