Plot/Story (3 of 4):
“3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.”
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first in the Harry Potter septology by J.K. Rowling. While the novel is certainly the shortest and simplest of the seven, it is still quite easy to see why it ignited a flurry of excitement and catapulted a generation of young adults and children back to the “Reading is Fun” mentality. The story itself – a young orphaned boy discovering his parents’ history & sacrifices as well as the truth that he is a natural-born wizard is, of course, fantasy; yet somehow the author manages to tell the story so convincingly that the reader is not just drawn in, but comes away believing that these people, these wizarding schools and villages, must really exist. That a group of eleven-year-olds also take on experienced adult wizards, and win, seems like it would be hard to believe, but Rowling manages to convince us again that, not only is it possible but, given the circumstances, it was destiny.
Characterization (3 of 4):
“3 – Characters well developed.”
As someone who has read each of the seven Harry Potter books (and auxiliary books in this Universe), I have the benefit of knowing that character development and characterization is something that the author continues to pay close attention to throughout the length of the series; however, I can say, also, that the attention paid here, in book number one, paves the way for the future books and allows the reader to engage with, identify, and relate to the major and minor characters from the start. This is incredibly advantageous to the series’ future success, and is a major factor in drawing readers in from the get-go. The major characters, such as Harry, Ron, and Hermione, are explained in detail, but not in such a way as to ever make the reader feel “forced” to like or dislike any of them; similarly, some of the minor characters like the Dursleys, Neville, the Weasley twins, and the teachers are so greatly developed that they are distinguishable from one another in action and language – the things they say and do are indicative of the personalities the author has been developing. Also, even the minor characters begin to demonstrate the type of personalities which become important to plots of future books.
Prose/Style (4 of 4):
“4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.”
The prose and style of the first novel, while simple (largely, I understand, due to the publishers having asked Rowling to water down things a bit for her younger readers, who were likely to be the largest demographic) is never so easy as to be boring. There are not many “big” words or ideas, though much of the wizarding language is new; still, many of the names of characters are cleverly chosen based on their meaning, so as to represent the characters themselves. The spells, too, are well-researched and their Latin names reflect the purpose/power of the spell. All of this should form a strong impression in the intellectual and/or attentive readers mind, as to demonstrate that this author does indeed know what she is doing, and is executing her style quite brilliantly. The balance is swayed a bit in favor of the “simple” but, when comparing to other “children/young-adult” level fantasies, The Sorcerer’s Stone still stands out as more challenging and well-constructed, in my opinion.
Additional Elements (3 of 4):
“3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.”
The setting is present-day England but the story takes place in a secluded castle, hidden from view (as are the wizarding villages) of the “muggle” or non-magic public. The setting is highly effective, as it is relevant and easy to relate to, but still magical and mysterious. Many symbols and motifs or allusions we begin to see here in book one are developed further in future books, and recur throughout the seven-book story, with varying levels of importance. It is difficult to see this, perhaps, unless one has read through the entire series first and then re-reads the books from the beginning but, as this is the case for my own review, I can answer thusly. For example, there is a comment made in this book about Professor Snape being able to “read minds,” which we find out four books later may not be far from the truth. The themes of love and friendship, too, as well as family (both by blood and by choice) are established here and will come up again and again throughout the Harry Potter storyline. This first book’s resolution, like resolution of all the parts through book six, is believable, credible (if fantastical) and also a bit playful, as it leaves the door open for what will happen in the next installment of the story.
Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: All Ages
Interest: Fantasy, Friendship, Family, Morality (Good/Evil), Education