When I first tried reviewing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I wanted to find issue with it. After all, it wasn’t really a plot-heavy book, and seemed to serve as simply an introduction. However, that doesn’t stop me from loving the book’s magic and a “weaker” plot doesn’t hurt it too much. Does it? Maybe the Potter series just has to be ranked within itself.
To review the books in this series, to be as fair as possible, I’m going to give it a ranking out of five stars in several categories: Plot, Suspense/Good and Evil Battle, Characters (primarily the main characters of the novel), Worldbuilding, and Writing Style. I will then give it a total score out of 25.
Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
The characters just seem so…natural. They jump off the page and can be real people. Despite what people say about Harry (he tends to be few people’s favorite), he has a personality too: he likes to play the hero sometimes, gets into trouble, and more. You have Ron and Hermione, the best friends with traits of their own, a scatty goofball but loyal friend and a smart-aleck. It doesn’t just end there. I personally love Hagrid. He’s almost a great father figure to Harry, but is best as a friend. Even each professor has their own personality without being too far-fetched. They don’t even need a ton of page time for us to get to know them. As for the Dursleys? Yes, we’ve seen these people in kid lit before. But, do they do the things the Dursleys do? I find them to be fascinating Rowling does a commendable job of making these characters come to live without resorting to stereotypes. This could be the real world.
This is the standout point of the entire series, and even moreso for the Sorcerer’s Stone since it is tasked with setting the stage for the next six books. And it does it so well! The way the school runs…houses, house points, classes, common rooms, even a sport of its own…is just done so thoughtfully. My only question which is so small no points are taken off: how do the dorms know how many first years are going to be there, given that we don’t know who is going to be in what house until the arrival feast? There seem to be exactly the number of beds needed….unless that all-knowing Dumbledore just knows somehow?
This is where the Sorcerer’s Stone doesn’t accomplish as much as the other books. Basically, there is a mysterious object being stored in Hogwarts and Harry, Ron, and Hermione believe that someone inside Hogwarts is going to steal it. They spend some time on researching its lore and trying to figure out how to get it back. I didn’t get why they thought it was their job to do something like that; most students would probably stay far away. It does accomplish some things, however. It’s an introduction to Voldemort, the series’ main villain, though we don’t hear too much about him either. Overall the plot is okay, and pretty traditional of fantasy kids’ lit. I think the real magic of this book lies in school life, which isn’t a bad thing. Draco Malfoy is placed in the villain role more than Voldemort, and for being a bully he does a good job of it. There is also a lot of time spent at the Dursleys’; almost half the book.
Suspense/Good and Evil Battle
There is decent suspense here, stuff that doesn’t really take away from the school year. For what it does, Sorcerer’s Stone does suspense well. Nothing really detracts from the magical atmosphere, but clearly danger is lurking…on the the other hand, nothing much is at risk since the danger is relatively small. Still, it’s present!
One thing that really stands out to me about the Sorcerer’s Stone is the writing style, which is different than the other books. It reminds me of the way Roald Dahl occasionally talked to his readers, slipping into the second person to make a comparison to modern day, or in this case something in Harry’s life with the Dursleys. We’ve seen this before, of course, especially in British children’s lit. For the most part I don’t have much to add. It does a good job of telling the story. I especially love when someone’s about to say something inappropriate and Rowling compensates for this by having another character suddenly butt in.
OVERALL: 21/25= 84%
The percentage seems a little low, but never fear: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a super magical tale. The characters and setting alone make it shine, despite the plot that isn’t anything terribly special or time-consuming. But since it’s the first book, isn’t that what it should be doing? (Fortunately, they’re big books.) If you haven’t read this already, give it a try.