At the beginning of the year, Michele from Just A Lil Lost and a few other bloggers decided to do a Harry Potter re-read. I started with the first book, but never got around to reviewing or doing any of the subsequent months.
Then, last week, Melissa from YA Bookshelf started reading the Harry Potter books for the first time. I can’t tell you how jealous I was – you only get to read for the first time once, after all! So I decided to read along (at last!), and give a few of my thoughts, since Goodreads and my blog didn’t exist when I first read the books.
Please keep in mind that these are totally spoilery mini-reviews – for fans only.
-There’s so much Dursley in this one! I’d forgotten about how Harry talks to the snake at the zoo!
-The scene setting is brilliant, as are all of the red herrings that Rowling throws in, and the little pieces that will come back in later books (centaurs, anyone?)
-I still have the same feeling about how, if you see a Nimbus Two Thousand in Act One, Harry will inevitably have one by the end of the book (see: Prisoner of Azkaban/Firebolt).
-There’s a lot more Hagrid than I remember, too – he really was kind of a father figure to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the beginning, wasn’t he?
-Hermione is amazing and I’m so glad Rowling gave us such a brave, brilliant know-it-all for a female character
-The ending reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time the first time, and it still does – the fact that love is the answer, always
-Harry Potter might be my book boyfriend. I totally had a crush on him throughout the series, and that feeling is still there – he’s just so darn good, without being a douche about it!
I definitely noticed that this book is a bit more descriptive than I like…maybe because I’m an adult reader. Also, the middle plods a bit – the lead-up to finding out about the Chamber of Secrets should have a more foreboding, uneasy sense, but it felt weighted down by plot. Still, very, very creepy, especially when we first meet Tom Riddle through the diary…I can’t believe I didn’t notice just how dark this book is the first time (I *was* reading on a plane), what with the Deathday Party for Nearly Headless Nick, Aragog the spider, the blood on the walls…yeesh. The ending is actually terrifying.
That said, so many clues for later books in this one…very impressed by the number of seeds planted in this book that will come back later. Dumbledore’s final speech to Harry about how it’s our choices that define us, not our abilities, seems far more potent now, knowing what we know about his history.
Read the rest of my review on Goodreads
I remember now why Prisoner of Azkaban sold me on the whole series. This is the book when Harry starts to really look around and realize that the outside wizarding world isn’t as good as it seems, that they have problems just as the Muggle world does. Where the book prevails is that it never gets preachy about doing the right thing, and you always believe Harry’s character as authentic, despite him being very innocent and pretty near to perfect.
I’d forgotten just how big a fight Ron and Hermione are in during this book over Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks, and Ron’s rat Scabbers. You can definitely see shades of how much Hermione and Ron care about each other and how it might turn romantic. I loved how this book also gave us a larger glimpse into some of the people who will play a bigger role in Harry’s life later. You really see who Cedric Diggory is and his sense of fairness when Harry lost himself because of Dementors during their Quidditch game. I liked how Ginny, while still crushing on Harry, is starting to be revealed as a funny, sarcastic young woman with a lot to say. It’s obviously a deliberate choice on Rowling’s part to show how Harry is starting to notice more about the people around him as he grows up.
Read the rest of my review on Goodreads
The second time around, I think I liked Goblet of Fire much more than Prisoner of Azkaban, and would argue that it has the strongest structure and delivers the most in terms of making this coming-of-age story into something epic.
I had forgotten (again!) about the big fight that Ron and Harry have over him being the Triwizard Champion, and how it was a long time coming. I had also forgotten about Hermione’s teeth being cursed, and then shortened back so she doesn’t have buckteeth! I loved how much this book focused on those aspects of growing up and friendship. And of course, I really enjoyed all the hints at Ron and Hermione’s burgeoning romance.
If I have a criticism, it’s that the Quidditch World Cup scenes at the beginning lasted far too long, as did some of the middle scenes with Harry training. That said, Harry’s training for the tournament becomes the practice for his showdown with Voldemort at the end, proving what Dumbledore says at the end of book 5 – that in choosing Harry as his foe and constantly underestimating him – to the point of putting him through the tournament – Voldemort has also equipped Harry with the very tools he needs to defeat Voldemort.
I can’t talk about this book without talking about the brilliant ending – the Cup as the Portkey, the way Harry and Cedric take the Cup together, the deaths, the rebirth of Voldemort from Harry himself, the speech, and yes, the beautiful moment of Priori Incantatem. I remember being completely enthralled by the latter scene during my first read. My second read was different only in that I felt ALL THE FEELS this time.
Have you read the Harry Potter books? Have you re-read them recently? What do you think of them, given time and space and less hype? Were there moments that I talked about that you remembered? Sound off in the comments, and look for more mini-reviews of the rest of the series soon!