fiction, review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

As common as magic stories in the realm of popular literature might be, Harry Potter will always win everyone’s heart. First published in 1997, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has never up to this point been leaving its status as one of the most breakout children’s book in the history. After bitterly gaining several refusals, this first installment of the Harry Potter series has finally made its way to success and an extremely wide readership, and continues to do so for still an unknown period of time.

Starting in the modern real-life London, Rowling brings us to look at the life of Harry Potter, an orphan boy with natural magic powers, being prophesied to be the only one who can kill the Dark Lord. However, living as an unwanted nephew in his aunt’s and uncle’s house, Harry never knows anything about his past, his family, and the fact that he is a wizard by nature and the genes. Both his aunt and uncle completely seal the very secret around his parents and the magic world they are living in before they come to an undeniable, violent death. But that’s not until he receives a letter, namely a school invitation, from Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where his parents complete their magic education.

After the serial obstacles standing in his way, Harry can finally find his way to Hogwarts with the help of Rubeus Hagrid, the giant, long-bearded gamekeeper of the magic school as well as the trusted man of Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster. Once Harry sets foot in the magic world, it’s obvious that everyone recognizes him, the Chosen One, the baby who escapes death executed by the Dark Lord, from the famous lightning scar on his forehead. It makes him feel uneasy, and lucky at the same time. Just then, unpleasant things soon happen at school with the coming of the new teacher of the dark arts. And as an ordinary kid with all his curiosity, Harry takes his chances and interferes in business certainly not his, breaks the school rules, and gets into a fight with the Dark Lord himself.

Harry is generally portrayed as a pitiful orphan in need of love and compassion, but unlike in the movie adaptation, he is not a total hero nor a completely innocent protagonist. Rowling creates his character to be an ordinary child, a flawed young person. He is naughty in some ways, and in possession of human nature. He likes the sense of sharing with his friends, yes, but that doesn’t mean he cannot dislike anyone. His friend, Ron, is just as childishly wicked, hating his family for being helplessly poor and envying his own siblings. But the good thing about him is his jokes, or perhaps it’s just his ridiculous way of talking. And while the only girl, Hermione, is depicted as smart and sensitive as any girls could be, we cannot ignore the fact that she likes to show off her brilliance or that she lacks enchanting looks. In my opinion, all the characters here are human and natural, even the great Dumbledore.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone definitely has an interesting story, simple but detailed in every aspect. Using long and comprehensive sentences in describing all characters, situations, places, objects and happenings, Rowling leads the course of events into a believable, just-packed-enough, sticking-you-on-your-seat narrative that we can’t stop reading it until we reach the last page. The storyline may seem a bit long for a work of fantasy, I’d say, but still acceptable and not the least bit nonsensical. The complicated viewpoints encompassed in one “third point of view” add some plus points to this book. All the jokes and funny dialogues triggered my laugh before I realized that the characters are in real danger, or that the atmosphere is quite dark in some parts. And the best thing about Harry Potter is its linguistically making-sense spells. Who would expect Rowling to play with words and make them into magical spells?

All in all, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is unquestionably a magnificent debut novel of J.K. Rowling and a magnetic first installment to begin reading the whole series. Seventeen years ago, I would have laughed out loud if anyone had told me I would read Harry Potter and love it. But when I read it, that was how I felt. I don’t think anyone will refuse this book as some publishers did in the past. And I think I’ve said my piece enough.

Rating: 4/5

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