by J.K. Rowling
“Yer a wizard, Harry.” Full stop, there you go, that sums up this, the first year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I want to be fair here and say this is my second time reading the first of Harry Potter’s adventures and am as biased as the rest of fandom about this series, while maybe not so rabid.
J.K. Rowling is not so much a great writer as she is a world builder. A minor deity weaving a magical land that not only do you want to believe is real, you genuinely hope that it is real. The small and grand touches of magic that she spices the stories with help to immerse the reader with the best effect made in the first installment of the series. The slow introduction of both Harry and the reader to the world of magic is well told, each chapter building on the rest. If it were my choice, Rowling would continually set stories in this world that she has created and shun all others that may be brewing in her mind.
Other stories in this world would and could be fascinating from different points of view, as Rowling shows in the series by giving excellent side characters to play around the main character. These side characters, such as Nearly Headless Nick or the nurse Madam Pomfrey, often caused the main characters and the reader to talk about them in whispers lest they hear. As for the main cast, in this first book I can give them a pass as blank slates that build desires and wants as they move through the story and let them live as the child reader avatars that they are.
The writing of this story has some hits and misses. After it was pointed out to me the number of times Rowling likes to use adverbs when her characters speak, I could not help but notice them everywhere (he types pointedly). Overall, though, the descriptions are clean, the dialog is fun, and the writing level exceeds those meant for this age group.
This book has been banned on numerous occasions for its liberal use of magic and sorcery by children. The concern is that children will read the book and attempt to find a train station that does not exist that will take them to a school they cannot go to with supplies they cannot buy and learn witchcraft from people that are different from them. There may also be some complaints out there from those that can get past the magic thing that the books encourages challenging authority in children as well as wandering in the woods hoping to meet a unicorn or centaur.