For years, my new years resolution has been to reread Harry Potter. This year, I finally committed! Or.. to the first book at least. I will let you know right off the bat, I ended up giving the book (only?) three stars.
The reading experience
I don’t want to dwell too much on characters and plotlines. Harry Potter has almost six million reviews on Goodreads and over a hundred thousand reviews. It has all been said before way more eloquently than I ever could. This review is about my experience reading the book so many years later.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is considered a middle grade book. And when you read it, you’ll notice that the language in the first few books is a lot more simple, and becomes more complex as the series goes on. I wasn’t too bothered with the language at all, which surprised me a bit. I thought the writing was clunky at times, which is partly due to the style Rowling decided to write this in and partly just a problem with the book.
As always, I enjoyed the characters and setting. Because it’s a middle grade book, the chapters are short and almost every chapter is set in a different place. Harry, Ron and Hermoine are figuring out their way around Hogwarts, Quidditch, different classes, etc. I think this really works for the age this book was marketed to in the first place because it kept things interesting.
Plot devices and the deus ex machina
The ending of this book is honestly so different than I remember! It was so funny to realize that Harry suddenly finds the Philosopher’s Stone in his pocket, without any reason for it to be there in the first place. I have been reading up about convenient plot devices and the deux ex machina recently in relation to Harry Potter, because it’s been widely criticized for it.
I’m not entirely sure if this is considered a Deus ex machina at all. Wikipedia refers to this plot device as to when a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and seemingly unlikely occurrence, typically so much as to seem contrived. But I have also heard people explain that a deus ex machina should be an entirely new thing. Of course, the Philosopher’s Stone was part of the story before (in the way of foreshadowing) although Harry never knew that the mysterious package was the stone.
Another deus ex machina could be the fact that Harry destroys Quirrel with the power of love. It was totally unexpected and while reading it, felt like a cop out for the fight to be over. But then again, the jury is still out on this one. Just a convenient plot device or something more?
But, although this book is definitely not perfect, I did really enjoy it. I didn’t just want to give it a high rating because of nostalgia, but really try to read it critically – with the fact that this is a middle grade book in mind. The set-up is great for the rest of the series and now that my finals are over, I can’t wait to continue with the series!
Final rating: ★★★