The goal I set for myself this year is to read at least one novel every month I’m not writing. For the most part I’ve stuck with books meant for adults, and leaning toward either the horror genre or dark fantasy, with the exception of She Hulk Diaries (which you should read) and Midnight’s Daughter (which I kind of hated). I haven’t read a kids book since grade 6, so it’s time to change that. Having now read the first Harry Potter book, here are my thoughts as both a reader and a writer.
I never got into the Harry Potter books as a kid. I remember the first three books being bought for me by someone who thought I would enjoy them. I read about half of the first book but never really got into it. At the time, I was around 12 and was trying to grow up too fast. Unwilling to allow myself to enjoy fiction meant for kids, my gullible self later fell for the controversy surrounding the series and I stopped reading it altogether.
Years later, I’m mature enough to realize that you’re never too old to enjoy a well-written book meant for kids, and that there’s nothing harmful about the Harry Potter series. I’ve watched all the movies and enjoyed most of them, with Order of the Phoenix probably being my favourite and Half Blood Prince being my least favourite. And with that extra long introduction out of the way, let’s talk about the first book in the Harry Potter series.
The first book is much better than I remember. While it’s meant for kids, it surprised me how much depth and detail there is in a fairly short book. It delves much deeper into the way the school works, the rivalries between different houses within the Hogwarts School and the game of Quidditch than the movies ever could. There are all sorts of hints toward later plot points and characters, proving how well planned out the series was even in the early days.
I’m not really saying anything new by stating how well-written this book is, or how it’s well paced and shows faith in children’s intelligence. J.K. Rowling’s sense of wit is already evident in the first book though, which makes me excited for whenever I do get to the later books to see how her style evolved over the years. It’s not quite perfect, with some of the minor characters portrayed as a bit too black and white. It is a kid’s book, but for something that does a great job at respecting kids’ intelligence, there’s little subtlety when it comes to characterization. That’s a very minor problem though, and is clearly reduced in further books as they’re not nearly as kid friendly by the series end.
As a writer, I doubt this series will influence my writing style all that much. It’s a very different style than my own, even if it’s in third person perspective through much of it. And while planning ahead is one thing that makes this series work so well, it’s something I’m already doing with my series. With only my first book pretty much ready to send out, I already have four other novels with completed drafts and a couple dozen short stories taking place between them. I’m also in the planning stages for two more books, which I hope to finish their first drafts this coming November for Nanowrimo. In addition, I had the series ending planned before I wrote the first words for this series. So no, planning ahead is not something I have to improve on. If anything, I’m doing it a bit too much considering I’ve only written 5 drafts, yet I’m already detailing plans and subplots for book number 10.
I’m glad I read this. While the first movie is alright, if not for John William’s near perfect soundtrack, the movie itself would feel a bit dull at times. This book is better than the movie in every way (save for the lack of John William’s soundtrack since I can’t read and listen to music at the same time). Because this took less than a day to read, I intent to read book 2 sometime later this month, maybe even this weekend. After that, Magic Bleeds is next (book 4 in the Kate Daniels series), and then probably the novelization of Marvel’s Civil War event after that.