If you have been following me for the past 6 months, you will know that this may not be the most pleasant of conversations. I have finally managed to read the whole series (after avoiding any major spoilers for the past 20 years) and I was not exactly blown away. Since so many people have already the series I am not going to post reviews like usual (I will just link them below), instead I want to have a little chat about my thoughts and maybe your thoughts on the books as well as a bit about their impact on our reading world.
So I will start off by explaining a little bit about why I was so late reading the Harry Potter books. When the books originally came out I was around 14 or 15 years old (just a tad older than the target audience). But I lived in a very small town with a small library that was sometimes a little slow in obtaining new books. By this time I had also worked my way through every fantasy YA book in the library (finishing up with Sabriel) and had moved on to a new genre of adult suspense/ thriller/ medical mystery books. So I really didn't hear about the series or think about it until years later. Did you read it when it first came out?
So how about I talk about why I finally decided as an adult to pick up the series. I was told time and time again that this series was fantastic, it was what got readers to read initially, and if I am a reader, especially a reader of fantasy that I should read it. Also, as part of the bookish community there are so many jokes, quotes, sayings, etc that revolve around the series, it was almost as if everyone had an inside joke that I didn't understand. References to the Harry Potter series started appearing in other books I would read as well as popular TV shows and movies. If you wanted fun bookish merchandise like bookmarks, pillows, blankets, artwork the vast majority of it revolved around the Harry Potter series, especially what you could find in stores. So it finally got to the point where I figured it was time to give in and read the series, but I am one of those people who wants to own the whole series before starting it. My wonderful Hubby went out and purchased the paperback box set for me for Christmas the year it came out. What made you start reading the series? Was it recommended to you, gifted to you, or did you discover it on your own?
Well I picked up the books immediately and was really disappointed with them. I only made it through the first three books before giving up. I tried to pick it up multiple times over the next couple of years and again only made it through the first one or two books before deciding to set it aside. Finally in December of last year I found a Harry Potter Read-along for new readers and avid fans alike. I figured with being held to a reading timeline and having discussions would help push me through the series finally. And it worked out great until the read along group folded suddenly after book 4, but I figured I could push through the last three books on my own.
Here are my reviews for each of the books:
So are you ready for it now, I guess I should prepare to have tomatoes thrown my way. I am about to tell you about why I was so disappointed in this series. I will admit that a good portion of my disappointment is probably a result of so much hype, I was expecting this series to blow away all the other fantasy (or other genres) books away. Beware if you haven't read the series yet that there will be spoilers included here. So here we go . . .
- Right off the bat in the first book I felt like the reader was being forced to have sympathy for Harry. I should have been allowed to develop my own feelings towards him but we are just smacked in the face with how bad Harry has it in life and we must feel bad and root for the underdog.
- After that things get a little overly descriptive, yes some world building needed to take place but it got a little out of hand and it wasn't well integrated into the story itself.
- Harry is boring, Hermoine is a little annoying and bossy and Ron is a little blah. All of the characters really in my opinion fell a little flat, I didn't have connections with any of them in the first several books and honestly found the main characters awfully annoying.
- The first several books had poor pacing, things took along time to develop and then all of a sudden the last 50-100 pages finally got exciting and then oh, schools out time to go home and wait out the summer again.
- It is the same villain book after book after book, occasionally we get to see a new aspect of Voldemort or a new way he is being his bad self but it gets old fighting the same bad guy all the time.
- Book 4 finally showed a little bit of a turn in the series. We finally get to see a little bit of the other side of the coin, we have a first death that ups the stakes and finally makes things worth reading.
- The side characters seem to be more intriguing and developed than the main characters throughout the series. Maybe it is the aspect of not knowing every little event in their lives or every stupid little thought that passes their minds but I much prefer characters like Lupin, Hagrid, Mad-Eye, Luna, Ginny, Molly, Neville, etc. over Harry, Hermoine, and Ron.
- Why on earth was book 5 so unbelievably long and with almost no point?!
- I cannot stand when main characters (and the readers) are kept in the dark about important aspects of the story and plot. If the main character has to be naive about events that will effect things, then the reader should at least have an inkling of what is going on, how about some foreshadowing please!
- While there are deaths, especially in the last couple of books, they don't seem to have too much of an impact on the main story or characters. They aren't as high stakes as I would have liked to see after 7 years of fighting the most evil wizard in history. I really wanted to see a main character death, I didn't care which one just someone needed to leave us all crying and make everything worth it.
- Even being the 'Chosen One' shouldn't have made it so easy for Harry to get out of every sticky situation he found himself in. Even with the help of friends, they were still young and inexperienced and should not have been able to win every time. This is the problem with this particular trope, the chosen one always has to win and succeed so you always know how things will end.
- In the end of this series, I really don't think that Harry was the hero. In my opinion Neville ended up being the true hero. He stood in the background for years, was constantly teased, yet he continued to fight for what was right. He took punishments for standing up against the bad guys, he maintained the defense group that came to the rescue in the end and he was the one to destroy the final horcrux and allow for Harry's escape and ultimate victory in the end.
So there you have a few of my thoughts throughout the series. I have several more but this sums up the main ones. Do you agree with any of these points? What did you like about the series? What didn't you like about the series?
In the end I am glad I finally gave this series a shot but at the same point I feel like I am still on the outside of the book community because I didn't enjoy it. I am still not a part of the fandom or close knit Harry Potter community. So many have this nostalgic feeling about this series and I am truly happy for them and happy for the fact that this series created so many new readers. I will just have to remain outside the Harry Potter team and still cherish my own introduction to fantasy, The Lioness Quartet and Sabriel.