No, actually there aren’t. Why would you say “surely”? Is it inconcievable to you that JKR’s works are the best?
But, to answer your main questions:
The HP books are truly astounding. This woman has done what very few others have ever been able to do successfully: she planned and wrote (is writing) an enormous 7 volume series, following a single character not just through episodes in his life, but through 7 solid years. There is political intrigue, tangled plotlines that aren’t revealed until several books after the first inkling of them is introduced, and enough whimsey in them to make people chuckle (the herbology instructor is named Sprout, the particularly unpleasant woman is named Umbradge, for examples).
I saw the first 2 films before I ever picked up one of the novels. I was impressed with what I found. The fact that I was impressed impressed me even more; I am a voracious reader who owns several thousand books and I am on first name basis with 5 of my local librarians. I’ve read a lot of books, and JKR has consistently impressed me with these books.
Another impressive thing, and one that undoubtedly helps the audience stay put, is the fact that the tone of the books and the subject matter has changed over the course of the series. The first book is fairly short (309 pages, hardcover), and very light reading. Anyone over the age of 9 should be able to get through it in a few days at the most. By the 5th book, it is huge (870 pages, hardcover) and the subject matter is very dark (politics, totalitarianism, rebellion, secret societies). The books grow up as Harry Potter grows up, and as his audience grows up.
I know the hype has gotten to you, but I have to say, this series rivals and/or exceeds almost anything I can think of. Narnia is about the only thing that really comes to mind that comes close.
If you liked Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels, HP has elements that will remind you of those stories. If you liked any of the kids detective series (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Three Investogators, Encyclopedia Brown, The Great Brain, etc.) the HP books have elements of those. If you grew up reading Roald Dahl, HP has that dark morality play. If you grew up reading Judy Bloom, the books explore the difficulties of remaining true to oneself, true to one’s friends, and true to one’s family.
Wow, now I’m gushing But really, I never expected myself to be as fond of these books when I began reading them. Like I said, the fact that I am impressed impresses the hell out of me.