Now that they're all out: best/worst HP books (open spoilers for book 7)

(In case you missed it in the thread title, this thread will have OPEN SPOILERS for book 7 and most likely the rest of the HP books now.)
I’d be interested to see, now that people have had a chance to read all 7 books, what others would consider to be the best, and worst, books of the series.

For me, I’m going to have to say that book 7 was actually my favorite, just because so many loose ends were tied up so neatly. Could have done without some of the middle sections with Frodo and Sam… er, Harry and Hermione and Ron slogging through the marshes, but apart from that I thought book 7 was first-rate.

As for worst, I thought that 4 probably had the least plausible story (“Hey, the Dark Lord is starting to summon his minions again and the wizarding world will be thrown into upheaval! Let’s have a big sporting tournament!”) but did at least feature some nice character development, particularly for Neville Longbottom. But 5 was severely on my nerves and is the book I least want to re-read. Too much angst and yelling and frustration over being kept in the dark, etc. I just wanted to give Harry a good throttling through most of that book.

Anyway. Other opinions?

Well, book 5 was Harry at his whiniest, so I disliked this book the most. I liked the final book, I thought she did a good job wrapping it up, but I think I enjoyed the 1st book the best. In many ways, this is the most consistent book and cleanest read. A good kids book.


I’m in the minority on this one, but I thought 5 was the best. The ending was a bit convoluted, but I thought it was the richest in character development and took the hardest look at the trio, and Harry in particular. I like it when the hero is treated roughly (realistically?) by the author. Harry’s not a great kid, nor a perfect kid, just a kid with some pretty serious problems that he’s dealing with as best he can. It’s the book where he really starts becoming a man, I think, and that’s a pretty painful process (for him and the reader). He’s being a big baby jerk half the time, and the other half he’s showing incredible patience and maturity. The book is also rich in the detail work of the wizarding world that I love so much.

I also thought 4 was pretty weak, but mostly because of the creaky plot. If I’m being honest, though, I’ll admit that I was biting my nails and crying at the end like a wuss. But really I’ll have to nominate 6 as my personal worst. Nothing happened! (Except the one little thing at the end) Harry walks around saying that Malfoy’s up to something. No one believes him. Except Harry’s right this time! Whoa! It just seemed like a lot of space filler and really nothing more than a setup for 7.

Though I read all of the HP books when they came out, I’m a bit hazy as to what happened in which book. Still, I’ll always nominate Book 2 as my personal worst. After a great start, the second one nearly killed my interest. But then 3 came along and rescued things. Azkaban is probably my favorite, but Book 7 was really good. It could have been edited there in the middle, and I wouldn’t have minded.

My order:




I can’t really fault the first six books. They all held their own. I couldn’t even begin to find anything wrong with the first three or so in the series, since I was quite young when the first one came out, so the critic within me had yet to rear its ugly head. As far as I was concerned, Harry Potter was like Lord of the Rings, but without the annoying songs!

The only book I had a few misgivings with was actually the last one. I know it’s a pretty hard job writing the book to end a great series, and it could’ve been a lot worse as far as epic endings go. I mean, the story arcs that had been carried over from the rest of the series (Snape being a good example - his character development was almost as in depth as Harry’s by the end of that book, I reckon) were resolved pretty brilliantly, in my opinion. On that much Rowling is great. But I felt it was a bit rushed elsewhere.

My real problem was the introduction of the Deathly Hallows so late in the series. I was thinking it’d be the name of a forest or something, which seems stupid now. It just seems pretty far fetched to me that the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world could be so completely forgotten by almost everyone, and then conveniently discovered by the trio when Hermione reads the book Dumbledore’s given her and Harry notes Xenophilius Lovegood’s strange fashion sense. The fact the invisibility cloak Harry’s had in his keeping since he was eleven rather conveniently happens to be one of these priceless artifacts didn’t exactly help either: although it did make sense that Dumbledore planned all this, I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated in some sense.

I felt the Polyjuice Potion was overused, too. And for an Extremely Dangerous Dark Lord, Voldemort makes a lot of mistakes. But then he has to, because he’s an evil villain and it’s the rules, I guess. The book got on firmer footing as it went on, but I did not like the epilogue. It felt cheesy more than anything and I don’t think it added anything to the ending: what happens to Hermione, Luna and so on is skipped over (although Rowling mentions what happened to them in interviews). I vaguely remember reading Rowling wasn’t going to add it, but I guess it might have been her way of stopping spinoffs being made so she stuck it in there. Fair enough, not a big deal.

Don’t get me wrong though, I really did enjoy all the books. Whatever she writes next, I’m definitely going to read it. And it’s not like I could even begin to write anything like Harry Potter myself, so I can’t complain that much.

(And was I the only one that didn’t understand Mad Eye’s Moody anti-Snape defences? They didn’t seem to cause that much bother to Harry, Hermione, Ron and Lupin - although granted, they’re not Snape - but I still don’t see why it would stop Snape from doing anything. What good was tying his tongue if he visited?).

Gadarene, do you feel like expanding on your list? (Specifically, why the large gap before SS/PS and then another huge gap before CS? I mean, I see that you’re saying you think there’s a huge drop in quality, but what are your reasons?)

kh.4, I see what you’re saying about Polyjuice Potion being overused, but I actually kind of liked that they kept reusing it. After all, if you have this proven, near-undetectable method for impersonating someone else, it makes sense that you’d use it… a lot. It’s a nice departure from other series (book, TV, and otherwise – Star Trek, I’m looking at you) in which the characters come up with some really cool, really excellent defense against the bad guys, and then never use it again after the first time.

Prisoner of Azkaban = best book by far. This is the only Harry Potter book I read in ONE DAY, and is likely the only Harry Potter book I’ll ever re-read. I love the time-travel, werewolf, Mauranders and Sirius/Dementors stories (and of course Lupin, the best DADA teacher ever!), and it really stands on its own as a great book cuz it isn’t loaded with all that YOU KNOW WHO stuff - the only book in the series that doesn’t have SOME appearance by Lord Voldemort.

Goblet is the worst book, for reasons mentioned above, not to mention that it’s about 300 pages too long, and the Triwizard tournament is the stupidest plotline ever, from Harry getting picked (who DIDN’T see that coming?) to fake Moody planting a portkey in the maze.

Deathly Hallows is the best for my money, and I like 'em all so much that I can’t imagine picking one as a least favorite (although if there was a wand primed with an Avada Kedavra curse pointed at me, I’d pick Sorcerer’s Stone, because it’s the shortest).

How come Voldemort, so certain no one knew about the Horcrux gambit, never took steps to ensure the unavailability of the one man he ever told about wanting to do it?

I have an unusual favorite–

Chamber of Secrets is my favorite, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you why. Then comes Prisoner of Azkaban, Deathly Hallows, Goblet of Fire, and Half-Blood Prince, very tightly packed and subject to change in order. I quite enjoy all of those books, have read them multiple times (except for DH, but I will re-read it in the future) and revisit my favorite parts frequently.

SS/PS is just too quick for me, but at least it isn’t Order of the Phoenix, which is the only HP book I have never re-read. It’s not the whining CAPSLOCK OF RAGE ™ that drives me nuts (though I’m not thrilled by it), it’s the ceaseless, unending “wow, look at the horrible thing Umbridge is doing now” parade of chapters. OotP is the only HP book that I almost did not finish in one sitting, because I told myself that I simply could not take another chapter of Umbridge’s petty tyranny. Fortunately, the plot began to move on rather quickly after that.

I also was never really moved by Sirius, so the book’s climax had very little emotional kick for me. Still, the battle in the Dept. of Mysteries and the St. Mungo’s chapters are individual moments that I have read again, so I’m not saying that the book’s a total loss or anything. :slight_smile:

My list:

Goblet of Fire: So many plots to follow - the tournament, SPEW, Rita Skeeter, Hagrid’s ancestry, Ludo Bagman, the Weasley twins sneaking around, the awkwardness of young teenage romance, and of course, Voldemort’s return - everything inter-connected, and the Moody reveal was a great surprise, but she did a great job of dropping hints for sharp-eyed readers to pick up. Excellent example of how a mystery should be written, with great action scenes (the first and third tasks read so much better in the book than they were portrayed in the movie).

Prisoner of Azkaban: Again, a well-crafted mystery, the story of the four Marauders makes a nice emotional backdrop for the series as a whole, and the time-travel device was well-used for the ending. Also awesome was seeing Draco Malfoy and gang try to scare Harry dressed as dementors and get their asses kicked by Harry’s Patronus.

Order of the Phoenix: Like Goblet, many sub-plots to follow, and the double-struggle against the willfully ignorant ministry and the evil Voldemort meant some excitement at every turn. Highlights were the formation of Dumbledore’s Army (without Neville’s using that as a battle cry, the conclusion of Deathly Hallows would not have felt as triumphant), the introduction of Luna, the use of Rita Skeeter and Luna’s father’s magazine, Harry’s silent battle of wills against Umbridge (I liked that he constantly waved his scars from her punishment in the Minister’s face in the next two books), McGonagall’s not-silent battle of wills against her, the battle at the Ministry, the tender scene with Neville’s parents in St. Mungo’s, and, most of all, the Weasley twins’ escape.

Chamber of Secrets: I don’t know why this is so low on so many people’s lists. I found Lockhart to be great comic relief, Harry did a great job thinking on his toes (and showing faith in Dumbledore) in battle against the Basilisk and Riddle’s diary, and the series would totally not be the same without Dobby.

Deathly Hallows: Excellent wrap-up to the series, and great action in Gringott’s and Hogwarts, but otherwise, way too much wheel-spinning for me to rate it very high.

Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone: A fun introductory story, but after reading the others, you can’t help but notice a lot that doesn’t make sense. For one thing, having solvable puzzles in between the public and the stone is just dumb - what, you’re willing to let someone steal it as long as they’re skilled enough and smart enough? Hide it behind a fidelis charm or something like that. And the puzzles were one for each teacher that Harry had (and therefore the reader of Book 1 was familiar with) - but knowing now that there are numerous other courses offered as Hogwarts, the “theme” makes little sense. And they were so willing to destroy the stone after Quirrel was exposed, why so reluctuant to destroy it sooner, once they knew someone was after it? (Possible answer to some of this: they wanted to flush out the thief. But even so, why not secretly destroy it and allow a decoy to be stolen?)

Half-Blood Prince: Works as a Voldemort “origin story”, but otherwise, pretty plodding until the very end. Harry’s obsession with Malfoy began to get annoying after a while, and the identity of the “Prince” turned out to be of no story significance whatsoever (not to mention it made little sense for Snape to be so openly a Half-Blood when palling around with Death Eaters). And the romantic elements felt badly done as well.