Well, I just read the Harry Potter series (thoughts, questions, SPOILERS aplenty)

I avoided it for years because of all the hype, but I finally got around to reading it this week, and it was damn good. Sort of like Enid Blyton + JRR Tolkien + Charles Dickens – a good mix of the best of British children’s/teen’s literature. She also has the subtle-yet-vicious British sense of humour.

I was surprised at how adult a lot of it was – especially the political themes. It did not surprise me at all to find out she used to work for Amnesty International.

Just some thoughts, questions, random speculation:[ol][li]First of all, I really enjoyed the political themes, but it kept raising one nagging question: who does Cornelius Fudge answer to? Half the time, he seems like petty, bureaucratic dictator, the other half like an elected official. I guess what I’m asking is what kind of government system are they under? At first I thought that Minister of Magic was somehow operating secretly under the British government (something like the alien laboratory in Independence Day), but that raises just too many problems. Has Rowling ever clarified this? Could they just vote Fudge out, when his term is over?[/li][li]I’m really enjoying some of the websites out there on translation of the series. With all the puns, wordplay, riddles, colloquialisms, parody, etc, this series was probably a nightmare to translate. The real stumper seems to have been the “I am Lord Voldemort” anagram (see the bottom of this page). Most languages did it very well, though the Japanese translator just gave up and wrote it in English. The French translator, I see, gave Tom the middle name “Elvis,” so now I’m now I’m picturing Voldemort singing “Blue Suede Shoes.” Another great site is this one, which goes over the many, many problems with translating the story into Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese, including many of the translation errors.[/li][li]Any speculation on “the half-blood prince”? I’m in the Godric Gryffindor camp, myself – especially since it was a working title for the second book, where the sword of Gryffindor turns up. A prince seems more appropriate to the middle ages, and it seems significant to me that James and Lily died in a place called Godric’s Hollow. Also, the sorting hat’s been giving a lot of history lessons, lately.[/li]General thoughts and questions? Did you feel it lived up to the hype?[/ol]

My post got eaten again. Bah. Stupid auto-disconnect.

It seems to me that Rowling isn’t having as much fun any more. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to keep up all those inventive touches under pressure, but nothing in the last book really made me smile*. I also feel that as the books get bigger and bigger, they become more and more thinly spread out. Take the much-hyped death-- I had to go back a few times to pinpoint the exact moment. One minute he’s there, and then… What a lousily-written death. I know that Rowling goes quite far into the heads of her characters (who were all rather occupied at the time), but it’s a very important event and she could have pulled back the camera a bit to show the reader what’s going on. [/sulk]

As for living up to the hype… nothing ever lives up to the hype.
*I did read it all in one sitting, so maybe it was just tiredness on my part.

Actually, it impressed me because it was very different from what I’m used to, and probably more realistic. No Shakespearean monologues, no soliloquys, no self-sacrificing martyrdom – he’s just a decent guy, in the wrong place and wrong time, and is executed as a nobody, which is how Voldemort sees him – “the spare.”

It’s an empty death. Voldemort doesn’t even explain to Cedric why he’s killing him (which villains tend to do in these kind of stories). It’s meant to be chilling, and I think she pulls it off.

It took me a few seconds to realize he was dead, and IIRC, the hero doesn’t realize Cedric’s already gone. She captured the shock nicely, I thought.

Ummm, Sutremain was talking about

Sirius Black

dying in The Order Of The Phoenix.

…[li]General thoughts and questions? Did you feel it lived up to the hype?[/list][/li][/QUOTE]

I too only read the series within the past year, and I was fairly impressed as well. I agreed to read those books at my sisters recommendation (she is a teacher of ankle biters and is very familiar with the books), if she read some Tolkien. I like how the books progress in maturity to keep pace with the main characters age. The humor is excellent (Lockheart takes the cake), and overall they were pretty well written, even if they do read so darned fast. And I love that she doesn’t fall into the Politically-Correct trap. Granted, so many Britishisms were used that I had to occasionally google them, but it added a nice atmosphere to the books.

Worth the hype? Not neccisarily for the books themselves, but my sister tells me that those were the first books she saw many of her students reading on their own (not for homework or something), so if it sparks an interest in books among the X-Box generation, then so much the better.

My single real complaint with the series (and this is after a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief) is how the wizards seem utterly retarded when it comes to ‘muggle’ technology. I mean, if Hogmeade is supposed to be the only ‘all wizard’ villiage in Britain, then it follows that most wizards in Britain live among the muggle population. How hard can it be to figure out ‘muggle money’ fo Pete’s sake? I lived in Mexico for a while, and I somehow managed to divine the mysteries of the Peso. Surely these wizards couldn’t be so stupid when it comes to figuring out that a 10-pound note is the little slip of paper with (presumably) a 10 on it? Sheesh.

And the whole broomstick thing just doesn’t play out, when you think about it. How the hell is a man going to sit on a wooden pole without damaging the wedding tackle? Especially if they are flying all over the place and jostling about during quidditch matches. (Of course, a bit of suspsension of disbelief takes care of that, but still…)

And while I am at it, WTF is up with Dumbledore just sort of letting a kid live with abusive family? Yes yes, I read Order of the Phoenix, but that’s a crock of crap. He lives at school for most of the year, why not just let him stay there? It’s not like his life isn’t in constant peril there. But nope, he get ‘NO MORE WIRE HANGERS’ for a few months of the year, for a BS reason. (IMO.)


Well, that death did seem a little odd to me, but more because it felt like the setup of something else coming. I mean, if Rowling wanted to kill him off just for the sake of the story, she would just have tossed an avada kedavra his way. Also, Rowling dropped a hint that the mirror he gave Harry would still play an important role in things, so I suspect we might se him again (Sir Nicholas’s speech notwithstanding)…

Besides, dead characters have a habit of showing up again in this series – in mirrors, as ghosts, out of wands, painted pictures…

Powerful Cushioning Charms are placed on the shafts when the brooms are made. (Qudditch Through The Ages)

I think you misunderstood OOTP. Voldemort CANNOT harm Harry as long he is under the care of blood relatives. If he stayed at Hogwarts, Voldy could show up, kill everybody and murder Harry before Dumbledore could get those crooked spectacles on.

Well, I noticed that the brooms aren’t well described in the books – they mention the brand name mark, and occasionally the broom’s straws. I guess it’s not inconceivable that they have some sort of saddle or bicycle seat on them.

I had trouble with this too, but not because I didn’t believe Dumbledore. I pictured a conversation going something like this:

DUMBLEDORE: As long as you return there once a year, the charm will be sealed.
HARRY: No prob. I can live 24 hours with the Dursleys. What time can you pick me up?
DUMBLEDORE: 2 months from now.

Anyway, he could stay at the Weasley’s, if school’s impossible. He can have Percy’s room. Hell, he could pay rent, if they really can’t support him.

I bow to your erudition :wink:

That’s not how I interpreted it.

The protection spell is what hurt Quirrell – clearly it operates on him when he’s at Hogwarts. Dumbledore said he needs only return to the Dursley’s once per year, and has to be able to call the place “home.” So he really only has to spend the night there once each summer, and that should be enough.

No, no, no. Quirrell was hurt because Lily’s sacrifice had imbued Harry with the most powerful magic of all, that of pure love. Quirrell, being corrupt, was unable to come in contact with that without being burned.

After the ‘incident,’ Dumbledore enacted the “ancient magic” protection, wherein Harry cannot be harmed while he calls the hosue of his blood relatives home. Trying to cheat that through a loophole, only staying the night, won’t cut it.

I was going to write you off as one of those that took Harry Potter a bit too seriously until I Amazoned it ;). Worth a read?

I got the gist of that from OOTP, and I had the same notion as Hamish:

Regardless, does this mean that the showdown at the end of GoF was pointless? Harry could have just flipped Voldy the bird and laughed? (Assuming that the deatheaters wouldn’t fry him.) Shrug

I know that the Harry Potter ‘world’ isn’t as fleshed out as Middle Earth or The Forgotten Realms or some other fantasy worlds. You just have to accept some stuff at face value. But still, nitpicking is a fine sport in and of itself…

I wasn’t clear: while Harry is physically at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, he cannot be harmed. He is safe at Hogwarts while Dumbledore is there, along with the teachers, but that isn’t good enough when school isn’t in session.

RE: the end of GoF, the Deatheaters could have killed Harry, but due to their magical bond, had Voldy tried to AK Harry he would have destroyed himself in the process, hence the Priori Incantatem and Dumbledore’s “gleam of triumph.”

For reference:

(emphasis mine)

Of course, that leaves open the question of how it was that Quirrell died just by touching him; I was given to understand it was the same charm, but that happened at Hogwarts.

The government system is still a puzzler. It’s kind of odd to have OOTP about the government when you don’t even know what their system is so you can’t tell what they’re satirizing. (The only clue we get is a reference to the “Muggle prime minister.”)

I got the feeling that he isn’t dead, just… gone. I believe there was something mentioned about going ‘beyond the veil’? Whether he is dead or not, it was less well done (imo) than Cedric’s death. It just… happened, and in a matter of half a sentence. I probably should re-read the books I’ve got, because reading about all you people knowing about cushioning charms makes me feel vaguely embarrassed.

As the quote which was posted above says he is totally safe while he is there. But also look at the part I bolded. If he stays there once a year, he can’t really call it ‘home’, can he?

Well it was somewhat of a different charm. Lilly’s love protected Harry from Voldy and that carried over to when Qurrell (with Voldy in tow) touched him. This charm deals with the Dursley’s home.

About the Half Blood Prince - My WAG is that it will be Hagrid.

I was lucky enough to begin the series when the hype was noticeable but not unavoidable. That is, after the release of Prisoner of Azkaban but before the buildup to Goblet of Fire began and well before the first movie. I’d seen the series mentioned in the New York Times book section and knew that it was an unsually successful British children’s/YA series about a boy at a school for wizards. I’d also heard that the books were doing well enough with adults that there were “adult cover” editions in the UK for people embarassed to be seen reading something that looked like a kiddie book. But that was the extent of my knowledge. I was a senior in high school at the time, and didn’t know anyone who’d read the books.

My mother was the one who brought the first three books home. She did her Master’s thesis on kids and reading, and was very curious and excited to hear about a new series of books that wasn’t just popular with kids but was popular with kids who previously had no interest in recreational reading. On those terms, I think the Harry Potter books more than live up to their hype. I’d rank it pretty highly as kid’s fantasy goes, and it has managed to appeal to readers who don’t have any special interest in the fantasy genre. When compared to past hit kid’s series like the Goosebumps books…well, HP is so much better that it seems silly to even mention the two in the same sentence.

I’m not sure how I’d feel about the HP books if I’d been under the impression that they represented fantasy literature’s greatest triumph or something, but they also live up to their reputation as being books that are targeted at kids while still being interesting and entertaining for adults. I can think of other YA fantasy novels that I’d consider just as worthy of adult reading, but not many I’d consider better and plenty I’d consider much worse. When it comes to writing style and quality, there are plenty of adult bestsellers that are outclassed by HP.

Rowling has managed to create an appealing setting that seems fun and magical while still being very much the kind of educational institution familiar to kids around the world, likeable characters who resemble stock types (“sarcastic, unfair teacher”, “know-it-all girl”) but show more depth, strong plots that drive the story, and some fine moments of both humor and horror. She also works in political/social themes and a general message of tolerance for others without being too heavyhanded or preachy. The “pureblood” vs. “mudblood” angle is pretty obvious, but Rowling’s commentary on discrimination against people suffering from illness, disability, or “otherness” strikes me as unusually subtle and well-done. And she never forgets that her characters and primary audience consists of kids, so there’s always plenty of candy, toys, games, and pranks. So while I don’t think the HP books are the best things ever, I think they’re quite good and probably deserve to be the world’s most popular kid’s series to date.

I just spent the last week re-reading the five books, (Ah, teacher’s summer vacation!) as well as listening to audio files of four books. And I have a whole SLEW of questions and speculations… if anyone cares to share?

Whatever happened to Harry’s maternal grandparents? According to Aunt Petunia, both her parents were still alive when Lily was accepted into Hogwarts and were ‘very proud’ of her. Yet by the time Harry was born, they were dead, and Harry had no other living relatives. (Which is a real shame, since they seem very supportive of Lily.) This also raises questions about James Potter’s wizarding parents. Are all these (apparent) deaths somehow significant? Somehow linked?

My guess is that the “Half-blood prince” is a not an established character, but a brand new personality, since every title introduces new things, events, organizations we’ve not seen before. (So, no Hagrid as prince. But I’d be delighted to be wrong!)

There was a throwaway line in OotP that when the breakout at Alkaban occurred, it was so dangerous a situation that Muggle authorities had to be alerted that Dark wizards were on the loose in England. It seems that the highest levels of Muggle government are aware of the existence of the wizarding world. It might also be true that the monarchy knows of wizards, too, and that the half-blood prince is of British royalty - maybe even a fictional pastiche of prince William or something.

My hope is the prince is a vampire – vampires being the only major magical creatures not really discussed yet in the series. It seems dumb to omit them.

Assuming it IS an established character, my three guess is that the 'half-blood prince" is:

[spoiler]1) The Bloody Baron. You can be a titular baron and actually BE a prince. Besides the obvious “blood” connection, think about it: why is it that Slytherin’s ghost remains the only supporting character we’ve not really heard from directly? Everything we know about the Baron comes from Nearly Headless Nick, who holds him in high regard. The Baron seems to be the Top Ghost at Hogwarts. Obviously he must be fairly formidable if he can control Peeves the poltergeist. What’s his relationship with Draco Malfoy and the other Slytherins? What was his relationship to Voldemort when the Dark Lord was in school?

  1. Albus Dumbledore. No, he doesn’t seem like nobility, but let’s face it: I’ve read ‘Good-bye Mr. Chiops’ and he doesn’t seem like an English Boarding School Headmaster either. Plus we have little idea what nobility means to the wizarding world. But the half-blood thing is interesting, Doesn’t it strike anyone odd that two of the most powerful wizards we’ve seen so far: (Harry and Voldemort) are actually half-blood wizards? So why not Dumbledore?

  2. Peeves. here’s a whacked out theory: Peeves is actually Prince Peeves, that he died a violent death thousand of years ago. Hogwarts is actually his castle, which he lent to Ravenclaw, Griffendor, Slytherin and Hufflepuff in the days of yore to build the school. It’s his ancient contribution that explains why no one can get rid of him. It’s Peeves’ half-Muggle ancestry that helped shaped Slytherin’s low opinion of Muggles.[/spoiler]

Speculation that Petunia Evans Dursley is a squib and thet Dudley is a half-bllod prince seem to be unfounded. I think she and Mr. Dursley are profoundly Muggle. I am curious however, how much exposure she’s had to the wizarding world --whether she’s ever been to Diagon Alley with Harry’s mother, shopping for school supplies, for example.

Exactly how old is the wandmaker, Mr. Ollivander? How do you suppose he got ahold of Fawkes’ feathers to make the cores of Voldemort’s and Harry’s wands?

The growing attraction between Hermione and Ron becomes a lot more apparent when you pay close attention to their interactions over the last five books, and see their bickering for what it is: hormonal adolescent flirting. Ron, above else, is awed by her intelligence and likes her looks. I don’t quite get the attraction Hermione has for Ron, though… although he’s clearly the tallest and funniest of the three with the strongest family ties (Percy notwithstanding), he’s awfully self-pitying at times. Hermione seems amused Ron has no clue how to deal with girls.

There was a thread not too long ago where we were debating whether wizards NEEDED their wands to do magic. I cited the Weasly’s twins prank charms as seemingly wandless magic, but other Dopers weren’t as convinced. But it was established by Professor Snape back in the first book that the creation of potions rarely needed a magic wand, and we learn in GoF that non-human magical creatures are prevented from using wands – that would seem to imply ghosts, goblins, house-elves, giants, dementors and whatever, too. So I was wondering – Is it societal disapproval because he didn’t finish Hogwarts, or wizarding law because he’s half-giant, that prevents Hagrid from practicing magic with his wand?

If I have any complaint about the series as a whole, it’s that J.K. Rowling has given Hermione the most short shift of the three lead chartacters when it comes to developing her Muggle home life and family background. Hermione’s parents – on the two occassions I’ve seen them referenced – don’t interact with anyone outside of maybe the Weasleys and that happens decidedly off-page. They don’t even have dialogue. When (if ever) do we get to see Hermione’s home life? Her Muggle home? How do they interact with other Muggles, explaining Hermione’s absences and abilities? How do they react to wizards? I’d love for Harry and Ron to visit, if only so Harry can see what a supportive Muggle home life is like. (Mr. Weasley would get a kick out of that, too.)

I just wanted to say that while I have read most of them and enjoy them (except for the latest one, which isn’t out on paperback yet, I don’t think) I cn’t re-read them for some reason. Considering I re-read *everything * (you should see my copy of Watership Down, it’s so well-worn and well-loved) it’s kind of a waste for me.

I’m not sure what quality in the books causes that. But I do love them, just not as well as the rest of my sci-fi fantasy collection.

Um, Harry isnt a ‘mudblood’ or haflbreed, BOTH his parents were wizards…he may be first generation ‘pure’ but both parents were magic-slingers.