Mike's Reviews > Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
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Sep 04, 07

Read in January, 2003

I'm not going to comment on the literary shortcomings of this book, the cliches, the painfully long narrative, the fact that the characters will not think about an issue for months, but then suddenly it becomes important again. Smarter people than me have already said all this.

What bothers me about the Harry Potter universe is its characterization of magic. Why is magic so easy in the Harry Potter universe? It's only moderately a matter of skill to use magic. Magic is mostly saying the correct word with the correct intonation and the correct flourish of the wand and boom! you've done something magical. If it were only for small things I don't think this would bother me so much, but the same works for more serious things, like killing someone.

There is so much that is contrary to logic (and I don't mean science, I mean how reasonable people would behave) in the magic of Harry Potter that it drives me crazy. Why is the magical world so separated from the real world? What is their interaction? If magic works in the muggle world, what is preventing someone like Voldemort from completely taking over the muggle world? What is preventing any character from killing any other character by simpling saying the killing curse at any time? Human decency? Obviously there are a lot of characters in the books that don't have any. This never made any sense to me.

I would like to draw a comparison with (and I'm sure people on a site about reading books will crucify me for mentioning TV, which is obviously incapable of being an art form) Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In Buffy, every time you use magic, you pay for it. For little things, like floating a pencil, you pay for it in concentration, and maybe a little physical energy, but not more than going for a walk. However, the more you take, the more you have to give back in one form or another. The show is not always entirely consistent on this, but the idea makes sense. To bring someone back from the dead, you have to kill something else, or pay some other kind of price. If you want to kill someone, there is a physical price, a mental price. Nothing is free. In Harry Potter, it seems like everything is free.

It's always put me off, and every time a fan tries to explain to me why I'm wrong it sounds like a deus ex machina, or just a plain old stretch.

Also, quidditch is the most pointless sport ever created. Only in 1 game out of 1000 does anything 99% of the action matter to the outcome of the game. Only the seeker and the bludgers mean anything.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 122) (122 new)


Phil You phrase some of my objections to HP very well.


McKell Um... It's a children's book.


Mike That's true, so why do people persist in explaining to me why it's brilliant on more than just that level? If kids like it and it gets them reading, that's great (although I personally think they're quite boring books), but this idea that they somehow transcend being children's books confuses me. That's just me anyway. It's one of those cases where I would dismiss it as "not for me" if not for the fact that everyone likes it so much.


McKell Well, I can see your reasoning. Some people just don't enjoy te books, while others do. For example, I personally detest the Twilight series, but loads of other people love them and despise me for despising the books. :) I guess it's just difference of opinion.


Eibhleann You see, the ability t use magic is genetic, and the wand is just to channel it. . . . there is some "Science" to it. And I disagree with your first paragraph because I just think your complaining that the characters are human.


message 6: by Dolly (new)

Dolly Wright Thanks for using the TV comparison. Although I've never seen that TV show, your description of it is fair game and it makes your point nicely. I agree that although the book is for children, it is still nice when children are captured by great literary works that are written for them, rather than illogical and unbalanced overly popular books.


Theresa Just thought I would let you know that when they the charaters do a powerful spell it does take a lot of energy from them. Hence Harry Potter blacking out at the end.


message 8: by Anna (last edited Jan 20, 2009 12:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna They did struggle with the magic. It wasn't easy. In the fourth book when they first see the killing curse put on a spider the professor then says that the entire class could try to do preform the curse on him then and he probably wouldn't get so much as a nose bleed. Nevile can't seem to do any spells correctly whereas Hermione gets them much faster then everyone else. I am kind of wondering if you read the book as it is made very clear that there is more to it then waving your wand and saying a few words. There is even a quote to that effect in the first book after Harry starts his lessons at Hogwarts.


Odette YES.

This is my biggest problem with Harry Potter. The magic makes absolutely no sense.

And the "but it's a kids' series" bothers me to no end. When I read things like Diane Duane's Young Wizards series and then look at Harry Potter, it makes me a bit sad.


message 10: by Liz (new) - rated it 1 star

Liz "and I'm sure people on a site about reading books will crucify me for mentioning TV, which is obviously incapable of being an art form"

I loled at that. I love this review, and I completely agree with you about quidditch.


Mmldog McKell wrote: "Well, I can see your reasoning. Some people just don't enjoy te books, while others do. For example, I personally detest the Twilight series, but loads of other people love them and despise me fo..."

I know, I hate twighlit, too. But Harry Potter is deeper. It has a whole layer behind it that you don't seem to get. all the way through the series, Ms. Rowling is allowing Harry Potter to grow up. He grows in the books, not just in age. I am very sorry that you do not see it. I take pity on you.


message 12: by Liz (new) - rated it 1 star

Liz Ha ha. I'm going to read Chamber of Secrets just to see if it gets better...


message 13: by Beth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beth Is this the only Harry Potter book you read? A couple of people above mention important revelations that unfold later in the series. Part of the brilliance of the series, I think, is that it initially seems like a very simple story, but it isn't. It's not truly a children's story, but it borrows from great children's literature and great epic tales of any kind.

I think others above have already made great arguments as to why the magic-isn't-logical-in-the-story theory doesn't quite work. Things become more complex as the story progresses. But it makes sense that you'd think that if you only read the first one, or maybe the first two. And obviously if the books didn't strike your fancy, you'd have no reason to go on.

But as someone who is obviously a fan of this series, I can't help but really encourage you to try again, maybe in the future at some point when the hoopla surrounding these books has really faded. People point to the Twilight series now as a comparison, as a series that people are crazy about, etc. But take a look at the people lining up for those books. They're hugely mostly teenage girls. At the very least, huge majority women. Not that there's anything wrong with that, obviously, but they don't hold the same cross-generational, cross-gender appeal that these do (and personally, I don't think they're actually good). I see the Harry Potter books as a whole as just one great example of the most basic and classic stories ever told, the most common reasons we read fiction. Good versus evil. Love conquering all. Friendship. Family. Growing up. Adventure. Basically...magic...but not necessarily of the wand-flourishing variety.


Alissa Bach Sounds like someone is a little bitter about not getting their Hogwarts letter ;-p


Devin Maybe you need to realise that JK Rowling didn't base her book around magic in other stories, such as the obviously much more deep and more artful Buffy (sarcasm)
If you read the whole series, you'd see firstly the connection to the Muggle World (book 6), and that magic is certainly not just about a word and a flourish of the wand - if that were so, what makes Dumbledore such a spectacular wizard?

Silliness.


message 16: by Ezmirelda (new)

Ezmirelda The facts in here are so wrong (you obivously didn't read much) that its just sad.
Read the books before you leave a review like this, seriously...


Andrew Quiditch the most pointless sport ever invented? What about most football codes especially that American gridiron!!! The whole point of sport is that is has no point - apart from using it as an advertising vehicle.

I can see that you are going to have problems with just about any book that has magic in it - except for the Philip Pullman series, but then again, they are on a totally different level.


message 18: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate I have come in to say. Harry Potter is an amazing series. Your free to have your opinion and everything, but really, you say the magic makes no sense? Well if you read the series at all carefully, you would know it does it ISNT easy for them to make spells happen, and you would know that if you saw the first movie!(I'm thinking the wingardium leviosa scene in flitwicks classroom)If you read the first harry potter book and that's it, you missed out on a lot. For me, i liked the first two books, the 3rd started getting really good, and the 4th on are truly amazing. I think JK Rowling truly grew as a writer, and as harry grew up, her writing got more complex and dense. By the end of the series I had felt humour, joy, sadnees, and anxiety reading the harry potter series and they are still my fave series to date. Please give them another chance. And really, its FICTION! it doesnt have to make complete sense! use your imagination!


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Agreed, and if you don't remember, or if you can't read, the label is "fiction". Do you not know what fiction is, or if magic is fiction? I don't understand how the books are boring. Do you think that a book with someone who goes to school learns how to learn magic is that boring? I am a child and I think that the majority of the kids love the books, and the grownups! It is not easy to do magic - from what you are writing it sounds as though you read maybe 2 or 3 chapters. They have to try really truly hard in order to learn magic, and as Kate said, think about the Wingardium Leviosa lesson - or, further on in the book, as you probably don't know, really, is the fact that he didn't even use magic to defeat Quirrel! He used his hands. I feel like if you are creating a fiction book there can only be so much logic.
Answer this question:
Is logic magic, or does it work with logic?


message 20: by Patrick (last edited Sep 08, 2010 01:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Patrick I'm glad that I wasn't the only one who recognized the deus ex machina


message 21: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina Muggle.


message 22: by Jenna (new)

Jenna If you don't like it don't read it :) For people that don't like it y'all sure are putting a lot of thought, time and effort into it.


Elizabeth Jenna wrote: "If you don't like it don't read it :) For people that don't like it y'all sure are putting a lot of thought, time and effort into it."

Exactly.


message 24: by Najd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Najd If J.K Rowling answered all these questions in the first book, then what's the point of making it into a series?

I'm assuming that you've read many books, and based on that I'm assuming that someone like you should, by now, realise that authors who come up with complex plots tend to leave a couple of questions unanswered to keep the readers coming. As a fan of the series I suggest that you actually read the subsequent books and I assure you, by the time you finish the seventh, all of your enquiries will be answered.

Magic isn't just a skill anyone can learn, you're born with it, it's (almost) genetic. Using the correct incantation and carrying a wand doesn't make you a wizard, your wand is merely a mean for you to channel your powers, the ones you were born with, through to perform magic.

The muggle world is separated from the magic world for a reason which you will later learn, if you were to finish the series.

Voldemort cannot take over the muggle world for very obvious reasons.

Magic isn't free, or even effortless. Magic does require you to "pay", you actually put an effort when performing complex spells. Simple spells don't require a lot of effort, I could compare this to your breathing, do you put an effort and actually exert yourself when you breathe normally? No, you don't, whereas when you're working out, your body actually burns off some energy and you feel drained afterwards. Same with magic, if it's simple it doesn't drain your energy, if it's complex it does. I could reason with you by pointing out that Harry fainted towards the end, and clearly that was because his energy was drained while he was fighting off Voldemort.

Again, I suggest you finish the series, it's really good. Have a nice day.


Hunter Hammond This is nothing personal, but I cannot stand it when people reduce such an incredible series to nuances of magic or literary qualities. What you're not considering is that HARRY POTTER ISN'T ABOUT MAGIC. Does it have magic in it? Yes. But this is NOT the central theme. The magical world is merely a setting for Rowling to communicate the real ideas of the series- loyalty, bravery, the struggle between good and evil, friendship, and above all, love. It isn't supposed to be realistic, because it is not the story of Hogwarts and the magical world and all the logistics of said world. Rowling could have written this book if she wanted to- her development of the magical world is much more complex and in depth than can be seen through the books. No, instead she chose to make it about a boy who lost everything and takes a stand against the forces of evil with his friends by his side. Personally, I feel that a story of such emotion and magnitude deserves recognition as a wonderful series, but that's just me. :)


message 26: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan I understand your critique and I have to admit..it seems as though you've upset the wizarding world here. I do not disagree with your criticisms since they are for the most part justified. But I think you're looking at it in the wrong context.

You see the world of magic that Rowling has created never attempts to explain itself in means of science or reason. In fact taking a closer look you'll find that Harry Potter is written more in terms of a parody of magic. Many elements of classic fantasy and lore are touched upon but not in a way that would usually be reasonable and sensible. It seems rather obvious that Harry lives in a world of nonsense. But the approach to how many of these elements are introduced is why I believe this book is so wildly popular (and why I personally like it as well).


message 27: by Sage (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sage I love this book!!! My mom loved her friends loved it and almost every kid my age loves it! For all you Harry Potter haters well you don't have to like it, but you are missing out big time.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

What is preventing any character from killing any other character by simpling saying the killing curse at any time? Human decency?

--

The same thing that is stopping me from running outside, and stabbing everyone with the knifes that are conveniently located in my kitchen drawer.
The law, the fact that I would feel bad afterward, motive, ect ect.

However, I do agree with other things you mentioned. :)


Sarah If only I could like the comments.


Blues For Eden The book was aimed for a child audience, goddamn it!


Natalie Did you ever consider to think after reading this book that maybe...just MAYBE...MAGIC ISN'T REAL??? This book is 100% FICTION! Do you know what the definition of that word means? It means that this story is NOT real. Everything in it is MADE UP! Stop talking about it as if it were a real life story! I don't see how you think the magic just "doesn't make sense." It's probably because IT DOESNT REALLY EXIST! Everyone has their own take and opinion on their own type of "magic." Don't bash her just because you don't "believe" in her type of made up magic.
Oh and PS- Quidditch isn't a real sport.


message 32: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 05, 2011 12:44AM) (new)

I do agree to some extent with your "Price of magic" complaint, but as others have said, there is a price.

Oh, and the answer to your question about why Voldemort doesn't just take over the muggle world is, he has no body. He is having to "piggyback" on someone else's.

Natalie wrote: ...maybe... just MAYBE...MAGIC ISN'T REAL??? This book is 100% FICTION!
The magic doesn't need to make sense, but it does. I am 13 and everyone I know has read these books. They all at least liked them.

@Everyone who pointed out that Harry Potter is a children's book: Don't insult us.

And if your wondering why people don't just kill each other, think about this, would you kill your best friend? Even if you could do magic, would you?
While there are some true monsters in this book, there are far more kind, compassionate and truly heroic characters.

Did you actually read the whole book? Because you have so many of the facts completely wrong, it makes me wonder.


message 33: by Hans (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hans Ng While i can say that you may have some valid points, most of them are explained in later books. E.g. Magic not costly? read the other books sir. Anyway, Quidditch boring? Have you seen a game of soccer? or baseball? or basketball? all seems like a bunch of people crowding around a ball to me. Boring.


message 34: by Hans (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hans Ng Flying? Now thats different


message 35: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay Jessmer For the love of everything holy---IT´S A CHILDRENS BOOK YOU BABBLING FREAKING DORK!!!!!! GET OVER YOUURSELF ALREADY!!! The thing is, I've not read anthing that you've written!


Madeleine - Tei I was a kid when I read this and honestly, I completely agree. I mean the plot sucked, obviously not much thought went into making sense and trying something new, but yet this book is very well written. However because of all the gaps I never felt ANY sort of want to be a wizard. I might have even felt a distaste for them. But in the end the book was good, the writing great, the idea bad. To me it's just like every other book out there, it never popped out at me for being amazing.


message 37: by Lily (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily so basically you dont like the way the magic is portrayed?? so obviously you know all about magic and can tell us what its really like.


Traveller Not that I'm a Harry Potter fan, but why are you looking for logic in a children's fantasy book? You don't get logic in any mythological tale, really, which is why it's called fantasy. You don't get logic in the Bible either, which is why you get told to simply believe it and not try to understand it.


Madeleine - Tei Traveller wrote: "Not that I'm a Harry Potter fan, but why are you looking for logic in a children's fantasy book? You don't get logic in any mythological tale, really, which is why it's called fantasy. You don't ..."

Not quite true, if you read the Bible often enough you will find logic in it. Well actually you need the Holy Spirit for that but the Bible does say that no one can understand the Bible without the filling of the Holy Spirit. It's actually a very simple book to understand.

However, the whole fantasy and mythology thing, I don't expect any sort of logic from those. They are made to make your imagination go wild and put ideas in your head that were never even possible before.


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Killing someone isn't too hard in the real world either...


message 41: by Alyssa (new)

Alyssa Yeah I agree. I have my other reasons why I don't like the series (I haven't read it but don't hate on me because of that. I've heard enough of the series to get a gist). One reason I don't like the series is because it's total fiction. Yes it is fiction book, but I can't relate to it in the real world. It's all at the magical Hogwarts. Maybe I'm biased because my favourite series is the Pecry Jackson series, but I feel I can relate to that better than HP. (sorry to go off on a mini rant there but I just had to say that somewhere)


message 42: by Aura (new) - rated it 5 stars

Aura Every question you pointed out in this review has been answered during the series. This is the sort of book necessarily to be read along with the rest of the series.


Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship Oi. Just because it's fiction doesn't mean it doesn't have to make sense. And I like Harry Potter!


Maheen This is not an individual book. It's a beautiful beginning, to just start Harry's journey - an an amazing journey. You are just a hater of good writing - face it.


Lowry In order to answer all your questions you need to read all the book it is in there. However I like your thoughts on the magic. I will need to think about his more and then get back because I can't think to much about the magic taking energy from the caster. On the other hand Jo dose talk about how some people can do different types magic better the others.


Magic The abilty to use magic is in the family of the wizard. Muggles are not important to Voldemort because they are not good for anything. They don't just kill each other because they have laws like Mugges do.


message 47: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean You read Harry Potter, don't say the name! 'VOLDAMORT!Lol


Somerandom You're complaining that there's no logic in the Magic?
Are you going to complain that Ronald Dhal killed off James' parents by stating they were eaten by a Rhino? How about the fact that you can't stretch out a boy using a taffy puller (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)
Of course, I think Mr Dhal is a fantastic children's author. But his novels didn't always make sense.
And how about the Lewis Carol novels? I swear that guy was on acid (loved them.)

It's fantasy (I'm a fan of Buffy the TV series, btw.)
You do pay for the magic you use, it is explained, the answers to your questions are found in later books.

I agree that it's not stunning literature, but it's a freaking kids book. The main focus is enthralling them into a different world and getting them to see that books can be just as entertaining as TV is.

Shesh. It's called imagination


message 49: by Geoff (new)

Geoff I really like your review. Have you checked out leebrii.com? It's a streamlined approach to connecting people & books. It would be great to have you join the community.


Cheyenne I enjoyed reading your review but there were just a few things I wanted to point out. The first thing is that you said that magic should only make small things happen not so harmful that it could kill you. That kind of bothered me because who are you to determine what magic is! Also I think that a big part of the book is that some magic is free and some magic is not. If you use magic to kill someone you have guilt. If you just make something fly then nothing bad happened. Well that's it! I did enjoy reading your review!


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