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I thought on first reading it that this was one of the less successful of the Harry Potter books, and my prejudices were confirmed re-reading it now. It's rather marking time between the scene-setting of volume 1 and the big reveals of volume 3. It's also marred by the poor world-building of the politics of wizardry - the nature of the power relationships between the Minister for Magic, Lucius Malfoy, Dumbledore and the Weasleys' father is never made very clear or credible. It seems extraordinary that no action beyond sidelining Dumbledore is taken after the outbreak of petrifactions, and even more extraordinary that the fraudulent Gilderoy Lockhart is allowed to remain in his job for a week, never mind three terms. Do the parents of Hogwarts pupils not care about their children being turned to stone, or set exam questions on their teachers' autobiographies?

(One other niggle: given that Harry is so rich, why doesn't he upgrade the Gryffindor Quidditch team's broomsticks and get Ron a new wand?)

There are two saving graces to the book, though. The first is the diary - an artifact that seduces poor Ginny to do evil, that maintains Voldemort's secret original identity. It's a very creepy betrayal of intimacy. (Of course, if your diary is a Livejournal, it talks back to you in many voices...)

The other is the key moral message of the book that bigotry is wrong. It's not only the nastiness of cheap insults like "Mudblood" and "Squib" and the consciousness of wizardly privilege; there's also the moment when Harry inadvertently exposes himself as a Parseltongue, and his reputation plummets. It's character-building for him, and hopefully thought-provoking for those readers who may not previously have had to think much about prejudice and privilege.

Anyway, Azkaban next, which is my favourite of the series.

< Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows | The Tales of Beedle the Bard >


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC)
It's probably my least favourite of the books too.

Re: why no new wand for Ron? Because Ron would flip out and claim he didn't want anyone's pity/charity and generally get into a teenage boy sulk about it, and at that point Harry isn't sneaky enough to give him a new wand without Ron finding out who its from.
Mar. 10th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
Harry isn't USED to being rich and doesn't think that way. I think that before he became a wizard he may never have had ANY money to spend.

Buying brooms for the whole team may not even be legal for a kid -- assuming he could trot off to Diagon Alley and make a withdrawal, since they don't appear to have credit cards or ATMs and thus if he wanted to buy something for the team he'd have to BE there.

Redfiona of course got it for the reason he didn't buy a wand for Ron. He wouldn't want to accept it. And I suspect his parents wouldn't accept charity from a child either.
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
Azkban is far and away my favorite as well. After that the books started getting way too long.

Rowling's strength is in the small details - she is really a genius in those. But her world-building - oy!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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