Three Star review, originally posted here on May 13, 2016.
Continuing my couple-decade-late attempt to catch up with this whole Harry Potter phenomenon…
Okay, I have to admit that Rowling is starting to lose me at this point. My favorite thing about the first two books was being introduced to the magical world of magic. By book #3, to me it felt like we got less of the imaginative world-building and more of just following Harry himself and slowly unveiling whatever this crap is with Voldemort. For 3 books now I haven’t gotten into the Voldemort storyline, maybe because I get the sense that if Harry just asked Dumbledore once to sit him down and explain shit to him, we wouldn’t have to slowly drag the revelations out over a gajillion super-long books.
This switch from focusing on the setting to focusing more on the protagonist makes sense since by this point I guess we should already have a firm grasp of the setting, but the main problem I have is that this protagonist is just plain not likable. Harry Potter is such an irresponsible, self-centered brat and I just want to give him a good smacking (not really, but maybe a good stern talking-to?). The entire book is supposed to be about a dangerous escaped murdered who is coming after Harry Potter, and the entire wizard AND muggle worlds are terrified and paranoid and turned upside-down, and Harry Potter is at the center of it all, so he should be appreciating the gravity of the situation, but instead all he gives a shit about is quidditch and going to town for soda and candy. Presumably Harry should be learning some life lessons along the way and realizing how selfish he’s been, which would make this a decent kids’ book sinec the kids can grow and mature and learn along with Harry, but instead I don’t think Harry really seems to learn anything. He just keeps getting knowing winks from Dumbledore (who, if he’s really the greatest wizard of all time, is sure as shit not very good at keeping terrible things from happening inside his school) and tons of admiration and attention for no reason that I can decipher while also breaking all the rules and being generally reckless and irresponsible.
Other stuff that bugged me:
1. I can’t stand quidditch. This game makes no sense. They only play 3 games in the entire year-long season. THREE GAMES! WTF?! To me it felt like half this book was quidditch-driven, which sucked out some fun for me. But that’s 100% just personal preference.
2. We get introduced to some new adult characters over the course of the book, but for some reason Rowling includes very little description of them. This confused me because I feel like in the 1st two books she did such an amazing job really making you see and feel exactly what each character is like, but these new dudes are just kinda there and I have no clue what they are like. Someone told me that Gary Oldman plays one of them in the movie, and I was like “Sure, I could see that.” But you could just as well have told me that the same character was being played by pretty much any other human being on the planet and it would make just as much sense, as long as the costume department makes sure their robe is kinda wrinkled.
3. I didn’t really feel like there was anything new in this book. I felt like I was just reading the first book all over again, just with less fun stuff. These books are all such a blur so far that I honestly cannot tell you if I’ve seen the movie version for this or not. I’m not sure that this book really added anything at all to my enjoyment of the series that I did not already get from the 1st 2 books. This has me worried about whether my enjoyment will just keep dropping more and more over time if/as I keep reading.
All this makes it sound like I hated this book, which isn’t really the case. It was fine. I’m just kinda neutral on it. I think if I was a kid growing up with the series I would have still gotten into this book not so much because it stands on its own, but because I’d just want to stretch out the fun from the 1st two books (similar to how I kinda forced myself to like the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie). But as an adult only getting started on them now, I’m kinda underwhelmed. Hence I’m dropping from 4 stars (given to the 1st 2 books) to 3 stars this time around. Still ok. Just not amazing.