One of the most delicate, complex and controversial operations in literary criticism is to correctly rank the seven books of the Harry Potter saga. And don’t you say to me it’s not possible, everyone has their own taste. Yes, yes, I acknowledge that. But while I acknowledge that I also want the fun of comparing, grading and ranking. So if you can’t stomach it, better leave here, because the following essay will be tough, unflinching and completely intellectually rigorous. At last, we will find out WHICH is the best Potter.
To increase suspension, I will start from the WORST and work myself up to the BEST. Be certain here, though, that as we are talking Harry Potter, the “worst” in this context is still better than 90% of anything else. For each book, I will first make a pros and cons list, citing the singular advantages and weaknesses they offer in comparison to their companions. Then, I will write out a short statement giving more detailed reason for my decision. And now, without further ado, let us begin!
NUMBER 7 – The ABSOLUTE WORST OF THE WORST! – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Who cares about the Dursley’s?! How lame is Quirrel? Nobody likes kid detectives!
+ Hey, it’s the origins, right? Everything we love is introduced: Wands, owls, Quidditch, freaking wizard chess!! Our guys come together.
+ This advantage is shared by all pre-Goblet books: Harry and his readers still inhabit a generally sunny world free of care and politics. We get to enjoy the sparkling creativity of magic without having to worry about discrimination of house elves, authoritarianism or the stinkin’ media!
+ None of the other books feature a close-up encounter with a troll, not to mention troll bogeys!
+ Wingardium Leviosa!
+ We get to wonder whether Neville is actually a hero or so craven about losing house points that he is even ready to attack his friends. I personally disagree with Dumbly’s judgment at the end. Neville caved to peer pressure. Not very Gryffindor!
+ The mirror Erased
– The first chapter from hell. We know it’s important to show the dullness and drag of the world Harry Potter escapes from, but seriously, focusing on thehe Dursleys in the very first chapter of the saga was kind of a risk Rowling took. Every time I reread the books, getting through Vernon Dursley’s work day is tedious all over.
– Even though he features the antagonist of antagonists on the backside of his head, Professor Quarrel is a nonentity throughout the book. Of course this is because it’s part of Rowling’s spiel of surprising readers. Still, he’s a complete blank. Luckily, though, we get the Gilderoy in the next book as a thorough compensation.
– The Shape-bashing. It’s mostly a side-effect of rereading, but it’s hard to take the constant suspicion of Snape. Poor guy always does the right thing, yet never can get credit.
– Yes, we realize it’s still more of a children’s book, but Harry really seems like a Goody Good-Good. So righteous and brave. Give me a break. But I guess this is what inevitably happens when you’re the star of your own youth-book series. While almost every HP book is also a detective story, the Jonas Brothers vibe is just too stronk in this one.
It was fairly easy for me to rank the first HP book at the bottom of the series, because the book that has to introduce everything and everyone usually suffers from a lack of drama compared to the following volumes where readers already know what’s what. As an author that’s probably how you want to be ranked – increasingly better.
HP 1 is sweet, funny, clever, dark and adventurous. It’s a perfectly fine adventure story and a great setup for what is yet to come. It’s filled with information that will come to full fruition in later volumes, such as Hagrid’s comments on the new Minister of Magic or his and Harry’s visit to Gringotts. On the other hand, it’s also the one book that is the most insulated from the others. Voldemort’s failed attempt to regain power is of little consequence for the other books while we encounter a Horcrux in Chamber and Azkaban introduces Sirius Black and the fateful past of Harry’s father. To sum up, the entirety of Philosopher’s Stone feels like a prologue, but what a prologue it is. Enjoy the Halloween and Christmas meals, Harry, and the Quidditch and the sunny days by the lake. Soon, very soon, it will get a hell of a lot darker.