Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Reread Review (Mario)

I hated this book the first time I read it. This is the only volume in the entire series that I’ve read only once. That makes this my second time reading it and I have to admit I had a big change of heart. My appreciation for this book was so radically altered the second time around that it stuck out in the back of my mind while reading. “Oh, this bit is better than I remembered.” “I don’t even remember this part. This is really well done.” The differences in my response to this book from the first and second time reading it will forever colour my reaction and response to the entire series. My initial response to The Deathly Hallows is partly responsible for my waning interest in the franchise throughout the last few years. One thing is for sure, The Deathly Hallows is a very good book. It might not be surprising to hear this from fans of the final book in the Harry Potter series. It’s a new discovery for me and I’m glad I can finally appreciate what this book has to offer because all of the major elements of the series get wrapped up and explained at length.

Before starting the Harry Potter reread I was already very familiar with books 1 to 5 because I had reread them all so many times during my teens. I remembered pretty large chunks of the sixth book, some of it in detail, some of it only vaguely. The final book was more or less completely unremembered. If you were to ask me what it was about I would have told you the book is about Harry, Ron, and Hermione bumming around in the forests of Great Britain doing a shit ton of slacking off and whining about how Dumbledore failed as the protector of the Wizarding World since he didn’t provide Harry and the gang with any useful information. Sure, they do bum around in the middle of the forests and any other secluded area they can find, but the book is about more than that. The only part of the book I remembered were the parts I had really disliked. I remembered the bitching and moaning, the terrible epilogue, and everything else, everything that was and is really good about the book, has remained forgotten until just a few weeks ago.

The Deathly Hallows has its problems but the strengths of the story, the culmination of the plot from previous books, and the delightful character moments sprinkled throughout make it a worthwhile read.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Reread Review (Myriam)

Seeing as all good things must come to an end (even though we don’t want them too), I have completed my reread of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series. This is where all the pieces of the puzzle come together to reveal the big picture. As we’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, we will be able to conclude that not all aspects of the story will be analysed in this post. I have chosen to focus on two main sets of topics, and tracing the parallels between them. The first section will examine the links between three of the greatest wizards in recent history, while the second will be devoted to the comparisons of Hallows and Horcruxes.

Dumbledore, Grindelwald and Voldemort (the good, the bad and the ugly)
I do realize that Harry is the hero of the story, and I in no way want to contest that fact. Seeing as Harry was probably the most developed character, with good reason, I feel he has already been analyzed through and through. That is the reason for which I chose to examine three other great wizards, powerful in their own right, and see how they are connected to one another and possibly uncovering some interesting links that could have had an influence on Harry.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Reread Review (Mario)

The sixth book radically changes the course of the series, more than any previous book before it. Up to this point, Harry Potter has been a slice of life, wainscot fantasy series. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, wainscot fantasy (or wainscot fiction in general) is a story in which there is a hidden world “hiding behind the wainscot”. The story often begins with the protagonist’s discovery of the hidden world. Another example of wainscot fantasy is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman in which there is another London that exists below the city we all know from the real world. Unsurprisingly, it’s called London Below. Harry Potter falls into this category of fiction because the Wizarding World co-exists with the real world and this co-existence happens completely unbeknownst to those who are not part of the hidden world. Part of the popularity of the series has to do with the idea that, as described in the novels, the Wizarding World could be real. I know that I’m not the only person to have day dreamed about receiving my very own letter from Hogwarts, proving to me that I was a wizard but, more importantly, that the world depicted in Harry Potter is real. So, without a Hogwarts letter of our very own, the next best way of being part of that world was to read the books. The discovery of the hidden world and the exploration of the relationship between the Muggle world and the Wizarding Community is a fundamental component of the series. The sixth book changes that’s, not by eliminating that component but by shifting the focus away from it considerably.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Reread Review (Myriam)

So here we are, book six of the series. Seeing as a lot of the focus was on more specific plots in the fifth book, this book focuses much more on the pieces that make up the big picture. We are nearing the end, and that means that all loose ends are being tied up and that all smaller plots are being connected to the main one. I enjoy this book mostly for the character development going on. That is the reason for which I will analyse this book on a character basis. The majority of characters that stood out to me for analysis have been around for most of the series, while others make an appearance for the first time. Ironically enough, I have selected a total of seven characters. This is probably my subconscious acting out from a Harry Potter overdose.

1. Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister for Magic
Let’s start with the new Minister for Magic. The author is deviating more and more from her preferred format used in the past and chose to start off with the introduction of the new Minister for magic with the muggle Prime Minister. Now that it has been made more than obvious that Voldemort has returned, Fudge could no longer hide behind his facade of delusion and has chosen to resign. He must therefore introduce the new Minister to the muggle Prime Minister. It is clear right from the start that Scrimgeour is quite different from Fudge. The ex-auror is a strong, reliable figure in which the magic community can trust. This is quite the opposite of the fearful and easily manipulated Fudge. This replacement is not afraid to take action and understands the urgency and menacing nature of the situation. It is quite apparent that there is a clashing of two worlds as the distinction between both worlds lessens with the darkness of the one affecting the other. This is serious business! The fact that the Minister for Magic and the muggle Prime Minister meet and discuss this fact is an indication of its severity. You know things are bad when you have to blow your cover in order to survive.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Reread Review (Mario)

I used to think that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was one of my favourite books in the series, but after rereading the fifth book really have to disagree with myself. It’s a good book, most definitely, but the more complex Rowling’s universe becomes, the more there are inconsistencies and small plot holes. That’s in addition to how the story also starts to feel bloated. I’m not sure how to feel about it. When I was rereading the fourth book, I knew going in that I had issues with some of the plot points, but I didn’t recall having issues with this book. Really though, what upsets me the most is just how fucking annoying Harry is. He’s fifteen and whinier than ever. I just want to sit him down and have an intervention. Dumbledore also acts rather irresponsibly. Maybe I should have a sit down with him too. Really though, that’s the most frustrating thing about this book: how some members of the regular cast seem to have lost their marbles or are just incredibly annoying. Many of the new characters, despite their short appearances, really flesh out the world of Harry Potter and leave a lasting impression. It’s in great part because of the new characters and the explosiveness of Rowling’s continuous world building that makes Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a memorable read, despite its flaws.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Reread Review (Myriam)

I think it is safe to say we have now passed the half-way point. I must admit it is bitter-sweet seeing as I am absolutely loving the experience! Alright, I hope I’m up for tackling book 5, I took many notes while reading, as not to forget any blog-worthy details.

So the series is back to its original format, starting at the Dursleys. We are quickly reminded that Voldemort’s rebirth only happened a few weeks prior to the current date and we are now seeing the aftermath, or lack thereof in Harry’s perspective. He is totally blocked-off by all useful communications with the Wizarding World and this frustrates him to no end! Sure he gets the Daily Prophet, but barely reads it thinking anything pertaining to Voldemort would be front page worthy. Perhaps the only interesting tidbit is the recurring dream he has of seeing a locked door at the end of a hallway. I remember not thinking much of this when I first read the books, as there were more captivating things to think about, but reading it again, I fully comprehend the magnitude of this dream. It is really foreshadowing at its best, although foreshadowing through dreams is not that original of a technique. As soon as you start reading this book, you get sucked into a whirlwind of events that don’t stop till the very end of the book.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Reread Review (Mario)

The scope of the Harry Potter series explodes with the fourth novel. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is physically a big book. It doesn’t rival the individual novel sizes of large epic fantasy series by the likes of Robert Jordan or Terry Brooks, but it’s still a very big book, especially considering that Harry Potter is often categorized as young adult fiction. I’m hesitant to enforce a strong comparison between Rowling and someone like Jordan because, unlike Jordan, the size of Rowling’s books actually matters. The Goblet of Fire isn’t a bloated version of The Chamber of Secrets. The world hidden away inside its pages is representative of the overall size of the physical book. In short, more pages translate to more Harry and more wizarding world. That’s a great thing for me as a reader, but it’s a difficult thing for me as someone who is writing an appreciation of the novel. There is a lot going on and the best way for me to deal with it is to break it down by categories, while trying to tie them all together into some sort of cohesive whole. Sure, that sounds like an obvious thing to do while writing a review, and it is, but I’ve always found it difficult to organize my thoughts when I’m blown away by a great book and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, despite its problems, is a great book.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Reread Review (Myriam)

So, I’m finally sitting down to write my blog for the fourth book. I finished reading it a few weeks ago and have been holding back from starting the next book. I’ve not been motivated much to read the fourth book, nor to write my post for it. I think it’s because it is my least favourite book of the series. Even before the series was complete, I didn’t like book 4. It might be the “middle-child-syndrome” or in this case the “middle-book-syndrome”. There are many elements in this book that I simply don’t care for much. Let’s explore!

First off, Rowling deviates from her usual introduction. This time we start with Voldy right off the bat. Here we learn of Voldemort’s first killings, probably his parents, which ripped his soul a couple time and allowed him to create two horcruxes. We also learn that Voldemort was surviving off milk from Nagini, a rather odd fact that is also ironic seeing as he is actually feeding off of one of his horcruxes. I guess we can say he put in place some sort of insurance policy by using Nagini as a horcruxe. Again, this is probably nothing important, but I simply read into it way too much. But you never know!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Reread Review (Mario)

The Harry Potter reread has been interesting for several reasons so far. For starters, it’s always nice to revisit a series you’ve read before and that you know you enjoy. It’s also nice to pick up on things you didn’t really notice before. There are a lot of details in each and every book of the series and you’re guaranteed to find new details in the larger books the second, third and even fourth time you read them. It’s been particularly interesting for me to reread these books because it’s the first time that I’m reading them as an adult. Because of my great familiarity with the characters and story, what’s been keeping me most interested this time around has been paying attention to how J. K. Rowling has constructed this series. The world building and the construction of the narrative are keeping me as engaged as the characters and as entertained as someone enjoying these stories for the first time.

Myriam mentioned it at the very beginning of her post, and I’ll second it here, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban sends the entire series up several notches. Don’t get me wrong, the first two books are modern classics of young adult literature but Prisoners of Azkaban greatly expands the size and scope of the story and I would argue that it’s because of this book that Harry Potter has become a worldwide phenomenon and endured since the publication of the first novel. It sounds like high praise for a series that is still so young compared to other classic novels but let’s face it, the Harry Potter series is here to stay. I know that I’ll be reading these books with my kids someday, and maybe they’ll do the same with theirs, because Rowling didn’t just write cool stories about a boy wizard. She’s created an entire fictional universe for young and old readers to visit time and again. Harry, Dumbledore and Hogwarts may have been introduced in the first book but the Wizard World, as we know it today, was first introduced in Prisoners of Azkaban.