Rowling off to a good start
The story begins with Hagrid bringing the infant Harry to Privit Drive, where he links up with Professors Dumbledore and McGonnagal. Harry's parents were just killed by Voldermort, the most powerful dark wizard in history. Harry not only somehow survived Voldermort's attack, but the magical rebound destroyed Voldermort in the process. Dumbledore gives the orphan child to Petunia Dursley, Harry's aunt, to protect him until Harry becomes old enough to go to school.
In a very Brother's Grimm story line, Harry is treated less than kindly by his guardians and comes out of the experience humble but otherwise well adjusted. On his 11th birthday, Hagrid returns and explains to Harry that he is a wizard and is accepted to Hogwards School of Wizardry and Witchcraft.
At Hogwarts, Harry is awed by the wondrous workings of magic and quickly makes friends for life: Ronald and Hermione. Just as quickly, he meets the boy who will be a major nuisance for the rest of the series: Draco.
Harry has mixed success academically, but has especial trouble with Professor Snape. Snape has a loathing for Harry that goes back to when Harry's father was in school. To balance out his so-so book smarts and the irrational hatred of a professor, Harry learns that he is a natural at broom flying and makes school history by becoming a member of the Quidich team as a fist year student.
The real plot, however, centers around the Sorcerer's Stone, which is an enchanted chemical that can prolong life indefinitely or even raise the dead. Harry is certain that Voldermort, is after it. Harry and co race to discover its secret hiding place before Voldermort's minion does.
Rowling has created a rich world of magic that is believable. She blends an exciting mystery with fantastic fantasy. She was able to create a book that appeals to adults while still appropriate for younger children- no small feat at all.
Rowling fills her world with ghosts, animated paintings, moving stairs, shape changers, mythical beasts, interesting people and amazing spells. So much detail is given that she can easily hide important clues in plain sight. As a reader, it is easy to miss a clue because the mind is distracted with what the ghosts or paintings are doing.
Rowling provides many unique and interesting characters. No two are even close to being alike (excpet for the Weasly twins, but they are effectively one mind sharing two bodies). Only with the three main characters can the reader really identify with: Harry, Ron and Hermione. We get to see what is in Harry's mind because the story is told from his perspective. He is so close to the other two that we practically know what they are thinking.
I think what really sets this book apart from others of this genre is that she was able to bring traditional mythology to the modern world without being a revisionist. It is a pleasure to recognize the creatures from Bulfinch, Brothers's Grimm and other historical sources by how they look and act. Too many times when I read modern fantasy, if the writer did not give me the name of the monster, then I would never have reconginzed its origins.
John Holland-author of Necklace of TerrersylvanousRead full review