I did my 5-part series about JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, but as of that point I hadn’t actually finished the book.
Now I have.
So here’s the rest of my analysis.
Well, the chapters 11 through 13 were kind of slow. Take your pick; 12 through 14 or 10 through 13, but they’re a little soft.
Because we’re not learning new magical things. We’re no longer diving deeper into the wizarding world, we’re just existing in that world. That’s neither good nor bad, it’s just not as interesting.
In order for a roller coaster to have the big hill with the big drop, it has to go up AND it has to go down.
No downs = no ups. All flat.
And all potentially less interesting as a result.
Anyway, in chapter 15 there’s a big old “as you know, Bill”-style info dump between the centaurs. Normally, I’d throw a yellow card on that but I’m gonna waive it off because it’s a kids’ book. I personally think that if Rowling had written this book today she would have changed a few things – but she didn’t write it today. She wrote it in the ’90s and it’s wildly popular so I’m just going to sit over here and grumble to myself.
Oh, and while we’re at it – I guess Stephen King can go blow himself over that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” nonsense. There’s an adverb every 10 seconds in this book. Nobody seems to mind.
Again, worlds’ most popular author.
The centaurs – having not appeared before – seem to have been brought in just for this one scene. It makes sense if they live in the forest and they’re the reason I’m not supposed to ever go into the forest, but suddenly introducing them now seems a little… convenient. (That doesn’t contradict what I just said about diving deeper into the wizarding world, either. I don’t think.)
Somebody would’ve mentioned them before now, probably. Hagrid or somebody, even in passing. They mentioned other things, why not centaurs?
So that’s another minor issue but nonetheless – I wouldn’t recommend anybody I work with trying it.
I’d tell you to plant it somewhere earlier. A passing reference. Something. No reason not to. The two wizards sitting in the wall in the very beginning could have made some kind of comment about it. Anybody, really. (And if they had, nobody’d remember that, so I’d also add that you refer to centaurs again somewhere so readers remember them. Have one character tease another one about why they’re always going on about centaurs.)
Harry paces up and down in front of a fire.
For all of those who hate when I say “paces back-and-forth”: Nyah, Nyah!
In chapter 16 there’s kind of a major screwup. They start talking about broomsticks but nobody has said there are any broom sticks – the flying kind – anywhere in the room. They need these to catch the flying key. Harry says, “Yes, to the broom sticks” – well we didn’t know they were any broomsticks. It’s like an idea, “We need broomsticks!” instead of “Look! There are some broomsticks over there in the corner. Let’s use those!”
Sorry, that’s major. I had to go back and re-read two pages to see where the damn broomsticks were mentioned. How’d I miss that? She didn’t mention them, that’s how. Harry just says it. Prior to that, they aren’t in the scene. You can’t do that (although, if you’re the world’s most famous writer, apparently you can.)
BTW, my wife was driving us back from skate night as I read this part aloud to our daughter. Savvy hung on every word, eating ice cream and conjuring up Harry Potter in her head.
Playing their way across the giant chess room? Harry says it’s obvious. It’s not. I’d have just walked across. Well, no, I wouldn’t have. I’d have thrown rocks at my characters. But it still wasn’t obvious. I’d have had them start walking across and have that not work because they didn’t play. THEN it would be obvious.
Later in 16, Hermione doesn’t explain how she knows which bottle does what, she just knows. Unless I missed something.
Oh. She rereads the logic puzzle and solves it. Okay, never mind.
Oh, and then a chapter break just for the sake of suspense, not because it’s actually a scene break. Going from 16 to 17, Harry just walked through the fire after drinking one of the seven potions. There was already someone there – but it wasn’t Snape. It wasn’t even Voldemort. Who was it? End of 16 start of 17: It was Quirrell.
I’m not allowed to do that. My editor won’t let me. Wonder if she’s reading this.
Then a bad guy monologue…. or two.
And a nice twist! Or two. Bravo.
But don’t get cocky. It’s still very telly.
But a pretty good mystery. Pretty good. I find myself smiling.
Pretty darned good.
Okay, I’m in. I’m a fan. I don’t know if it’s the best book ever written but it has a great adventure unfolding in a whole new world, and that’s pretty special.
Nice work, Rowling.
But there’s work to be done.
On to the chamber of secrets!
Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!