Monday, January 24, 2011

Ranking the Harry Potter Books

I'm sure you know that here at Big Dunc we are very fond of making lists. We are also very fond of popular culture (maybe edging toward the geekier side of it), and though we have given a great amount of attention to Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Lost, and comics, I believe there has been only one Harry Potter post, actually being one of the first ever Big Dunc offerings.
Anyways, let's rank 'em.

Ranking the Harry Potter Books.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
There are numerous reasons why I rank Deathly Hallows as the worst Harry Potter book, the biggest being that it was just a rather poor ending to a great series. It was too long, too inconsistent, too all-action all the time - jumping from one crisis to another without much really happening. You just read it to see what happened instead of enjoying all of it. I think being almost Hogwarts-less really led to an absence of magic that was present in all the other volumes. I'm a big fan of reflection, but really, were chapters like the Shell Cottage really necessary? Overall it just felt forced and lacked the sincerity of many of the other books.

Best Parts:
Battle of Hogwarts
7 Harry Potters
Kreacher and Dobby's sacrifice
Ollivander
seeing characters like Luna and Neville come into their own.
learning a bit more about Snape
destroying the locket.

Bad parts:
Harry and Dumbledore at King's Cross
Dumbledore's past revelations
Bathilda Bagshot
all the moodiness of Harry, Ron, and Hermione
The Epilogue
Dumbledore's Will
the long times at the House of Black and the Ministry of Magic
Snapes quick death


6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
I know this is the one that started it all, but when compared this the vastness of the next books, it just can't hold up. All the introductions were cool. It was fun to be like Harry and be new to all this stuff, but the story itself wasn't too complex or too exciting.

Best Bits:
Newness - Quidditch, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts
Mirror of erised

Bad bits:
Quirrell
ending - saved by love?
Norbert
Nicolas Flamel - lots of put into the importance of Flamel who really had nothing to do with the story itself


5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Order of the Phoenix had some of the coolest parts in the entire Harry Potter series, but also some of the worst. It ranks as number 5 mostly due to these inconsistencies. There is a lot of up and down. Action will happen (see the Dementors in the first chapter) but then will be followed by lots of inaction. The normal story arch is not present. At times it is a collection of events and tales rather than a focused, single story.

Best bits:
Dumbledore's Army - the recruitment and training - one of the best sequences of the entire series, making minor characters relevant.
Dolores Umbridge - maybe the best villain of the series
O.W.L.s - I like the academic stuff
Luna Lovegood - possibly my favorite Harry Potter character
House of Black
Cho - both good and bad - you rooted for Harry, but it contributed to the uneven story
Fred and George's exit

Bad Bits:
The Hearing
Dumbledore not talking to Harry
Harry always being Moody
Occlumency - the Snape/Harry scenes were great, but nothing really become of it
The Prophesy
Grawp/Hagrid


4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This one might come in 7th place on many people's lists, but I actually like the simplicity. It was a neat story without too much excess. You had the mystery and the ending did not disappoint. It had the classic narrative structure - continual rise to climactic ending. New doors were opened in the Harry Potter World. No super high highs or super low lows. Sincere.

Best Bits:
Lockhart - a fun character
Dueling Club
our first taste of Tom Riddle
the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets and the Heir of Slytherin
The Burrow

Bad bits:
car in the forest
too much Dobby
Lucius Malfoy's meeting with Arthur Weasley

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This is the favorite of many people, and I can see why, but for me, it is only number 3. This is the first truly great Harry Potter Book and really sets the done for the depth of the series and the darker nature for the latter books. The main story is great. The side stuff like new classes and Quidditch is great too. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get the story started, and after the seeming climax, you have to do it all over again with the Time-Turner thing.

Best Bits:
The mystery - at the root of all the best HP stories for me are questions and mysteries. Books 5 and 7 have little to no mystery and are thus rated rather poorly. Prisoner of Azkaban probably had the best outcome to the mystery in the series.
Harry not being infallible
Quidditch
Marauders Map
Lupin/Snape/Black interchanges

Worst Bits:
beginning
Knight Bus
Time Turner
A bit too much Trelawney

2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
To me, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a great combination of what worked in books 3 and 5. You have events going on which may not contribute hugely to the main story, but are still entertaining. You have a cool mystery story. You have Hogwarts as a major player. But with all of these, there is an impending scene of doom, an anticipation that something big is going to happen, and in the end, it does.

Best bits:
Hogwarts and classes at the center again
giving depth to Voldemort, I loved the Gaunt chapter
The potions book
The Cave - maybe the best chapter in the series
Dumbledore's Death - some people don't like that Harry was frozen, but you as the reader really share his sense of helplessness
The scene where Percy came home but only because of work and not to see his family was pretty intense
Also the scene on the train where Malfoy actually defeats Harry was pretty cool too, one of my favorites

Bad Bits:
Aragog and sad Hagrid
Ron and Lavender
lack of big action until the end that it

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Much like Half-Blood Prince, Goblet of Fire has all the elements that make Harry Potter great - the mystery - who put Harry's name in the Goblet and why, great side stories and action, further exploration of the Harry Potter World, a crazy entertaining ending, the feeling of impending disaster, and in this one, the main backdrop story is the awesome Triwizard Tournament! I am a sucker for competition, so Goblet of Fire is obviously number 1. But like I said, it wasn't just the tasks and the tournament. You have the Quidditch World Cup, the new Wizarding Schools, the Yule Ball, Mad-Eye Moody, and the rest of the series is really set into motion from this one. Despite the length, this one is never forced (ok, maybe the house elf thing). Even character like Moaning Myrtle, meant to be annoying, and Trelawney and Hagrid are used to their best ability.

Best Bits:
Quidditch World Cup - This is the best exposition of the entire Wizarding World in the series. We learn there is so much more to it than Hogwarts
The other schools
Tasks - dragons, mermaids, sphinxes, skrewts
The unexpected task - asking a girl to the dance, tough
The Yule Ball - very real, unglamorized
Dropping the Egg- this might be my favorite sequence in the entire series - Harry gets stuck in on of the trap stairs, drops the egg, Peeves and Filch and Snape and Moody come while Harry is helpless under the invisible cloak. The drama and suspense here at its highest. How was Harry going to get out of this one? I remember my heart racing at this one, probably more than even at the end of this book or Half-Blood Prince
The ending - Death Eaters, Priori Incantatem, and the explanation of it all. The ending was great. I could not stop reading, but unlike the ends of Half-Blood Prince, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Order of the Phoenix, which are all awesome scenes, here you are not reading just to see what happens. You truly want to soak in every detail.

Bad Bits:
house elves- drunk Winky
Ron being mad at Harry
Rita Skeeter.

Well there you have it.

2 comments:

Michelle said...

this may be one of your best lists to date, tony brown ;)

Olumide Edu said...

I'd have to disagree with you on the Positioning of Deathly Hallows. My favorite Harry Potter book. It started off slowly and the first time I read it I just couldn't continue. But then I came back to it just gripped me so very strongly I couldn't believe it. It was a deeply beautiful and mysterious book in my opinion. So moving and sad at times, it was breathtaking. Not perfect, due to the poor start, but once it gets going it becomes amazing!