Harry Potter and the Philosopher‘s Stone.
It’s an interesting book, but one I’m finding rather dull. This is probably because – having read it a couple of times before, played the game, seen the film, etc – there are no surprises left in the plot (other than the occasional forgotten witty remarks which I’m enjoying; like when the trio discover Hagrid has a dragon, Hermione points out that he lives in a wooden house).
Similar to Charlotte’s Web (which makes sense, as it’s probably aimed at about the same age group), it’s a little rough in places. Despite the idea that a story should start in medias res and be engaging from page one, it starts out following one of the least-likeable characters from the whole series (Mr Dursley). Presumably this is done to gradually move from the “normal” world into the fantastical, magical one, but I can’t help but wonder what the story would have been like if the reader had been surprised (along with Harry) at the revelation that he is a wizard.
The tone/behavior of some characters shifts a bit in some scenes. You almost get the feeling that the author hasn’t fully developed/discovered some of the characters yet (though this may be based on my own assumptions/interpretations of characters from both later books and the films). It does make them come across oddly, though: my later image of Hagrid as a big softy – who isn’t too bright, but has a heart of gold – has trouble establishing itself in his first appearance as a large, hairy, bear-like man who breaks down the door and vacillates between speaking quietly and apologetically to Harry and raging at the Dursleys (several times in the space of a page).
I remain convinced that the initial success of the series is due to the wit of the writing, and the world that has been created. Not that it’s as thoroughly planned and internally consistent as, say, Middle Earth, but it is a place that you want to learn more about. The trio (and a few others) certainly have their characters’ clearly established, but some of the (many) other personae are not yet as established.