books

Ranking the Harry Potter Books – Geek Out Challenge Day 13

My last post for the Geek Out challenge covered my top 100 video games of all time.  It was a lengthy post and quite exhausting to write, so I think I’m going to keep things a bit shorter this time around.  Today’s question from A Geeky Gal is about my favorite book series.  I guess if I truly hated myself, I could rank my top 100 books of all time, but that’s definitely far too painful of an undertaking immediately after my gaming list.  Since I have already talked about my favorite series in a previous post for this challenge, I thought I would shake things up a bit.  Therefore, allow me to introduce my ranking of the seven Harry Potter books from worst to best!

Beware of spoilers for the entire Harry Potter series!

7.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix

Ranking every other book in the Harry Potter series is difficult, but determining which entry should be in the last place position is easy.  Order of the Phoenix is the primary reason that I don’t reread this series a lot more often.  Harry is having such a rough time in his life and no one seems capable of giving him a hand, which is tough to read.  The entirety of the plot also relies upon a trope in fiction that has always been a pet peeve of mine, which is a character withholding critical information to the plot simply to pad out the length of the story.

As far as I am concerned, Dumbledore handled what was going on with Voldemort and Harry in just about the worst way he could have.  Harry saw Dumbledore as a father figure, so ignoring him without explaining the context behind it was incredibly damaging to Harry’s well-being.  Additionally, deciding not to make Harry a prefect is perfectly fine, but Dumbledore should have explained why that choice was made instead of just letting Harry believe that he was somehow inadequate.  This book made me lose a lot of respect for Dumbledore as a character, as his treatment of a child that he supposedly cared for was horrendous.

6.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter Prisoner of Azkaban

Every book in this series except for Order of the Phoenix is a five-star read for me, which means the rankings are a lot more arbitrary from here on out.  I didn’t like Prisoner of Azkaban when I read it the first time, but I realize that this is because I didn’t have the context of the full series yet.  At the time, this felt like an unimportant book, as it’s the only entry in the series where Voldemort isn’t directly involved in the plotline.  Now that I have the knowledge of what happens later in the series, I understand that the purpose of this book was to take a bit of a breather from the overarching plot in favor of some character development.

It’s easy to forget in the midst of the chaos that Harry, Ron, and Hermione are just young teens growing up.  The Sirius Black plotline helps provide some much-needed character growth before the latter half of the series gets much darker and the stakes get higher.  In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that tiptoeing around Harry and refusing to tell him the truth about his relationship to Sirius falls directly into the bucket of the same pet peeve that hurt Order of the Phoenix, this might be one of my favorites in the series.

5.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets had a tough job, as it was the second book in a series that was beginning to become quite the phenomenon across the world.  Overall, this book succeeds in being a strong follow-up.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are back and solving the mystery of why students are being petrified in the hallways.  For me, the highlight of this book is Gilderoy Lockhart.  He is such a fun character and the reveal that he is a huge fraud absolutely blew my six-year-old mind.  Can I also just point out that Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart is one of the best-cast actors that I have ever seen in a role?

Ultimately, however, Chamber of Secrets gets ranked lower on the list because it doesn’t really do anything other than rehash the plot of the first book.  While the plot to Sorcerer’s Stone plot wasn’t overly interesting, it had the hefty job of building up a magical world that would engage children enough to get hooked on a seven-book series, which is no easy feat.  The second book already has a fully-realized world, so it could have done a lot more with the plot, instead of just having Voldemort invade the school via possessing someone again.  While the plot is still quite fun and does introduce the concept of Horcruxes, even if they aren’t explained further for several more books, there is still an overarching feeling of “been there, done that.” when reading this entry.

4.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter Deathly Hallows

Deathly Hallows is genuinely one of the best series finales I have ever read.  All of the loose ends were tied up beautifully and I felt satisfied upon finishing it.  J.K. Rowling had a nearly impossible task in trying to wrap up such a beloved series with so many unfinished plotlines, but she did a phenomenal job, even if she broke my heart about a dozen times throughout the book with the many characters she killed in a myriad of gruesome ways.

Honestly, my main issue with the book is that some of the character deaths felt like J.K. Rowling was simply trying to shock her readers.  For example, I read Hedwig’s death as a symbolic loss of Harry’s childhood because things were about to get very bad for him.  Did we really need Dobby to die later to establish the same basic concept?  They felt redundant.  It’s a fairly minor complaint, as I understand that Rowling was trying to make the cost of the war Harry was fighting to save the wizarding world feel sufficiently weighty, but I’m not sure that all of the deaths were equal in necessity.

3.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter Sorcerer's Stone

Sorcerer’s Stone has to have a high position on this list simply because of what it started.  I’m in awe whenever I read the first book because it’s crazy to think about the fact that this unassuming little book started a series that is going to go down in history as a childhood classic.  There are so many vivid moments in this book that are stuck in my mind, such as the Dursleys trying to run away from Harry’s Hogwarts letter, Hagrid showing up, and the epic battle against the troll in the girl’s bathroom.

The book’s biggest downfall is simply that it was J.K. Rowling’s debut, so there are some noticeably weaker elements here compared to later entries in the series.  My biggest issue is the pacing.  Honestly, I’m shocked that I enjoyed this book so much as a child because, as an adult, I can honestly say that almost nothing happens to advance the plot until the last fifty or so pages.  There is so much world-building here that the plot gets left behind until it’s time to go under the trap door and find out if Voldemort is down there.  My guess is that I got caught up in the magical elements as a child, so the plot wasn’t all that important.  Regardless, while it may not be a perfect book, I can’t deny that I adore it and believe that it’s a good marker to show how far Rowling came with her writing in the rest of the series.

2.  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter Half Blood Prince

It’s hard to rank Half-Blood Prince.  Up until the very end of the book, it is actually my favorite of the series.  I love that it actually feels a little lighter than Order of the Phoenix, which was a little too grim for my liking.  Once again, character development is at the forefront, as there is a bit of a “calm before the storm” feeling, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione just try to live out their normal lives in the midst of some rapidly-growing chaos.

Unfortunately, the ending here is what prevents this from being my favorite book of the series.  I would like to take an extra seventy-five pages from Order of the Phoenix, which was bloated with unnecessary plot points and details, and add those pages on here.  In a span of around fifty pages, all of the following happens:  Harry and Dumbledore journey to try and find a Horcrux in an abandoned old cave, a confrontation occurs between Dumbledore and Draco Malfoy, Dumbledore gets killed by Professor Snape, and Harry decides that he’s not coming back to Hogwarts for his seventh year of schooling in favor of hunting Horcruxes to kill Voldemort for good.  This is a lot of extremely important events to pack into an incredibly small span of pages, which I find frustrating every time I read through it.

1.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Finally, my favorite Harry Potter book is the middle entry, Goblet of Fire.  For me, this book is perfect in every regard, managing to successfully evade the traps that some of Harry’s other adventures couldn’t quite avoid.  The plotline is evenly-paced, with the three challenges spaced out over the course of the book in order to make sure that something was always about to happen.  I also found the characters to be interesting and well-developed, and I appreciated that the ending got the time and pages that it deserved.  I love every book in this series, even Order of the Phoenix, but in my eyes, Goblet of Fire is a masterpiece of children’s literature.

Of course, it is fair to admit that the primary reason I love Goblet of Fire may actually be the circumstances in which I read it.  This was the last book that had already been released when I first got into the series, which means that Cedric dying and Voldemort returning was the first major character death and plot twist that I had ever experienced.  During the gap before the fifth book, I got the opportunity to read some other series and grow as a reader, which means the twists and turns of later entries may not have been quite as impactful as my first real experience with the tropes.  Basically, while I believe Goblet of Fire is the best the series has to offer, I realize that my reasons for this are quite subjective and everyone’s opinions are going to vary based on their own reading experiences.

As always, I want to thank Megan from A Geeky Gal for making these amazing questions and letting me go crazy with my responses.  Check out her response here!  What is your favorite or least favorite Harry Potter book?  Let me know in the comments below!

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12 replies »

  1. Honestly, I think I agree with you for favorite and least favorite! I loved how Goblet of Fire expanded on the Wizarding World more so than its predecessors, giving us a small peak into other magical cultures. The Tri-Wizard Tournament was also freaking awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I last did a reread through the series, I nearly gave up on Order of the Phoenix. It took me 2 months to push myself through this nearly 900-page monster of teen angst. Comparatively, I read Goblet of Fire in a couple of days because once I started, I just fell in love all over again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with you on Goblet of Fire being the best one, it’s my absolute favorite,
    My least favorite one would be Chamber of Secrets. Mostly because I really didn’t like Ginny in it. Phoenix was blaoted and angsty.. but during my first read I really liked it. I was very bored due to not being mobile so I was grratefull that it was so chunky. Somehow that gratitude stuck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ginny didn’t develop a personality until she needed to be a love interest for Harry, so I agree that she’s not the best in Chamber. In general, I wish Ginny had been characterized better throughout the series, but Chamber is definitely her worst appearance.

      Liked by 1 person

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