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The Definitive Harry Potter Power Rankings
As years wear on me, I’ve found it harder and harder to sit down and enjoy a good book. The combination of reviews, Wikipedia and sheer amount of choice stall my ability to concentrate properly on a plot, bond with the characters and appreciate a story. It wasn’t always this way. Growing up, I read voraciously, and the Harry Potter books were a constant atop my bedside table. It all started with my 5th grade teacher reading individual chapters of Sorcerer’s Stone to the class after lunch; I eventually couldn’t bear the weight of not knowing what happened when it was written already.
So I flew through the books, one by one, waiting with anticipation for each ensuing installment in the series. Harry Potter and his friends were my friends. His adventures, his problems were the same as mine. Soon enough, when Deathly Hallows was finally published, I found myself graduating high school and lazily anticipating freshman year of college. The end of the imaginary world of wizards and Muggles coincided with my own personal transition into the real world. One could say that my childhood developed alongside The Boy Who Lived.
It was to my great surprise this year to hear that not only was there going to be another installment in the series, but that the universe was going to be expanding. Adult versions of the main characters were now part of the canon and there would even be spinoffs such as the Fantastic Beasts movies series. However, reading Year 8? of the Harry Potter series was incredibly disappointing in every manner. Every single one of the characters felt thin and their motives weak. The plot was too forced and poorly planned. Perhaps the medium from which I consumed Cursed Child was simply wrong, but there is no reality where that book/script would be enjoyable to read for a childhood fan of the series.
With Harry Potter rushing back to the front of mind, and having read and re-read each of the books many times, I decided it was finally time to pick favorites. Trying to research an agreeable ranking of all the Harry Potter books only furthered my conviction; although subjective as all rankings are, there was simply not a good list to be found anywhere on the Internet. And so New Game+ presents the Definitive Harry Potter Power Rankings.
7. The Chamber of Secrets
“Famous Harry Potter…can’t even go to a bookshop without making the front page.” — Draco Malfoy
In all things, to make an object whole, and larger than life, there must be filler. Sadly, the second book in this series is that filler. Upstart ambitious storyteller J.K. Rowling started off white-hot in her debut but soon discovered that in order to create the detailed world she had envisioned, many concepts, characters and relationships needed to be framed, but could not be expanded upon just yet. The curious case of the Chamber of Secrets and Slytherin’s Heir was compelling, but overall, when compared to what the rest of the books do to flesh out the main storyline, this installment serves mainly a supporting role.
6. The Deathly Hallows
“Always…” — Severus Snape
Year 7. The finish to the Harry Potter epic goes out like a lamb. Taking place largely outside of Hogwarts and thus having none of the school charm that made the series what it is, Deathly Hallows to me lacked much of the qualities that I enjoyed from previous installments. Without classes, Quidditch grudge matches and trips to Hogsmeade, the book seemed like a necessary fill-in of all the plot holes Rowling’s girlish imagination began when she didn’t have to worry about satisfying a hundred million fans from around the world.
5. The Order of the Pheonix
“Don’t worry. You’re just as sane as I am.” — Luna “Loony” Lovegood
Order clocks in as the longest Harry Potter book in the series and it steps up the complexity considerably. After reading how He Who Must Not Be Named came up to power in front Harry’s very eyes, me and other fans spent a good three years anticipating just what a world with Voldemort would look like. It turns out that Rowling opted for a covert Dark Lord, a mental game of mistrust, biding of time and scheming. Harry and the reader together knew the whole truth but it was against the weight of an entire wizarding world.
Order had all the classic motifs such as a crazy new Defense Against The Dark Arts and sneaking around the school to do cool stuff, but also introduced new concepts like dating and standardized tests, which strangely paralleled my own life. It was also the first time we saw wizard dueling proper, and the full might of Professor Dumbledore. However, the massive volume didn’t explain as much as I had hoped about the relationship between the Dark Lord and Harry, as the prophecy wasn’t quite as revealing about the end game as the name might suggest.
4. The Goblet of Fire
“Constant vigilance!” — Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody
The Harry Potter series is first and foremost a children’s series. The franchise has made so much money by now that most adults know about the wizarding world, but the core fanbase is still built on children and adults like me who still foolishly cling to their younger years. Year 4 marked the beginning of the series maturing into adolescence. It was the first book that featured Voldemort as the overarching villain in the flesh, instead of by proxy, and thus started the main quest. Goblet showcased the adult wizarding world outside of school grounds at large in the form of a portkey to the Quidditch World Cup, and it was the first time Harry saw death.
Magic in Goblet was also now more purposeful and structured. In the three books previous, magic had this quality of “it just works” but in Goblet readers were exposed to a toolbox of spells alongside Harry in the form of a Triwizard Champion training montage. Meanwhile IRL, the Harry Potter series had definitively caught fire and Goblet was the first to really soak in that hype/fever. For comparison, Azkaban sold around 68,000 copies in the first three days, whereas Goblet turned over 3 million the first weekend.
3. The Sorcerer’s Stone
“You’re a wizard, Harry.” — Hagrid
Respect must be given where it is due. No matter the quality of the writing, the depth of its characters, or its childish nature, there is no question that without the Sorcerer’s Store, there would be no Harry Potter. In the course of just over 300 pages, J.K. Rowling revealed to readers a rich, flavorful world where post was carried by owls, students boarded the school train on the invisible Platform 9 3/4, a normal school day involved going to classes in a castle with moving staircases and talking portraits, and homework was measured by inches of parchment. To any child who grew up in a predominately English-speaking country, the book was real. Magic, was real.
2. The Half Blood Prince
“And now Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure” — Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
The penultimate offering from J.K. Rowling exhibited every part of the writing prowess she developed over the course of the entire series. Without having to face down the pressure of ending the story, Prince refined every aspect of classic Harry Potter. Interesting professors and classes, laid against a backdrop of mystery, and combined with perfect pacing/plot reveals, set this book far apart from the rest in the series. While expertly moving between extracurriculars in Dumbledore’s office, to cheating spectacularly through N.E.W.T level Potions class, Harry captained a sports team to a championship and dated his best friend’s hot sister, putting a cap on the perfect high schooler’s experience, magical or not. If you are looking for the single most well-written book of the series, it would be Prince.
1. The Prisoner of Azkaban
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” — Harry Potter
As expanded upon before, the Harry Potter series is, at its core, a series written for children. To a child, there is no such thing as murder or evil, and all is revealed in the end, when the good guy will always triumph. Azkaban was the last book in the series to still cover everything under that golden umbrella of childhood innocence and for that reason I placed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban number one.
The Firebolt. The Maruader’s Map. The Patronus. Each names of chapters in the third book and each timeless device that would eventually become subconscious in the series, and they all took stage during Year 3. Even Rowling herself said that this book was the easiest one of them all to write. In her state of flow, the words of Azkaban simply poured out to form what was to become the finest book in the best selling series of all time.