(Re-read) Before J. K. Rowling was aiming for a stolid “Masterpiece Mystery!” slot, she was doing what the good Lord intended her to do with the fantasy books that set the template for almost two decades of children (and Y/A) series.
On re-read, the Harry Potter books lose none of their charms. The term “world-building” now evinces winces from most sane people, but “world-building” is something Rowling did wonderfully: Hogwarts is, without argument, one of the most vivid, re-visitable environments in imaginative literature, up there with “Oz” , Narnia, Middle Earth, or Westeros. “Harry Potter and the Philosopher/ Sorcerer’s Stone” introduces everything efficiently: the school, the houses, the teachers, the students, and the Quidditch (a game whose rules I’m still not convinced by). Only the “who” in this first “whodunit” is weak; if Hogwarts had had a butler, he might as well have gotten the blame. Harry was still likable at this point in the game; Ron still a featureless side-kick, Hermione still shrill. Things would change quickly, as Hermione’s personality deepens, Ron develops a spine, and Harry becomes an insufferable, entitled twat only distinguishable from Draco by his hair color. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” ups the ante by developing an even more cinematic sensibility: the enchanted flying car, the monstrous Aragog, the final epic confrontation in the titular chamber… they all seem designed with an eye toward the eventual big-screen adaptation.
I love this crap, is what I’m saying. I’m currently re-reading the series more or less back to back before my birthday, (*cough cough* Just like I was re-reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ for my birthday last year *cough cough* I’ll finish one day, George R. R. Martin, you will see! *more cough-cough-coughing*)