The Harry Potter books, ranked

Having sold over 500 million books worldwide and amassed almost $8 billion at the worldwide box office, Harry Potter has proven to be one of the most successful and popular franchises to date. This year, the franchise will celebrate 20 years since it began its run nationwide, and to commemorate this achievement, I looked back at the seven books and ranked them from worst to best based on my personal preference.

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Honorable Mentions: 

  • “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay” – A short read based in 1920s New York City that accompanies the film of the same title. Written by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, it is a smart, charming and fun precursor to the Potter novels.
  • “Hogwarts School Textbooks” – In between the releases of entries four and five, Rowling released several companion volumes that were mentioned in the books as Hogwarts textbooks. While they aren’t full stories like the Potter books, they are nevertheless interesting reads for any Harry Potter fan who wants to get the full Wizarding experience.

7: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”

At his second year at Hogwarts, Harry investigates the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets after students around the school are found to be “petrified” (frozen like stone).

Coming in at seventh place in my rankings is the second entry in the series. The plot feels really thin, and it feels a lot like a rehash of the first in most areas. Lots of things happen in it that don’t actually mean anything and aren’t revisited until much later in the series – for example, the Sword of Gryffindor appears to play a crucial role at the end of the novel, but it is not seen again until five books later. But for the record, just because it is last does not mean it is bad – honestly, all the books in the series are good for the most part, but this just fails to live up to the rest. Rating: 3.7/5

6: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

Voldemort returns as a threat in the Wizarding World, the Ministry of Magic reveals their true corrupt nature and Harry is troubled by problems at Hogwarts in his fifth year there.

One of the biggest complaints I had about this book is that it lacks some of the excitement and allure of the previous books and instead feels, at points, slow and tedious with an excess of storylines. At a length of almost 900 pages, I feel it really would have benefited if it had been slightly shorter. On the other hand, the book has lots of elements that make it worth reading, such as the character development, new characters and emotional complexity. Rating: 3.9/5

5: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

The first entry in the series follows Harry as a young wizard, discovering his magical heritage at his first year at the Hogwarts.

One of the areas the very first Harry Potter novel succeeds at the most is the introduction of the Wizarding World and its many magical elements, as well as the primary characters that return in the following entries. The story itself, while slightly thin, is simple and to the point. However, it is clearly directed towards a younger audience, meaning that it is harder to reread and feel completely satisfied compared to most of the books in the series. Rating: 3.9/5

4: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

Set during Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry and his headmaster/mentor Albus Dumbledore explore Voldemort’s past in order to prepare for the final battle against Voldemort.

The plot is engaging and mysterious, and it features many surprises and twists. Additionally, Rowling is able to weave through many plotlines and piece them together by the conclusion, while at the same time setting up the finale of the series in an appropriate manner. The mood in the story shifts from a dark, relatively gritty tone to one that is charming and entertaining, and it mostly works those out smoothly. While some of the writing and storytelling is hard to comprehend and can be somewhat slow at points, it is overall a satisfactory sixth entry in the series. Rating: 4.1/5

3: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”

Harry, in his fourth year at Hogwarts, investigates the mystery surrounding the entry of his name into the Triwizard Tournament – a dangerous, life-threatening contest in which he is forced to compete.

This is the first book in the series where the darker tone is completely utilized and the relatively childish tone vanishes. The story is relatively easy to follow and delightfully original, while the adventurous tone makes it an interesting read with an unpredictable plot. Many new characters and storylines are introduced, and they all are unique and fascinating with lots of different stories to tell. As usual, it is written in a clear, concise matter that is easy to read and comprehend. Rating: 4.3/5

2: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

Harry’s third year at Hogwarts has him investigating Sirius Black, an escaped prisoner from the wizarding prison Azkaban, who is believed to be one of Lord Voldemort’s closest allies.

With a quick, fast-paced plot, many fascinating new elements and characters and a familiar cheerful tone, it is an exhilarating ride from start to finish. It plays on the themes of loyalty, betrayal and tragedy while introducing some of what would arguably become the best characters in the series. It is also the first introduction of a darker, more mature turn in the series, which would later be carried on into “Goblet of Fire.” All in all, I would definitely say it is one of my favorites in the series. Rating: 4.4/5

1: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

Harry, along with his companions Ron and Hermione, leave Hogwarts in order to search for Voldemort’s seven Horcruxes – pieces of his soul – and end his cruel reign in the Wizarding World once and for all.

The finale to the entire series is one I’d say is a success all around. It shows that the Harry Potter books can still work without having Hogwarts as the main backdrop throughout. While no new major characters are introduced, the existing ones are all well-developed and their character arcs, for the most part, are rounded out in an impeccable matter. Almost every scene is done well, whether it is merely a conversation between characters or an all-out battle. Like all the others, it has many surprises hidden up its sleeve that even the biggest fans can’t predict. Many of the closing books in a series tend to be bloated and overambitious, but this defies that and produces a story that, as a whole, is well done and a fitting conclusion to the saga. Rating: 4.6/5

 

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