Celebrating Fantasy: The Harry Potter series.

Today, I’m launching a new series I plan to do from time to time: Celebrating Fantasy. In this series, I’m looking to celebrate the fantasy genres and the reasons I love it. I plan to discuss books, video games, movies, and any other forms of fantasy fiction. Some of the works I talk about may not be my personal favorites, but I will still celebrate what I enjoyed about them.

To launch this series, I’m going back to the age of 10. It was the fall of 2000, and I was in fifth grade. At that age, I enjoyed video games, but I didn’t read all that much. One of my teachers noticed this and suggested the Harry Potter series to my dad at a parent-teacher conference. My dad, being the perfect absentminded professor stereotype, picked up Chamber of Secrets instead of The Sorcerer’s Stone.

As it turned out, this was a good thing, and Chamber of Secrets still holds a special place in my heart. I like the first book, but it’s my least favorite of the entire series, and I’m not sure I would have fallen in love with it the same way if I’d read it first.

It’s probably cliched at this point, but Harry Potter is the series that made me want to be a writer. Before reading it, I had no idea that a book could take me on such a great magical adventure. Too often, I ended up reading the boring books they gave us in school, and those just weren’t the same. They could never fuel my love of reading the way Harry Potter did.

What makes Harry Potter so great for me?

It’s a combination of things. J.K. Rowling knows how to tell a great story. The characters are vividly drawn. The setting is fun and detailed. Her ability to weave a mystery plot and drop the perfect hints is masterful. In all, it’s fun. It’s the kind of world you love to escape into, and that’s what I’ve always looked for in my fantasy.

There are so many fun little things in the series that make the world feel so much more real. The magical candy. The joke shops. The many, many magical creatures. Is it always a consistent world? Does it always make perfect sense? No. But I don’t care because it’s so much fun. (In fact, one of my favorite things to do is pick at holes in the plot and world of Harry Potter. Any book that can get me to do that is great.)

I also loved how the first two books were great standalone mysteries that set up a few things for later in the series. From the third book on, it became more of an epic series, and that was great, especially when Rowling developed the plot based on little things she’d set up in the earlier books. Those things seemed inconsequential at the time, but they were ultimately very important. As a writer myself, I’m in awe of how well she planned some of these details. I like to do the same kind of thing myself, but I write a bit more by the seat of my pants. For me to make those kinds of things work, I have to write an entire series and then insert the little bits of foreshadowing.

All of this added up to a reading experience unlike anything else I’ve ever had. I remember the feeling when a new Harry Potter book arrived in the mail. It was like Christmas all over again. On the day that the sixth book came out, I’d had sinus surgery that morning, so I felt miserable. But then I came home, and the book was there. Reading it helped distract me from how miserable I felt.

Even now, at the ripe old age of 28, I will go back and read the entire Harry Potter series back to back. There’s something magical about it (no pun intended), and no matter how many times I read it, that magic never seems to fade.

So what books got you into fantasy? What would you like to see me celebrate here?

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