Book Review: Wrayth (A Book of the Order, #3)


Title: Wrayth
Author: Philippa Ballantine
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: April 2008
Length: 309 pages
Series?: A Book of the Order #3
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Thriller, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Challenge: n/a

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


In the Empire of Arkaym, the Order of Deacons protects and shelters the citizens from the attacks of the unliving. All are sworn to fight the evil forces of the geists—and to keep the world safe from the power of the Otherside… 

Although she is one of the most powerful Deacons in the Order, Sorcha Faris is still unable to move or speak after her last battle. Even her partner, Merrick Chambers, cannot reach her through their shared Bond. Yet there are those who still fear Sorcha and the mystery of her hidden past. 

Meanwhile, Merrick has been asked to investigate a new member of the Emperor’s Court. But when Sorcha is abducted by men seeking Raed Rossin, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, Merrick must choose where his loyalties lie.


*I received this book through Goodreads First Reads book give-aways quite a while back. I was concerned about starting the third book in a series, so Phillipa sent me the first two! Without that, I can honestly say I would not have enjoyed this book as much, and I definitely would not have understood s0me things that happened and the importance of so many things in this story.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers or necessary information found in the first and second books. To get acquainted with this series, read my reviews: Book #1 here and Book #2 here.

Again, Ballantine has produced a story that is jam packed with dedication to intricate details. The story of Sorcha and Merrick, the remarkable and ill-favored Deacons, have weathered several storms together, experienced what most Deacons don’t see in a lifetime of dedication, and have seen the corruption of their own Order (of the Eye and Fist).

Many years ago, the old Order of the Circle of Stars tried overthrowing the Empire and taking control. They fled to the underground, although all thought they had been destroyed. Sorcha and Merrick found out otherwise in the first two novels in the series, and it shook the bedrock and foundation of their ties to the new Order, which formed to protect the Empire and its citizens from geists, geistlords and other manner of unsavory things from the Otherside.

Unfortunately in their last promenade to save the Empire things did not go quite according to plans, and Sorcha was left trapped inside her own body, paralyzed. It is a terrible thing to have your mind running, hear and overhear conversations, and not be able to say or do anything at all. Despite her strong Bond with Merrick, it is not enough to bring her out of this stupor. Merrick has stopped visiting, and now the Abbey and Council want to assign him a new partner – after Sorcha has been kidnapped!

After their last run in with a geistlord, in the ruse of a goddess, Raed the Young Pretender has been on the run from Emperor Kaleva and in search of his traitorous sister and former captain, but this time he is on his own. His crew is dispersed, and his first mate is determined to find him – with Sorcha’s help.

Once again, there is trouble in Vermillin within the palace. Kaleva has taken a stranger, a minor noble by the name of del Rue, into close confidence to the disgruntlement of his sister. The more she inquires, the more he shuts her out. The identity of this man is no stranger to Merrick, who is left holding the bag when del Rue pulls a fast one on Kaleva and the princess and the future of Arkaym is in question.

This does not bode well for the Empire or the Order, especially after Sorcha makes a deal with a geistlord, the entire Order loses the power of the Strops and Gauntlets, the Abbey is destroyed, the Deacons are on the run and The Tormentor is again on the lose.

The Rossin, a geistlord who made a deal with his ancestors, has not left Raed. In fact, he is in leagues with Fensema, another geistlord who wheels and deals with the Rossin, and has innate ability to track and stalk the Rossin. The Rossin seems to operate more and more independently unawares of Raed the Young Pretender, giving readers a nice glimpse of the set-up of the fourth book. The Rossin even struck a deal with Raed in the search for his sister that the Rossin can now be subdued but still access Raed’s conscious. I found in this book that the Rossin is very much more tamed, and humane (an ironic twist, I know), than in the previous books, but I think perhaps this is just setting up the groundwork for what will occur in the next book.

Sorcha discovers the painful and terrifying truth of her own history and birth, explaining the many remarkable peculiarities about her and her strong Bond with Merrick. She uses this knowledge of her mother’s last few desperate hours to save Arkaym.

Nynnia, Merrick’s lost love, is still helping Merrick and Sorcha from the Otherside…and ultimately saving Arkaym, again. I suspect in the fourth book she will also make an impact, even though her character has since long departed.

You can continue reading the Book of the Order series with Ballantine’s fourth installment, Harbinger.

About the Author

Pip Ballantine

Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, Philippa is a writer and podcaster of fantasy fiction. Immersed in books from an early age, she moved onto to become a librarian. She’d been dreaming of being a writer since a teenager, but in the last ten years she’s devoted herself to it.

She’s the author of the Books of the Order series from Ace Books. Also, with Pyr books the Shifted World series, Hunter and Fox (2012) and Born and Made (2013).

Philippa is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair (2012).

Philippa currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband and co-writer Tee Morris, their daughter and a clowder of five cats who keep them all in line.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Book Review: Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2)

Book #2

Life is never quite how you imagine it. 

Spectyr (A Book of the Order, #2) by Philippa Ballantine (Ace, 2011)

Genre: fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, thriller, romance

*Let me preempt by saying Philippa sent me this book because I won her third book, Wrayth, in a book give-away. I am reviewing her first two books out of thanks for her kindness in sending them to me, and her third per the give-away rules. However, that has no affect on the review itself.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers or necessary information found in the first book, so get acquainted with this series, starting with my review of Book #1 here.

Spectyrs brought retribution on those who had wronged them.

Their shared sight dipped and swayed as Merrick tried to compensate for the staining of the ether. A scuttling sound made his mouth snap shut. Rats were running from every corner, scrambling through the walls, and skittering down the drainpipe. Animals were more sensitive than humans and always fled in the face of the undead. The noise was unnerving – even to the trained.

Beyond reality and time, the Otherside held knowledge that no human could ever possess, so the greatest Deacons of the Order had often taken chances to snatch what they could from the void.

This book continues in the principality of Vermillion, (part of the larger Arkaym nation) only one month after the attack of The Murashev, the most powerful geistlord, under the ossuary. It picks up with the despised Grand Duchess, and she is yet again getting in hot water and about to create more havoc and danger for the kingdom by calling on a goddess long without support.

I fear this addiction of yours will bring you nothing but ill.

Sorcha is (rightfully so) very cynical and bitter about the Emperor and the Order, given what happened on her assignment in the previous book and the betrayal of the Arch Abbot. The people do not trust, let alone respect, any of the Order anymore…when in fact their mistrust and fear should reside with the Emperor – or moreover, his militant sister, who just so happens to be second to the throne. Merrick is certain that time will pass and the people’s faith in the Order will return.

Life had taught her such things were oversimplifications – wishes that seldom came true in the complicated realities of existence.

When I first started reading the second book in this series, I was surprised that it started with the Grand Duchess (bad news), and not with Sorcha and Merrick on some task with the backstory from Book #1 entwined. I was a little thrown off, but then I was really thrown when “spectyrs” started appearing in the text. What is a spectyr? In Book #1 we learned that “shades” are the unliving remains of a dead person, and Book #2 gives a very short explanation about “spectyrs” – the evil cousins of shades…who want revenge. Ohhhh crap! 

But you’ll soon see why Ballantine started off with the Duchess, and the situation Ballantine sets up explains how the roles work and some of the terminology, so you don’t necessarily need to read the first book. (Kudos – that can be hard to do.) Since the great shindig with the Otherside under the ossuary a few months before (Book #1), geist attacks have continued – although some are truly real, and others are just calls of paranoid citizens who believe they have a geist in their midst. During Sorcha and Merrick’s task, we find out they are assigned areas where there are no real geist attacks…except this is not the case this time. Precious Nynnia comes to them from the Otherside and gives a warning and glimpse of the future to Sorcha – a foreboding of what is to come.

It was apparent that for every rule there was an exception. 

Since they returned to Vermillion as hunted fugitives in Book #1, the new Arch Abbot is keeping an eagle eye on Sorcha and Merrick. They are assigned meaningless tasks – guarding empty halls, escorting wagons of porcelain. They are kept on a very tight leash…with Sorcha’s husband and former partner, Kolya, following along. Although she has filed for the equivalent of a divorce in their world as well as dissolution of their Deacon’s partnership, Kolya is dillusioned into thinking her leaving the Abbey to save their world was merely her living in her fairytale mindset and “sneaking out” to avoid him. Grow up, pal. Which brings up a reminder of a couple things: Sorcha still shares a Deacon’s Bond with her husband, as well as one with her new partner, Merrick. And her bond with Merrick is so much stronger it is beyond what any Deacon’s Bond should be. But then, Sorcha and Merrick also share a Triple Bond with Raed the Young Pretender that was forged in haste in Book #1, that neither of them can break…and that’s not all she wrote! This Triple Bond will serve as the integral locking puzzle piece that draws this book together.

Meanwhile, the Young Pretender receives a summons from someone I thought dead from the way the first book went and must find his missing sister. He learns he cannot trust his entire crew, and singles some out for this excursion. Connection? Oh yes. But it’s not what I thought at all – it’s SO much bigger.

Now that Kolya is out of the infirmary, which his own rash actions caused, rumors abound within the Mother Abbey since Sorcha has moved out of their chamber into a small one next to Merrick – but they won’t be there for long. Kolya is like that crazy ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend, in this case) who just doesn’t get it. And wouldn’t even if you remarried. That’s how out of it he is. We didn’t see much at all of his character, let alone characteristics, in Book #1. The only thing we really gleaned from his character in Book #1 was that he likes to defy the rules (walking among crowds during a geist attack) and that he didn’t care one whit for his marriage. Not much has changed, except we find out he’s crazy and oblivious and annoying. As hell. Oh, AND in cahoots with Sorcha’s nemesis Rictun, who I think is just as tainted as former Abbot Hastler was.

Although Merrick has grown up some during his experience, and even with the betrayal of Arch Abbot Hastler, he is completely blinded to the animosity that the new Arch Abbot Rictun has for Sorcha. Indeed, as a reader we saw this in Book #1, but now that he is the head of the Order it really piques my curiosity. Yet Sorcha seems to have an ally on the Order Council – an enemy of Rictun’s? (I hope so – I’m holding out for a revolution of sorts; each time I see Rictun’s name I read it with a stink eye.)

What he also had were eyes that would suck out a person’s soul.

The Emperor, Kal, is in the hot seat: he must choose a wife – a proffered princess from other kingdoms in the empire. He must choose wisely, and he ironically chooses Princess Ezefia, sister of Prince Onika of Chioma, who is fabulously wealthy. Chioma is a principality south of Vermillion, home to all strange spices but also the most powerful, hard-to-detect poisons…and it’s the oldest kingdom, with the same ruling family since its beginning. And there are strange rumors about their ruler, quite strange rumors. Sorcha and Merrick accompany Princess Ezefia back to Chioma…but I think they are all getting more than they bargained for. Meanwhile, Raed’s journey to find his sister leads him right to Chioma.

I can trust very few in my Court – not even my own Deacons.

During their separate journeys to Chioma, it becomes apparent that Raed, Sorcha and Merrick are battling their own very personal issues on this journey. They arrive in Chioma and it seems like Ulrich all over again. The Prince of Chioma is not safe even inside the walls of his palace. There have been several murders already – of his unusual bloodline. The first murder was his Chancellor, second to Prince Onika, but all are told he died of old age…yet there’s no body. The Deacons of Chioma are quite odd; they openly worship the “little gods”, but particularly the goddess Hatipai. They wear robes of her colors – not colors of the Order they were sworn into. And then Sorcha and Merrick get separated…

We thought we knew better. We could go where we wished, harness all that power. We thought weirstones were harmless…

We see the return of Nynnia again, and she pulls Merrick back in time to a very pivotal turning point. He discovers some insight about who they refer to as the Ancients, and why they chose to move their famed grounds to the Otherside. So much is revealed in that section, that I can’t share without ruining it – but with that knowledge, things start pulling together to come full circle for readers. Suffice to say that The Native Order (often termed The Ancients) is not dead….and it turns out, they were dabbling in the Otherside quite a bit.

Some things you can’t fix once the time has passed.

Although Raed is on the hunt for his sister, and he has a handful of his most trusted working to find her…he is betrayed in the worst way possible. Reading this part, and his anguish of experiencing the terror and horror that the Rossin causes, and the fact that this beast killed his own mother, my heart hurt for him during this section. It was obvious his anguish and guilt and success at protecting from the Rossin was not considered. I felt those who betrayed him were very selfish, not seeing the big picture…but in a way, I agreed with one. Ten years of staying away, no real communication, is a long, trying, hard time.

From reading the first few chapters, I had the sneaky suspicion that an overthrow or revolution was going to happen in this book – and be exposed this time. I understand the reasons why Book #1’s geistlord fights couldn’t be explained to the people, and I thought something of the same sort (but on a more massive scale) was going to happen in this book.

I found it interesting that Ballantine references Raed’s grandfather’s reign – and the biggest problem  he dealt with was slavery. He was the Abe Lincoln of the time, which is as yet unknown, but he also kept a diary as a young intended royal and mentions some interesting things about Chioma, including a brief and unexplained comment about it being an “ancient enemy.” Hmmmmmm.

You will definitely be thrown for a loop with this book. So many things are going on, and they all pull

Book #3
Book #3

together. Geist seemed like such a huge feat, but Ballantine was definitely not prepared to go home. She went big! I give 5 stars for this detailed, well-written book.

Safety is just an illusion.

You can continue reading the Book of the Order series with Ballantine’s third installment, Wrayth.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets
Chamber of Secrets – Book #2

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 1998)

Genre: Fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre
  • Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Hogwarts, Map of Hogwarts, Timeline of Hogwarts vs. Real World…
  • Math: “Design Hogwarts” – based on information provided from the book, students create floor plans, diagrams or models of what they think Hogwarts looks like; “Potions” – students measure and record ingredients for the science part of this lesson (below)…
  • Science: “Potions” – students use correct measurements of ingredients to predict reactions between chemicals, create a set number of reactions, and record the reaction and observations in their science journals…

*Author’s Note: There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for her books.  I’m going to try and stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. But I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books! I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books. The basic premise of Harry Potter is about Harry Potter himself, and discovering who and what he is, where he came from and his quest to becoming what he’s destined to become – a great wizard, with a bond not seen before in the wizard world of magic (i.e. Voldemort).

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.

We already know from the first book that Harry is going to encounter a scary, dangerous situation while at Hogwarts – and it is all about him. (Cue Voldemort.) After Voldemort’s quick and mysterious exit yet again, it’s no doubt that he will return at the worst possible moment and be behind it all. And, seeing as how he used a Hogwarts professor as a means to an end to get to Harry, who’s to say he won’t do the same thing again? Or will he, since he’s already played that card?

Each subsequent book in the series brings additional characters into the life of Harry Potter. And with them come more knowledge, more mystery and more story lines. Young Ginny, Ron’s little sister, comes to Hogwarts as first year…and she has a terrible crush on Harry. It’s quite cute if you’ve ever had a mad crush before. In the latter half of the book, we learn Ginny and Harry unknowingly share an item that belonged to the student who first opened the Chamber of Secrets so many years ago.

The new Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts is a pansy, to say the least. Gilderoy Lockhart is a pretentious narcissistic bully. How did he even become a professor at Hogwarts? Ohhh, that’s right! Buddy, old pal Voldemort scared any potential candidate away with the stunt he pulled the year before. The man flies off the handle any time some grubby first year even mentions Harry, has to make sure he’s getting the limelight…and yet, he can’t even seem to perform the easiest of magical spells. I smell a rat (or chicken) in mauve robes.

Harry really begins to question said chicken’s credibility when Hagrid makes negative comments about him, and Hagrid isn’t one to criticize professors. Interesting.

Another interesting thing is a new ghost who joins Peeves, Nearly Headless Nick and the Bloody Baron at Hogwarts – Moaning Myrtle. She haunts the girls’ bathroom…and every girl avoids her and her depressing antics. She is integral to discovering information about the Chamber of Secrets. My burning question: where was she last year? She just all of a sudden pops up in the second book, but you’ll find she’s been around for a while.

With new characters also comes new terminology…but this applies to those we already know.

  • Mudblood: It’s the worst of insults to someone of a non-magical background. It means someone who is born to Muggle, non-magic parents. Not so bad, right? Well, the insulting slur is that they have dirty, common blood and are not pure-blooded. There is definitely a hierarchical structure in the magic world, with the “pure breeds” at the forefront. Malfoy throws this highly inflammatory degradation in Hermione’s face, and this is the main premise behind the entirety of the Chamber of Secrets.
  • Squib: A dud. A person who is born “pure bred” to two magical parents, but isn’t magical. It’s highly embarrassing.

The run-down: Dobby makes a few surprise appearances, sharing some valuable and thought-provoking information. Harry and Ron get punished for some grievous infraction with Malfoy at the center. Harry is sequestered with Lockhart for punishment and he hears a chilling voice. Not only would the words uttered stop you in your tracks and send you running and screaming, but Lockhart can’t hear it. And neither can Ron and Hermione later…which lands them in an empty corridor with some bad juju and incriminating evidence: The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware. 

Heir? What heir? And then we find out – the heir to Slytherin. Who the heck is that? … Oh, wait. Remember when Harry first came to Hogwarts, and had to get sorted into a house by the Sorting Hat? It wanted to put him in Slytherin. But…is it Harry?

And not only do Harry, Ron, Hermione and the usual professor gang see the threatening message, but the whole student body does so as well. Now the cat’s outta the bag! They are all bent out of shape trying to find out about the infamous Chamber of Secrets. Hermione has naturally gone on the Nancy Drew sleuthing streak, but comes up empty-handed. And in the meantime, we learn something interesting and embarrassing about Filch, which explains his apparent hatred of the students, and that the Chamber has already been opened.

Turns out Hogwarts was founded by four great witches and wizards – Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, Salazar Slytherin. They built the castle, and of course, Slytherin turned into a bad apple: he wanted only pure bloods to attend. He didn’t get his way, and he sealed the hidden so-called Chamber of Secrets until the true heir came to the school – to “unleash the horror within.” Horror, Professor? Yes, horror. This thing goes around petrifying any who cross its path. They can all be saved, but they could have died as one did before when the Chamber was opened.

Harry discovers a diary of a former student in Myrtle’s bathroom. And this diary is different. Harry meets the owner of the diary, and goes back in time to the night when the Chamber of Secrets was first opened and a Hogwarts student died. This stranger shows Harry who was expelled for opening the Chamber, which is someone Harry (and Dumbledore) trusts. And then it disappears….

And then, once again, Harry is caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. When Dumbledore asks Harry if anything is wrong, a million things fly through his mind (secret creepy voice only he can hear – that says he’ll be killed!, Malfoy being the heir…) …but he stupidly tells Dumbledore otherwise. WHAT!?! He could have saved you a lot of trouble!! Boys. Such tough things…

The attacks on students continue, and Daddy Malfoy brings down the hammer on Hogwarts. It’s a troubling time, but even more troubling without the headmaster, with your ally thrown in Azkaban and with your Nancy Drew petrified…but not before she finds the information Harry and Ron need to enter the Chamber of Secrets.

The most rewarding moment for me was when the professors ganged up (in professional style) on Lockhart to go do his thang in the Chamber of Secrets and save them all. They say and imply all the things that a reader wants to say. As it turns out, Lockhart is indeed a chicken…but Harry and Ron drag him down into the Chamber of Secrets.

And Harry discovers the real identity of this mysterious stranger who owns the magical diary.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

The shared item between Harry and Ginny, a diary, crystallizes Rowling’s style: she sets up a mysterious scenario, with the main characters involved, and a few suspects as well as some hints of evidence. (And of course the worries of an expulsion.) All of these hints and suspicions build up the plot (and undoubtedly cause other side problems for the gang) and give small flickers of light in this dark big picture. But we never see the whole picture until the pitfall, which is quite unexpected…yet, not really. (We know that’s the natural course of the book.) And then all is revealed, and we get that “aha!” moment when the light bulb comes on. I have the sneaky suspicion this is going to be the formula for most of the rest of the series, which is something I’m not a fan of. But, seeing as how I couldn’t figure it all out on my own, it’s nice having it explained. 🙂

The diary plays on Ginny’s feelings for Harry, as well as her insecurities as a young, adolescent girl. I can relate to that, and I can see how she could have been taken advantage of because of this. Harry has grown in his bravery and his cunning, as well as battling even bigger internal conflicts. That moment in Dumbledore’s office exemplifies most of us – during hard times we are immensely torn, we weight the ramifications of our actions, and we question, Am I doing the right thing? The Harry-Ron-Hermione gang has become more confident as a whole. The interactions between various students, which reveal loyalties and animosities, is very real.

Overall, I enjoyed this book (as I did the first, and probably all to come), with the exception of the light bulb idea above. Rowling, give us some more options! If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series, I highly encourage you to do so. It is truly an enjoyable (and easy) read.

Check out what Harry, Ron and Hermione will run into in the next book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone… what’s left to say, really?

Book Cover (U.S.)
Book Cover (U.S.)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 1997)

Genre: Fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural

I rated this book a 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. This is basically how I reviewed the book on Goodreads, with just a little extra fluff here.

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre
  • Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Hogwarts, Map of Hogwarts, Timeline of Hogwarts vs. Real World…
  • Science: “Making Potions” – using the correct measurements of ingredients to cause a reaction, what kind of reaction when mixing different ingredients…

There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for this novel.  I’m going to try and stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. But I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books. I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books. The basic premise of Harry Potter is about Harry Potter himself, and discovering who and what he is, where he came from and his quest to becoming what he’s destined to become – a great wizard, with a bond not seen before in the wizard world of magic (i.e. Voldemort).

Harry Potter comes to live with his relatives, the Dursleys, on Privet Drive. They are a snobbish, rude lot (I would use stronger adjectives, but this is kid-friendly) who dote on their simpleton, bully of a son. Harry is treated horribly by the family, and I honestly don’t know why he stayed. I would have found myself on the doorsteps of the Child Protective Services agency.

Since this is a coming-of-age  novel, we know there is going to be a drastic change. This change comes in the form of a letter from Hogwarts School of Wizardry, where Harry is accepted. Harry has no clue what this is or that it even exists. He does not know the difference between those born with magical powers, and those born without magical powers (known as Muggles). And in that, he does not know that he is extremely famous in the world of magic, or why. Harry embarks on this journey to Hogwarts and magic, and meets a lot of new friends along the way.

Rowling creates a world that is easy to understand, especially for younger ages. I would recommend this book to any average reader of about age nine or ten. She uses language unique to the world she has created, and her writing style is easy to interpret. The story is developed with a strong plot, and a spattering of characters. All of the characters are interconnected and play integral roles in the plot and development of the main problem, and other minor problems (excluding characters briefly mentioned or those who simply have one line).

Rowling develops characters with dynamics  with realistic characteristics that we can relate to: Hermoine is extremely bossy, Ron is a worry rat, Hagrid is kind and gentle, Dumbledore is wise, etc. Some seem to have their own motives (Snape, Quirrell) that are not known to the reader, and those motives are the umph behind the plot and the problem. But in the end Harry and his gang have not got everything figured out quite like they and are in for a surprise. The first book in the Harry Potter saga ends with the conclusion of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, and returning to Privet Drive and the dreaded Dursleys for the summer.