In this post I'm going to give a quick overview of the Harry Potter novels. But don't worry, I'm not going to write out a long drawn out synopsis, because I know you've probably already read all of the books anyway (or at the very least have seen the movies) and because there are already tons of places you can go to find those types of summaries.

Instead, I thought I'd take a minute to write down what I did or didn't like about each of the novels, to help to put them in context for you.

Sorcerer's Stone

The Sorcerer's Stone, also known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, is the first book in the series. It's also one of the easiest to read and most appropriate for a younger audience. One of my favorite parts about the series as a whole is how Rowling seems to adapt the complexity and style of each book to Harry's age, so the books become more sophisticated as Harry grows older.

In the first installment, we're introduced to the world of wizardry that exists just beyond modern-day Britain.

This juxtaposition of a fantasy world within and among our real world is part of the intrigue of the Harry Potter novels, and one of my favorite elements of the book.

Chamber of Secrets

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we begin to see that the "wonderful" world presented in the first novel isn't always as rosy as it may seem. We begin to get a sense that there are internal conflicts among the witches and wizards of Hogwarts, and that a dark history lurks in the recent past, with the introduction of "He Who Cannot Be Named" to foreshadow the events of the later books.

Prisoner of Azkaban

Prisoner of Azkaban is, personally, not my favorite. We're introduced to Sirius Black, Harry's uncle, as he escapes from Azkaban, the maximum security prison. It's in this book that we also get a sense of how there is evil following Harry and agents of Voldemort at work, but the theme and plot aren't yet strong enough to make this a compelling book.

At best, we're told simply to hang in there and anticipate the rest of the series.

Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the series, is where the series really begins to pick up, at least in my eyes.

That's because after all of the allusions and references to Voldemort we've had throughout the series up to this point, this is the first book where we actually get to meet him face to face, even if only briefly.

It's also the first book that takes a truly dark turn, as we see the first death of a main character. Whereas before the evils were "lighter" instances of trolls and snakes, now we see that there are big stakes at play, as Voldemort regains his power and begins to mount an assault on the wizarding world.

Order of the Phoenix

The Order of the Phoenix picks up right where The Goblet of Fire left off. Harry realizes that he isn't alone in his fight against Voldemort, and there have always been close allies at hand to protect him and help him on his journey.

This is also where Harry begins to train his own army to fight off the evils, after his frustrations with the inability of the government and school authorities to take any meaningful action.

This is the first book where we really see Harry as a leader, and not a child stumbling his way through uncertain events.

Half-Blood Prince

Snape vs. Dumbledore, what else could you want?

Deathly Hallows

Finally, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows provides a long and climactic conclusion to the 7-part series. Harry, Ron, and Hermione realize that many elements of the earlier books are actually tied neatly together, as they've collected a number of trinkets that each house a portion of Voldemort's soul.

They then set off on a quest to find the remaining ones, and Harry realizes that the last is actually himself, and he must face off against Voldemort directly in order to bring an end, once and for all, to the dark wizard.