Recently, after having heard for years from people whose opinions I respect that they are actually pretty good and definitely worth reading, I have finally embarked upon a reading of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. Though I've only read Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone so far, I'm looking forward to the continuing adventures of the young wizard.
I want to give credit to Rowling, in her first novel, for pulling off something that more experienced writers have botched badly. The "everything you know is wrong" ending is a tricky thing to do right, and very often it ends up not making sense in the light of the events leading up to it. A prime example is Brad Meltzer's The Millionaires, in which a character the reader has been led to believe was killed early in the novel is revealed at the end not only to have been alive the whole time but also to be the criminal mastermind behind the whole organization that the book's protagonists have spent the entire story running from. However, this shocking revelation also renders most of the events of the book meaningless and nonsensical. The book has numerous other flaws, of course, but the badly executed twist ending is the worst.
Rowling, on the other hand, does it right and makes it look effortless. She spends the entirety of Sorcerer's Stone leading us to believe that one character is the story's main villain, then in the final chapter reveals the villain to have been someone we thought was merely an innocent dupe. Yet everything that's gone before still makes sense in light of the last minute reveal and the reader doesn't have to rack his brain trying to figure out for himself how to reconcile the new status quo with what has gone before.
You know, its kind of strange reading Sorcerer's Stone now, after the series became such a wildly popular phenomenon. For the past decade and a half, you could not escape hearing about Harry Potter nearly everywhere even if you tried. Therefore, even though I'm reading the book for the first time and have never seen any of the movies, there's a sort of sense of deja vu, since I couldn't help but absorb certain details of the characters and plot just through the zeitgeist. Still, it wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.
I just picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and I'll be starting in on that one soon.