Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.Why am I posting like a maniac?
Because I want the Harry Potter reviews up before the first half of the last movie comes out. The posting will look like this in the next week:
Right now--Harry Potter 1-3
Thursday--Harry Potter 4-6
Friday--Harry Potter, book 7
I'll post my review on book 7 (The Deathly Hallows) on the day the movie comes out, but for now, we have books 1-3 to look at, by J. K. Rowling.
Harry Potter is an eleven-year-old boy raised by his cruel and selfish aunt and uncle. After daily torment, Harry is thrilled when he receives a letter (delivered by owl) admitting him to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (wouldn't you be?). He is a wizard, but never knew it (though he turned a teacher's wig blue, flew from ground to chimney, and talked to a snake once...all on accident). Harry attends the school and learns offensive and defensive magic. He also learns he's famous for defeating an evil wizard (*cough* Voldemort *cough) whom he's never met.
Though much of the wizarding world believes Voldemort is gone forever, somehow the evil wizard keeps cropping up (like in the back of people's heads or in a 50-year-old diary). And Harry always ends up in the middle of the battles. His goal? To rid the wizarding world of Voldemort, to protect his friends, and to survive (naturally).
I've always viewed the first three Harry Potter books (Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban) as the more innocent ones. Gigantic enchanted chessboards, horse-sized spiders (acromantulas), flying cars, quidditch (the ultimate sport played on broomsticks), invisibility cloaks, and the like. Books 4-7 are a bit more intense.
One of the biggest issues in these books for Christians is the fact that the entire series is centered around magic. I address my views on magic in my post, Magic--a Christian Point of View. So, for the time being, I shall set the issue of magic aside.
First, I must admit that I am biased toward these books, so please take this review with a grain of salt (though I will try and remain neutral). I discovered the Harry Potter books when alone, friendless, in junior high, in the middle of winter, and in pitch-black, cold, moose-infested Alaska.
Harry Potter opened the door to a whole new form of imagination. It held adventure I never could have conceived, friendships I'd always dreamed of, and a character I loved who endlessly pursued goodness and light.
I think the books are amazingly creative. Everything from the evil villain's back story to the names of each character and alleyway is significant and meaningful. Rowling keeps the surprises coming, the adventures rolling, and the characters growing. When I finished the series, I must admit that I have never read a book that tied every loose end with a perfect knot like she did. I was amazed. Still am, actually.
There is some swearing in each book--both American and British. There is also mention of alcohol, mostly consumed by the professors as a social interaction; however, Hagrid (a half-giant who's the Keeper of the Keys) gets a bit sloshed here and there when in distress and some professors get a little tipsy around Christmas time.
In book three, Harry enters the class of "divination" (you know, reading tea leaves, gazing into crystal balls, interpreting dreams, etc.). These are sketchy topic, but in the books divination is seen as a bit of a joke. Professor Trelawny is a fraud with glasses too big for her face (or anyone's, for that matter) and a stuffy, perfumed tower. Occasionally, true prophecies crop up here and there, but none are spurred on by smoky candles or star charts.
The ending of each book is intense, but not gruesome, gory, or nightmare-inducing. They are tackled as more of an adventure or unveiling of a mystery. Battles, bad-guys, and blood all turn up in the end, but I was never frightened as a child reading these. I really think J. K. Rowling wrote the books in a way that avoided frightening children. She steered clear of torture, maiming, screaming, and so on (remember, we're just talking about books 1-3 here).
Magic in Harry Potter
As stated in my post here, the magic in Harry Potter is a neutral source, tapped into with magic words and wands. It is only dark or light when used by the evil or good wizards--a main point in Rowling's writing (good vs. evil, love vs. hate). Rowling does not use her books to write against God. Her aim is not to draw readers away from God or to convince them to practice witchcraft in any form. Her goal in this series is to send messages like:
Love is more powerful than hate.
Discrimination is unhealthy and harmful.
Unity can overcome any force of oppression.
Never stop fighting for what you believe is right.
These are all good views--for both Believers and non-believers; however, many of the beliefs, myths, and words of magic in Rowling's books come from beliefs, myths, and words that are used in real practice of witchcraft; however, I believe that Rowling used this as research, not as a belief.
I think that this focus and these books might be a problem if her intent were to adamantly defy God, but that was never her purpose in writing Harry Potter. I don't think we should dishonor her with painting that rumor on her reputation.
So, would I recommend the Harry Potter books?
To the appropriate age group (young readers, teens, and up), yes. I believe the first three books are unique, full of imagination, enjoyable, and appropriate with reader-discretion. In a way, the messages in the writing can be shaping to a young reader. A reader grows with the character, with Harry, and Harry learns about trust, faithfulness, courage, and perseverance. Yes, there is some rule breaking and fighting with peers, but those are all lessons. Lessons that Harry learns from and that the reader can learn from as well.
I know they helped me as a young reader. I pray that they do the same to whoever else decides to give them an open-minded try.
Violence Level: **
Romance Level: * (not yet, anyway!)
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: **
Story Depth Level: ****
Recommendation: ***(but leaning a bit on the **** side)
Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.