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 do I separate the series in this way? Because they're separate in my mind. Books 1-3 hold a sort of innocence--a new discovery of an exciting world, taking the young reader on a brilliantly imagined adventure. They're pleasant. A bit heart-warming, actually.
Books 4-6 step into darkness. Not complete darkness, but into a shadow that stilts the bright excitement. The Dark Lord (Voldemort) rises again.
He's not called the "dark" lord for nothing.
Harry Potter is famous because, when he was a baby, he defeated Voldemort without knowing it. This returned the wizarding world to a life of light, thrill, joy, and celebration. Now that Voldemort is back, the wizarding world (and the Muggle world, for that matter) is thrust once more into that place of fear that only Voldemort holds in his hand.
The Goblet of Fire, (book 4) has always been my favorite book--mostly because it introduced adventures that I didn't expect--tournaments, dragons, mazes, traitors, and the like. Harry is thrust into a competition with three other champions--all of which are several years older than he is and more experienced. Theirs is a battle of honor. Harry's is a battle of survival. I drank in the words like a perfected chai latte.
At the end of the book, Harry finds himself tied to a gravestone, facing Voldemort (obviously no longer thought to be dead) and his minions. This was the stepping stone that took Harry Potter out of the "young readers" section of the bookstore and thrust him into the "teen" section.
The Order of the Phoenix (book 5) introduces a secret society forming against the newly risen Voldemort. But Voldemort plays it smart and keeps his "rising" a secret until he can gather enough followers. Harry, meanwhile, enters a time of teenage angst. He's snappy, ill-tempered, self-centered, and not very likable. There is a lot of shouting, an evil professor who resembles a pink toad, and a student rebellion that attempts to learn defensive magic. It's fun, but still lacks the fresh excitement found in books 1-3. Harry starts having visions--visions that are connected to Voldemort's mind (creepy).
In the end, Harry and his faithful friends face Voldemort's followers in battle. Inevitably, deaths and injuries take place that are a bit intense for the younger reader.
The Half Blood Prince (book 6), takes the reader into black memories, dark knowledge, and dangerous missions that steal blood and sanity. On the more human side, the characters enter a time of "young love", which leads to snogging (aka. kissing) and inner monsters of jealousy. Anyone who's anyone has got a crush and/or a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Harry attends secret meetings with Dumbledore to discover more about Voldemort's past and travels with him to hidden caves and a mysterious island. Of course, nothing goes according to plan and the book ends on a depressing hopeless note.
These three books take the characters through deeper friendship-growing experiences. Bonds of friendship are the strongest ties leading Harry and his friends through dangerous and hopeless pursuits. The books stress the importance of friends and trust, which is applicable to the youth of today (and yesterday and tomorrow).
These three novels also take the plot to an intense level--a page-turning level. "The plot thickens" so to say...like gravy and flour.
Apart from the typical scattered swear words and occasional mention of alcohol, all three of these books have dark qualities to them that only grow--evil wizards levitating innocent muggles (aka. non-magic folk), tattoos that connect Death Eaters to Voldemort, detentions of torture, deaths of loved ones, cursed jewelry, poisoned drinks, bewitched dead bodies, and splitting one's soul through innocent murders.
That's just the beginning.
I'll admit, I had difficulty pushing through book 6. It just felt dark and unpleasant. Sometimes it made me grumpy, just because Harry was grumpy. But in all reality, what did you expect to happen once Voldemort returned? The wizarding world was plunged back into darkness.
These books fall into such a negative state because they leave the realm of their intended age-range (9-12). I do not think they are appropriate for children. If labeled for "teens", my review might have read a little differently. I think that older readers can handle the darker side of these books, but I do not believe they should be available to readers under 13.
Confession: I have read the entire series...multiple times. Books 6 and 7 are the least read, but I've always been a bit of a Harry Potter fan (aka. I could tell you practically everything about anything from any book...as well as J. K. Rowling's entire life story). This devotion may stem from the effect the first three books had on me as a child, or perhaps just because I love the characters and the "newness" of the story. BUT, I am glad that I did not read 4-6 as a young girl. They did not come out until I was in my teens and, at that point, I was more ready to handle the darker qualities of the writing.
There are still no Christian themes unless you dig with a desperate shovel. I loved book 4 because of the adventure, book 5 annoyed me because of the teen-angst, and I disliked book 6 because it disturbed me--dark images, frightening scenes, and a downright un-enjoyable plot.
Recommendations? The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix are fine for a 13+ reader. They have more adventure than darkness, but still remain in the reading-shadows. The Half-Blood Prince is not hugely recommended. I love the movie (weirdly enough), but the book just takes a step into the dark corner. And I've never liked the dark (or corners).
So there you have it--books four, five, and six are more intense, deep, and tackle the dark-magic monster. Good will always win, but until then we sit through pages of slightly-disturbing conflict and discovery.
Violence Level: ***
Romance Level: ** (most in book 6)
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: **
Story Depth Level: ****
Recommendation: **** (for The Goblet of Fire)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .***(for The Order of the Phoenix)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .*** (for The Half Blood Prince)
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.