How’s this for a timely review? Actually, I just re-read the book in time for watching the movie, so it’s not a coincidence.
A couple years ago, this review would be much more controversial, I’m guessing. But now days, the Christian community seems to have warmed up a bit to J.K. Rowling. Perhaps they finally realized what serious readers were arguing all along, that Rowling was really on our side, which came out loud and clear with her final book, scripture verses, Christ figures, messianic type deliverance, and all. I mean, really, at what point do you keep crying foul?
These books have delivered some of the most powerful Christian messages of all the books written in the past 50 years, and I’m finally going to get a little loud about it. Frankly, this excites me.
It’s time to share a little story. It might rub some of you the wrong way, but I’ll risk it because I think it’s worth telling.
When the first Harry Potter book came out, and the hype got started, I worried. I didn’t want to buy the book to support it, if it was as evil as all the Christian talk show hosts were saying. So, I sat at Borders and read the entire thing in one sitting, enraptured. I thought it was the most incredible thing since Narnia. But, I wasn’t ready to decide just yet. I did more research, and I prayed about it, of course. When the movie came out, and I saw a great opportunity for Christ to be glorified, if Christians got on board. But, I still wasn’t sure. I mean, all these people said it was wrong. So, I prayed about it. And, I asked God if He’d only provide a way for me to go to the movie without having to buy a ticket, so I’d know he was okay with it.
The next day, my best friend called me. The strangest thing had happened. Her boss gave her money to buy three tickets to the new Harry Potter movie to take two friends with her. She wanted to take me and my husband. (To make this even more strange, the boss never did anything like this before and never did anything like it after either. God uses anyone, I suppose. Oh, and the boss was an unbeliever.)
I don’t typically operate this way. I don’t do the charismatic “laying out the fleece” business (seems too much like putting God to the test), but this sort of request seemed practical to me. Just like I didn’t want to support a book that didn’t glorify God with my money, I didn’t want to support a movie that way either. But, God found a way around that for me.
This isn’t meant to be a justification for you to read the books and see the movies. That you’ll need to decide for yourselves, to pray about it, to read about them (here’s a good book from the Christian perspective that discusses the series). Certainly don’t take my word for it, or rely on my experiences. But, I wanted to show you my journey to accepting and even endorsing these books as a way to learn more about Jesus. (One caveat to my endorsement is that I don’t think these books should be read by young kids, since they can be pretty dark. But it’s up to the parents to determine what their kids can handle, and how discerning their children can be. In addition, the kids in these books tend to rebel against authority a lot, which doesn’t make for the greatest model for young kids, in my humble opinion.)
That was quite a prelude to a book review, but oh well, Harry Potter has a lot of baggage in the Christian world. Let’s talk about my favorite book in the series, The Half Blood Prince.
Those familiar with the series might wonder why I like this book so much. I don’t want to go into spoilers here, so this makes it difficult to discuss in detail. But I’ll try my best.
As a general overview, the story is about Harry’s 6th year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Lord Voldemort (the villain) is back, and everyone finally believes Harry about it. Harry begins a series of private lessons with Hogwarts illustrious headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, to learn about Lord Voldemort’s past, in order to become better equipped to conquer him. The title comes from a mysterious potions textbook that Harry borrows, with marginalia from one unknown “Half Blood Prince.”
Why do I love this book? This could be a spoiler, depending on how keen you are on predicting things, but at the end, there is one of the most powerful sacrifices, that mirror’s Christ’s sacrifice, since Aslan’s death for “unworthy” Edmund. Christians should be rejoicing that this is in theaters right now. But sadly, they’re missing a great opportunity for discussions with their non-believing friends.
I also love the mentoring relationship between Professor Dumbledore and Harry. In the story, we have a very admirable man with wisdom and integrity who devotes himself to training up this young man, as a good father would. It’s a beautiful relationship, and I can’t wait to see how it’s staged on screen.
And then there’s the Half Blood Prince and the unknown magic he teaches. First, I love that the book focuses so much on the importance of marginalia, of writing in one’s books! But, I also like that Harry struggles with being discerning in how much to trust what he reads. There are a lot of lessons there for us about not accepting everything we read, to test it.
I could go on and on, but of course, I’ve already done that. So, for now, I’m going to leave you to tell me what you think of these books, and perhaps the Half Blood Prince in particular. I’m planning on going to see the movie in the next couple days, but please let me know if you’ve seen the movie! I’d like to hear your reviews!