Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

harry potter half blood princeHow’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!

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for sharing this review. I have never read any Harry Potter books or watched any of the movies because of the comments and protests from many Christian leaders when the first books and movie were released. I took their word for it that the books were basically evil, and I respect their hearts and sincere intentions in what they have said.

    However, perhaps they were wrong in their conclusions. I would like to think and pray about this some more and possibly read one of the books. I need to make my decision as you did – based on God’s leading and wisdom – rather than just because someone else said something was so.

    I appreciate and enjoy your blog. God bless you!

    AL: Thank for stopping by Mel. I appreciate your perspective here, wanting to make your own decisions “based on Gods leading and wisdom.” Of course, I won’t condemn anyone who chooses otherwise about these books, that’s up to them and between them and God. I just hope to offer a new way of thinking about them. I’v been blessed by the books, and I hope others can be as well.

  2. A christian lady once told me that she had no problem with her children reading and watching Harry Potter movies. She said that Harry Potter was a “good” warlock and did good things. Now think about that statement…look at the definition of the word warlock and ask yourself “Does that really glorify our Lord?” Remember, satan twist the truth to win souls.

    Webster dictionary:
    WARLOCK: _noun
    1.a man who practices the black arts; a male witch; sorcerer.
    2.a fortuneteller or conjurer.

    Please be carefull and try to look at this from a bigger picture. Have you ever heard the song “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns? It’s a great song and so true!!

    AL: Beth, I’m glad you stopped by and took the time to comment. You’re perfectly right to avoid reading these books if you think this is enough to warrant avoiding them. If this is your criteria to avoid reading Harry Potter, I’d encourage you to also avoid reading the Lord of the Rings books as well, as Gandolf is the White Wizard, the “good one,” who is a Christ figure. In addition, in Lewis’ Narnia, while the White which is evil, Aslan (an allegorical figure for Jesus) practices an “old magic,” also making him also a wizard.

    If the existence of some form of magic, good or otherwise in a book will lead you into sin, avoid it. It’s not worth it, of course.

    I don’t want to make anyone stumble by encouraging people to read these books, or at least consider reading them. I take the apostle Paul’s advice very seriously when he tells us not to eat food that would make others stumble. Basically, those who might fall into sin because of it shouldn’t get led astray by our influence: “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Romans 14:20-22). Basically, where food applies, I think books can apply too. So, don’t, for the sake of books or movies, cause your friends to stumble.

    I don’t want to cause anyone who has strong moral objections to this to stumble. If it’s going to lead you down some dark path, then avoid it. Seek God’s word, pray about it, and use your God given wisdom to make a good decision, but certainly, don’t do anything because I told you to do it.

  3. Came across this thoughtful review today, another book review in time for the movie:

    http://pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com/2009/07/harry-potter-offers-important-lessons.html

  4. who’s the half blood prince?

    AL: An excellent question! But it’s one I won’t answer because it’s a major mystery in the book that only gets revealed at the very end!

  5. I became a librarian because of the public library’s rule that PARENTS are responsible for what children are allowed to read, and that the library never has and never will filter their collection to avoiding offending someone. So parents: either do or don’t let your kids read the HP books, after you read them or read reviews of them. Then own what you decide for your own family, and let other families do as they see fit.

    Librarians are also tasked with providing a wide array of books that may or may not offend people. Unlike Islamic libraries, our libraries trust individuals with deciding what they do or do not agree with.

    As a librarian I was quizzed a bit when the first HP book came out. I actually had flagged several ministers about it, suggesting they think through what guidance they might want to suggest before this HUGE wave of HP books and movies washed up on their shores.

    The pastors all shrugged, then later got quite vocal about the time the second book came out…a little late to address the horse out of the barn situation.

    As I always tell parents: know your kids, know your standards, and explain to your children why or why not a book is allowed. Letting kids read a poorly written book is fine, but make sure they have been exposed to enough well written books that they can tell the difference.

    My biggest concern about the HP series was that Rowling promised that each book would get darker and more “adult”. I felt that was rather unfair to future children who would enjoy the first book at age 10 or so, and then have the entire series to read…still at age 10, unlike the kids who have grown up with the series publication tracking their own growth rate.

    The HBP movie was well done, but it was annoying that some of the big scenes were tossed off with a single line- “I am the Half Blood Prince!”…then on to the next scene with no reaction to that line portrayed on screen.

    The theater was jammed with parents with toddlers and very young children. I’m thinking there’s going to be a lot of parent’s getting up with children having nightmares over the next few weeks. The last two books/movie really aren’t children’s movies at all.

    Still, I think I’d rather have the kids having nightmares over HP than the other scary tale that children are being told: that global warming and saving the earth’s ecology is their responsibility. Child Psychologist are reporting how many very young kids are being treated for depression centered on that overwhelming task.

    AL: As always, I greatly appreciate and value your librarian’s perspective. Love the point about having other books to be far more scared about. But you’re right to make a stand for parental responsibility. Instead of rushing to push for censorship, I want to be an advocate for parents to get more involved in their kids’ lives as well. Kids can be taught to be discerning readers. And parents can help them understand the things they are bound to encounter in our culture.

  6. I appreciate your review, Amy. I came to the HP books after book 4 came out. I read the first one and was completely enchanted with it and immediately read 2, 3 and 4. I was a little disturbed with the darkness that got uglier and uglier with each volume. Then, it took so long for 5 to come out that I lost interest in the meantime. I think I’ve seen the first two movies and they were quite engrossing but HP has slipped out of my sphere of interest.

    I’m not particularly for or against them (uh oh, am I sitting on the fence??!!)….if anyone asks me about them I warn them that, while incredibly creative, they are also quite dark. I didn’t care to go any deeper into that world myself.

    AL: I agree that the books do get darker as the series goes on. Actually, there’s one variation on the general theme, in which I think book 2 is the darkest of them all. But that’s just me. I’ve known families that have chosen to read the first book alone because it has enough to get in the cultural discussion, and it also has a wonderful image of Christ’s sacrifice, when Harry’s mom gives her life to save her son. The reason why Harry lives is because of that old magic, which the evil Voldemort could never have understood. It’s beautiful, and a great way to talk with unbelievers about Christ’s sacrifice for our own salvation.


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