Book Review: The Sorcerer’s Companion

The Sorcerer’s Companion:  A Guide To The Magical World Of Harry Potter, by Allan & Elizabeth Kronzck

I found a great deal of amusement in reading that this book was not in any way endorsed by J.K. Rowling or by the publishers of the Harry Potter series.  As someone who has participated and enjoyed writing about the legitimacy of the Harry Potter series [1], this book demonstrates something that many readers of the Harry Potter series will likely not well understand, and that many of those who seek to present the Harry Potter series as falling within the Christian mainstream will be at some pains to counteract, and that is that this book demonstrates very clearly and perhaps even excessively that the first four books of the Harry Potter series contain a huge amount of research and exploration into the superstitions of the medieval world as well as the pagan and esoteric thought about magic and witchcraft extending far back in the Western tradition to Rome, Greece, and Babylon.  Having some knowledge and having done some reading in such matters myself [2], this did not come as a personal surprise to me, but it will likely be unwelcome to readers who feel caught between a desire to defend Harry Potter as legitimate and enjoyable children’s literature and those who have a strong religious disinclination to endorse obvious paganism and sorcery.

Throughout this book, which is written as a single-volume encyclopedia of “real-life” magic to be found in the first four volumes of the Harry Potter series, the author adopts a tone of a pragmatist and a realist, albeit one who seeks to slant the case in favor of alchemists and magicians and against the obvious biblical hostility to such arts.  The author takes every biblical story that could possibly be viewed in a magical light [3] and does so as a way of claiming legitimacy for various magical acts.  The reader is obviously a fan of magic, including the practical magic of contemporary Muggle technology, and simultaneously someone who has done a good deal of reading and research about magical thinking and practice in history, including areas of herbalism that are still popular in alternative medicine.  Although there are some comments in here I would quibble with, the author has done a good job at demonstrating how widespread various aspects of divination and attempts at alchemy were, as well as decrying the persecution of suspected witches on class grounds while more privileged and acceptable town wizards largely escaped such scrutiny, and the author is to be praised for not shying away from the more unpleasant aspects of fraud and necromancy that were involved in many of the magical arts as practiced by the supposedly wise men of the Middle Ages and early Modern periods.

Even though this is a good book for its scope, it is a somewhat limited achievement that demonstrates the way that books were rushed out to capitalize on the Harry Potter phenomenon without waiting for the fullness of the corpus to develop.  This is the sort of book that likely merits a second edition with additions from the last three volumes of Harry Potter that demonstrate even further the areas of magical research that J.K. Rowling did to create the Harry Potter series, especially the horcruxes and hallows of the seventh volume, the penseive, and other related matters.  To be sure, at nearly 300 pages, this is a sizeable book, but if the authors truly have ambitions to make a decisive contribution to the studies of the literature of Harry Potter and the connection of the series to the wider world of history and magic, the book deserves some expansion and some edits to bring it in line with the finished series as a whole.  Otherwise the effort merely appears to be bandwagoning and cashing in on a popular phenomenon, not that it is not a good book anyway, even if that is what it is.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/07/07/book-review-if-harry-potter-ran-general-electric/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/book-review-god-the-devil-harry-potter/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/book-review-the-ultimate-harry-potter-philosophy/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/book-review-what-will-happen-in-harry-potter-7/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/harry-potter-and-the-problem-of-interfaith-marriages/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/book-review-readings-on-j-k-rowling/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/death-omens/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/dumbledore-utilitarianism-and-original-sin/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/how-long-until-the-wizanganot-becomes-the-weasleyganot/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/something-of-gryffindors-and-ravenclaws/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/book-review-the-secret-teachings-of-all-ages/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/book-review-an-introduction-to-alchemical-philosphy/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/book-review-what-am-i/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/pardes/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/book-review-occult-america/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/they-are-who-we-thought-they-were/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/leviticus-19-20-laws-against-mediums/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/mysteries-of-the-bible-the-mysterious-case-of-sauls-seance-for-samuel-the-shade/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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