Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling

>> Monday, July 18, 2005

Ok, DO NOT read this if you haven't read the latest Harry Potter. Really, don't. I'm even going to put this in brown AND after spoiler space, so nobody will read anything by mistake (I know I've done that a couple of times with people's comments about Lost, so I don't want to risk it). So, after spoiler space, highlight the text and you'll see the comments. And if you're on my email suscription thingie and haven't read the book yet, just close this email NOW, as you'd be able to see the brown text on the white background of the email.

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Ok, so, here we are. There's a lot to digest in this book, so these are just some first impressions. I'll start by saying that I loved the book. It's dark, very dark. Both the atmosphere, with the effect of the events of the wizarding world on the Muggle world (I really liked the first chapter!), and the actual things happening. You really do get the feeling that the wizarding world is in the midst of a war. The daily reading of the Daily Prophet, with the regular "Did anyone we know die?" question, just killed me.

The insight into the Ministery's new strategy was very interesting, too. As Harry says, they go from ignoring the problem, trying to make it go away, to often overreacting completely and taking action against innocents, just to make it appear as if they're doing something. That, unfortunately, rings much too true.

Contributing to the darkness is Harry's situation. Harry's responsibility to be the one who's meant to get rid of Voldemort, something that was established at the end of book 5, starts weighing on him more and more, becoming more real to him. He's increasingly lonely now, more isolated, and has had to leave behind that sense of security that comes from believing those adults you trust aren't always right.

This is the novel in which different stuff from all the previous novels starts to come together. Certain things that didn't really click for me in the early books (say, Tom Riddle's diary in book 2), are cast in a different light and fit in much better with everything else. I suppose some sections there in the middle, especially in Harry's meetings with Dumbledore, might have a bit too much talk and talk, but it's such fascinating talk! Especially the stuff about Voldemort's past. He'd been such a shadowy figure so far, that a bit more insight into how he became what he is was very welcome.

On the romance front, something in which I'm always particularly interested, there's much activity here. Shippers will be very happy ;-) Ron and Hermione, Ron and Lavender, Ginny and Dean Thomas, Harry and Ginny, and even hints of Luna and Neville. I admit I like Harry and Ginny. I hated the idea in the first books, when Ginny's feelings for Harry were too much on a hero-worship level, but she's become an interesting, strong and smart person in her own right.

Back to the action: I never guessed about the Half-Blood Prince. And I thought and thought about it, and even asked myself the correct questions, which should really have helped me guess, but I never did make that final leap. It has to be someone we know, I thought. Who do we know that's so good at Potions? Someone who was a troubled teenager? I guess what threw me was that bit about the book being 50 years old, something that was perfectly explained later, when it was mentioned that the book originally belonged to Snape's mother.

At least I'd kept my mind open about the "is he or isn't he a traitor?" matter, so I wasn't completely surprised at Snape there in the end, though I'd dreamed up some scenarios in my mind about him protecting Harry with his own life, because of that Unbreakable Vow. I'd even questioned my immediate assumption that Draco's mission was to kill Harry, especially after the cursed necklace and poisoned wine incidents, so Draco's intentions weren't a total shock.

Only, now that I've finished and have been able to think for a while, I get a niggling sensation that there's something a bit fishy there in that final confrontation in which Snape kills Dumbledore. I'm not even a Snape-lover who can't stand to see her idol do wrong, not at all. I'm not looking for a way to excuse Snape, it's just that all it felt a bit staged, and Dumbledore had been so careful to tell Harry what he needed to know to be able to really kill Voldemort before he died... I'm coming up with theories like that the black withered arm of Dumbledore's was a condition that was spreading, and having only a little longer to live, D. decided to stage his death to maximum effect, to give his man, Snape, as much credibility as possible with Voldemort and the rest of the Death Eaters (remember that Bellatrix Lestrange was having doubts about him, so so must many others).

Now I just have to settle in for the long wait until book 7. I can't wait to see what's up in that one. Unlike in the wait for book 6, in which I had absolutely no idea of what might be going on there, some educated guesses are possible now. Harry's declaration that he wouldn't be coming back to Hogwart wasn't a complete surprise, really. If book 7's going to be about Harry going after the Horticruxes and the final bit of soul of Voldemort that's inside him, he wouldn't really be able to do that while stuck in Hogwarts and juggling lessons.

What will happen with Draco? He cut a pitiful figure back there in the tower, and it felt almost as if what Dumbledore was telling him was hitting home. And what about the mysterious R.A.B.? Who might that be? And I don't think we've seen the last of the Inferi. From the minute they were mentioned, I imagined Harry might have to fight against the reanimated corpses of his parents, which would make for a truly terrifying scene. The mention of Harry wanting to visit their graves there at the end strengthened this hypothesis.

So many open-ended things that will have to be closed! Oh, well, as soon as the waiting period ends at the HPforGrownUps group finishes and people can start posting, I'll be heading over to see if anyone has any theories.

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