21 July 2005


Right, so as of yesterday afternoon, I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Hmmm. What to say? Really, for a 600-page book, not very much happened, until right near the end, and most of what did happen was easily achieved and without much sense of conflict or struggle. What kept the book going, I think, in the absence of any great conflict, was a general underlying sense of unease and uncertainty, mostly generated by things happening off-camera. All-in-all, I think it was tighter than the last book, even if there wasn't much action. There were a few annoying things (the all-Slytherins-are-evil thing seemed more pronounced, but was at the same time mitigated by at least one sympathetic Slytherin character). There was an interesting depiction of a "pure-blood" wizarding family after many generations of inbreeding, which was a nice contrast to the snooty Malfoys. The writing was the usual fairy mediocre -- it's the characters that are the heart of this series, and definitely not Rowling's writing. I think I am rambling.

Basically, it seemed to me that a lot of the clichés of the series were both reinforced and undermined in various ways. I'm not quite sure what to make of it yet, but it's interesting.

Ryan commented the other day about how, in the last book, Harry had become a real dick (I think those were his words, more or less). Sue said something like, "Yeah, he's become a teenage boy." (It was amusing, you see, because Ryan turned 16 recently and is, himself, very much a teenaged boy.) Harry is still a bit of a dick, but it's a little easier to see where he's coming from this time, I think.

I could have done without all the snogging, but then I'd probably have loved it when I was a teenager. Same for the toilet humour (not so much of that this time, though; the tone of the books continues to grow more serious).

My only real gripe with this book is that there is one chapter near the beginning (chapter 2, in fact) that really should have been cut (chapter one wouldn't have been missed much, either, really, but it didn't annoy me). I think Rowling needed to write it, so she knew what was going on, but I think it should have gone. The reader doesn't need it. It annoyed me to no end, knowing the information that was in it. And I think the big event at the end of the book whould have had much more power and impact -- much more emotional punch-in-the-guttedness -- if that chapter had not already tipped us off. I'd advise people who haven't read the book yet to skip chapter two the first time through, but I know you're not going to listen to me anyway.

So. Those are my first thoughts on the new Harry Potter. Anyone else got any ideas? Am I full of shit?


Rowena said...

I just finished the book an hour ago and was pretty underwhelmed - though I did cry my damn fool head off for ... the person who got killed. (I cry at the drop of a hat anyway.)

I really hated the "love conquers all" message and the clumsy way that Rowling created and ended relationships in the last couple of chapters. It felt like she was running out of time and just wrote breathlessly "And so and so got together. Oh, and they split up. The End."

The only shocker in the book, I think, was Harry's plan for the following school year. What kind of an education is he going to get?

Niko said...

I'd have to agree with pretty much everything you said. I was also annoyed that there was so little of Hagrid. And the awkward phonetically spelled accents annoyed me even more than ever this time. Yeah.

And yet, I'm somehow still looking forward to the next one. I was thinking, though, that if Rowling writes anything after Harry Potter, I'm not at all sure I'll even look at it. Maybe out of curiosity . . .

Sue said...

Oh sure, now you tell me, I just finished chapter 4 and find out I could have missed out chapter 2. sigh. Oh well, I'll keep sloggin through. Unfortunately, this one is a book I can put down.

Niko said...

Well, reading chapter 2 won't really spoil the book. It's just better without (plus ch 2 is the only chapter from a completely different pov).