Thursday, July 21, 2005

HP Review

I finished HP and the Half-Blood Prince late last night and though there are a billion reviews and analyses out there (none of which I've read), I thought I'd still offer my own. And if you haven't read the book, you've been warned: Spoilers ahead!

The book was, overall, very strong. But I thought there were a few weak points. The problem was the book's second act: It seemed to have little direction and was very disjointed from the vibrant, well-written and engaging first and third acts. The second act was probably the slowest moving and most awkward of the second acts in all of the HPs so far. I also thought that Rowling did not give enough time to the discovery of who the Half-Blood Prince was and that that and Harry's lessons with Dumbledore on Voldemort's history competed too often for primacy in Harry's and the reader's attention. Finally, I thought there was too much kissing in the book. I thought Ron's relationship with Lavender was unnecessary and that Harry's relationship with Ginny moved too fast and was overdone.

Those deficiencies aside, Rowling did a great job in this book helping us get to know characters other than Harry, Ron and Hermione. Obviously, great attention was given to Voldermort. But I also loved the descriptions of the joke shop run by Fred and George (who have become two of the books' most beloved characters) and thought Rowling pulled off a great feat when she compelled us to have sympathy for Draco Malfoy. The scene between him and Dumbledore (with Harry immobile in the background) was probably the best in the book. You simply had to have compassion for him: Here is a 16-year-old boy whose parents have always served the evil Voldemort, his father is in jail and will surely be punished by Voldemort for his failures when he's released, his mother has no one to support her at the time but him, and if Draco doesn't do what Voldemort orders him to, Voldemort will kill his parents. But all the time, he doesn't want to be a murderer; he knows it's not right. It's either kill or be killed along with your family. Dumbledore shows Draco mercy and he doesn't know how to respond; he's never been offered it before. Great stuff.

But I think what all fans are waiting to learn more about in Book 7 is Snape. He was formerly a servant of Lord Voldemort but since his fall 15 years ago had made a supposed conversion back to the good side. Dumbledore, a great judge of character, trusted him deeply. Harry has always hated him for reasons other than his past life as a Death Eater, but always suspected him of being dubious. And then we learn in Book 6 that Dumbledore had, apparently, been wrong in his judgement: Snape was pulling the wool over his eyes all the time. But Rowling did such a great job in the previous 5 books of getting us to dislike Snape's personality but trust him at the same time that we feel betrayed by his betrayal of Dumbledore. I don't think that Rowling could write an explanation that justifies Snape's murder of Dumbledore (i.e. Dumbledore was going to die anyway and Snape didn't want to turn Draco into a killer so he did it himself). But I think she will offer him a chance at redemption.

And R.A.B.? My dad thinks that was a ploy, that the locket was really a Horcrux and that Voldemort planted the letter himself to throw off anyone who might discover it. I think that's plausible, mostly because I'm skeptical of anyone besides Dumbledore having had both the knowledge and wizarding power to get the Horcrux in the first place. But we'll see...