Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Hello All! We've just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in our Potter Head Read-Along. It's being hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey, and it's not too late to join in if you're interested in reading with us. Details here. As most people are all kinds of familiar with our boy-wizard's world, this won't be your average book review. I'll just talk about points that struck my fancy while re-reading. 

(If you're one of the four people in the world who haven't read or seen HP yet, be warned there may be spoilers below.)

Ah book 6. So much good stuff, including a ton of tragedy! While there aren't really any new monsters or major characters introduced in this installment, there is still a lot of new stuff.

This is the first book in which we see Dumbledore allow Harry to take an active part in his mission to bring down Voldemort. 

It's also the first time Rowling introduces a lot of history that is relevant to Harry. (Granted, we've seen the pensieve used to dispense fascinating history all the way since book 4, but this is history that is specifically relevant to the Harry/Voldemort relationship and how it will all end.) And of course we have romances budding all over the place. :D

We do see new characters in Tom Riddle's family, but they are in the past, rather than the present. I think Rowling was a genius to do it this way. We haven't known much about Voldemort before he became Voldemort up to this point. The only things we knew for certain was that he definitely attended Hogwarts, his muggle name was Tom Marvolo Riddle, and he opened the Chamber of Secrets. That's it. Even the diary (which we now know was a horcrux) was never fully explained. Now Rowling sends up on a treasure hunt, giving us only small nuggets, Easter eggs, if you will, about Voldemort's past. 

I loved this book, even though Dumbledore passed at the end. It was so tragic, and I especially loved his funeral. Very beautiful and fitting.

Okay, I usually do a comparison to the film, so here goes. I really thought the actors in the film were great. I loved Jim Broadbent as Slughorn. (As with Umbridge, Broadbent really isn't ugly enough to be Slughorn, but there's an actor problem for you.) I also thought the romance was handled well in the film and adequately, even if the Harry/Ginny relationship could have been played up more. I also find I prefer the film scene where Harry gets the memory from Slughorn to the book one. They're basically the same, but the line from the film, "Be brave, Professor. Be brave like my mother," just gives me chills every time, and it isn't delivered that way in the book.

Mainly, there were just things that weren't included that I wish would have been. I would have liked to have seen the fight at the end. In the film, there was no fight with the Death Eaters. Snape and Voldemort's other followers walked right out the front doors while everyone (other than Harry) apparently slept through the invasion. I'm sure the film makers just didn't want to upstage the final, epic battle they knew was coming in book 7, but still. I felt like it was an injustice to both the plot and the characters.

Other things I would like to have seen: Dumbledore riding a broom, the history of Riddle's family, and Dumbledore's funeral. Especially given where the story goes in book 7 (not that we knew when book 6 first came out) I envisioned a scene where the adults in the Order of the Phoenix (McGonagal, Lupin, Tonks, the Weasleys, etc.) look at Harry, Ron and Hermione and say something profound like, "Those three are going to change the world" or "all our hopes ride on them" or something. Over the top? Maybe, but I felt like the film short-changed the end a bit. The tribute to Dumbledore with the wands was sweet, but I wanted to see more of what happened in the hospital wing and of course the funeral, as I said. I also wish they would have included more of the Lupin/Tonks unrequited love story. It was one of my favorite parts of this book, mostly because it so took me by surprise. Unrequited love, in my humble opinion, should always be done subtly, and Rowling did it masterfully. 

Overall, I really loved this installment, despite the tragic ending. Snape's part, especially when you know his true history, was done really well here, and re-reading his role in Dumbledore's death just makes it all the more tragic. 

I'll end with a story I heard Rowling herself tell. She was signing books after this installment came out. Up to her table came a very young boy. So young, in fact, that she was surprised he could even read her books on his own. But, he was precocious and very excited about the Harry Potter books, assuring her he'd read all the published volumes several times. He was so cute and enthusiastic that she talked with him for several minutes before handing him a signed copy of book 6. Just as he took his mother's hand to leave, he said, "Okay, whatever you do, just don't kill Harry and don't kill Dumbledore." As he walked away, she cringed and just mouthed, "I'm sorry" after him. 

I thought that was a cute story. Poor kids. Poor all of us. She had the entire world wrapped around her little finger. At least she used her super powers to tell a fantastic story! :D

What did everyone else think of book 6?

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