Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Finally finished HP and the HBP. Some people have said that this is her best book yet, but for me, it didn’t measure up to Azkaban or Phoenix. In fact, reading this directly after a re-read of Order of the Phoenix, I found HPB a bit jarring. “Phoenix” was jarring the first time I read it, too, because there was such a distinct change of voice. The whole aura created by Rowling’s word choices was darker, more adult. At the time, I praised it as a meta-reflection of the growing maturity of the point of view character, Harry.

In HBP, Rowling returns to her more whimsical writing style, and I’m not sure how to react to that. Maybe it’s an indication that Harry himself is regressing a bit, becoming a bit more flippant about his circumstances now that he’s not the scapegoat of Wizarding society anymore, but its “great hope.” But he hardly seems blasé. He spends a lot of the book stomping around quite self-importantly, trying to solve the great mystery behind Malfoy’s behavior. Dipping a bit into irresponsibility with the Potions book. And as ever, having the crazed hate-on for Snape.

Speaking of Snape, I have mixed feelings about his apparent “Death Eater” status. Taken at face value, it makes a once gray, morally ambiguous character with intriguing contradictions quite black-and-white. Which is disappointing. But…and maybe I’m too used to the Jossverse here, did anyone close the book wondering if they shouldn’t take Snape’s apparent “evil side” status at face value? Sure, he’s a “double agent”–but who is he double-crossing? The fact that Malfoy is confident Snape is on the Death Eater’s side, and Harry never gives him the benefit of the doubt for a second makes you think maybe Rowling will do the whole subversion thing and have it turn out that Snape is double-agenting for the benefit of the Order of the Phoenix.

Which takes us to the moment Snape kills Dumbledore. Dumbledore begs right before that, but it’s unclear what he’s begging for. His life? I doubt it. He’s just not the type, especially under circumstances in which he’s weak and dying already. So that got me thinking that perhaps Dumbledore needed a particular kind of death, one that would put him in some after-life position to continue his work somehow. Like, we know Wizards who have died can become ghosts, and that others end up “beyond the veil” in the Ministry of Magic. So Snape killed Dumbledore in order to place some sort of magical-whatchama-charm on Dumbledore’s death. Anyhow, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Dumbledore.

On the other hand, if Snape were evil, it would show that Dumbledore had an actual flaw, a blind spot. But jeez, at the expense of a character as complex as Snape? I hope not.

I’ll have to re-read this again without the “Order of the Phoenix” lurking in the back of my brain.

82 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  1. Appointments as in who he hires? I wonder how much choices he has. The Wizarding world in general seems to be all over the place, talent-wise.

  2. I’m starting to get out of the behind the scenes stuff, mostly because JK’s intentions seem to clash with my interpretation.

    She not only said Ginny was the love of Harry’s life, but that she’s his EQUAL. I’m serious To quote: “I feel that Ginny and Harry, in this book, they are total equals. They are worthy of each other.”

    I really have to wonder if the book JK is writing is the one I’m reading. ’cause I really don’t see Ginny as Harry’s equal.

  3. Well… Trelawney and Hagrid stick out in my mind. And we’ve seen two more competent Professors teach their classes. But Dumbledore kept them around because they were useful.

    And I will never forgive Dumbledore for allowing Lupin to quit. He should have fought for Remus.

  4. Re: Didn’t read the HP section of the post…

    Here’s what you need to do. Replace the “+” in the tag URL with a blank space, then hit return or “Go” on your browser.

    It’s a Mac/Safari, thing I think. Or a Mac thing. And it wasn’t behaving this way yesterday. So I think it’s an LJ bug.

  5. Not his equal in magic, but she does spice up Ginny as Quiditch player and gives her something of a personality, which she lacked before.

  6. Lupin only quit to stave off the humiliation of being fired, which would have happened in short order at the end of “Azkaban”. Politics, politics. It would have been a long up-hill battle trying to keep a werewolf on the staff at a children’s school.

  7. 12 point Times. And the word count is 273,001, not including the episode I’m working on now. It’s almost three times the length of anything else I’ve ever written.

  8. I think it’s impossible for main characters to have equals. Even Hermione and Ron, who have been with Harry on most of his adventures I would not call “equals”.

    Just to talk about myself (which I do SO often) in TNP, Salome, who has fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Connor in almost every single episode and is a Champion in her own right I don’t consider his equal. Because people like that don’t really have equals.

    It’s kind of the burden of being the main character in which everything centres around. No one is going to be an equal.

    And while Ginny had gotten some MASSIVE development in the last two books, she’s got a long way to go before she’s either Harry’s equal or the love of his life.

  9. Poor Remus… I know, I’m terrible. But he’s my favourite character. And I always champion my favourites (as you well know).

    But still, if it’s about prejudice, I don’t see the difference between having a werewolf on staff and a half-giant. Especially since Lupin was actually GOOD at his job.

  10. Well, Faith is certainly Connor’s equal in TD, and probably even superior in many respects. But this is mainly because I have inherited them both from canon, and Faith was a more well-developed character than Connor. She had a longer, more complex journey.

    Plus, Slayers are canonically stronger than vampires, and Connor’s abilities are vampire-based.

    I think the only place where it can be canonically argued that Connor has an advantage over Faith is that she probably did not have to learn how to fight as young as he did.

    But in terms of brute strength and maturity, Faith has a slight advantage.

  11. I guess what I mean is that no one is really an equal. With people like Connor (and Harry) no one has gone through what they’ve gone through and thus kind of by default they can have no equals. They can have people who are similar, but not equals. I wouldn’t even call Faith and Buffy equals, despite them having powers from the same source.

    Certainly Sal has some advantages over Connor. She might not be as strong or quick as him, but she has control of magicks that he doesn’t (of course, most of that is because he doesn’t WANT that. He’s still the magic-hater).

    Argh. You know, I had a point, but I can’t remember what it is now.

  12. Well, by that argument *no one* is ever the equal of the other, because we’re all different, and have had different experiences, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what Rowling meant by an “equal”. Probably she meant she’s developing Ginny into someone who can stand up to Harry when he needs, and stand beside him in battle instead of cheering from the sidelines. But the development is not yet complete.

    Faith and Connor are of course different, with different skills and experiences, but similar enough in both that I think Faith can be of help to Connor, and vice-versa. They have a lot to connect on.

  13. No, I don’t think he was fully capable in OotP, but at the same time… his main mistake in book five was one of judgement. He thought Sirius was in trouble and never bothered to verify that. In book six, he suspected Malfoy and Snape, and was essentially correct, but was unable to actually do anything about it.

    There is the similarity, though, that both books have Harry trying to learn something important from Snape and failing utterly (occlumency and silent spell-casting). I dunno. I just thought that Harry regressed a lot in this book.

  14. Regressed emotionally, for sure. He of course was pretty irritable in OotP, but mainly because he was left out of the loop. In HPB, he was a lot more impulsive and self-important, as if he had not learned the lesson of rashness that ended up getting Sirius killed.

    Magically, I got the impression that the new lessons Harry and the others had to learn had increased in difficulty markedly and therefore were harder to learn than before. Not to mention that most of what Harry used in book 5 were magicks he had already learned in previous books.

  15. I thought that Harry was bringing out new magics in the DA meetings by the middle of the year, going over the spells they were studying in theory in the classes with Umbridge. But you’ve read the book more recently than me. However, if they’re doing the OWLs — which would undoubtedly include magic learned in the fifth year — and he’s acing said DADA OWL, then he has to have mastered the fifth-year magics to a pretty good degree.

    One theory that I have is that Harry had not accepted his role in the prophecy and the war appropriately, and had a sort of mental block when it came to the newer dueling magics, which were obviously the types of spells that Dumbledore and Voldemort were using in the Ministry the preceeding year… *shrug*

    It just seemed to me that both Harry’s development and that of his friends were stunted for the benefit of making the HBP look more impressive, and that type of build-up for a character always annoys me.

    I am horribly inarticulate tonight. I apologize for that.

  16. I meant the person, and not the book. The year before, they start this underground Anti-Dark Arts club thing, fight a bunch of Death Eaters in the Ministry which they managed to sneak into after getting there on invisible flying horses, and fight an underground resistance movement in their school. This year… they argue about instructions in a book, and Malfoy being “up to something.” They’re suddenly just these ridiculously incompetent idiots. Hyperbole, obviously, but I was far more impressed with the trio in the previous book than in this one.

    I get techy when I feel that characters are marginalized in order to make someone new look good, or be seen in a different light, or whatever.

  17. Who is being made to look good by their incompetence? Who is being made to be seen in a different light?

    Sorry, not trying to be difficult, just not following your point.

  18. I’m afraid I have to agree with you, I was very disappointed with HBP. It’s hard to say why in a coherant way, because I haven’t really thought about the book much since I finished it, which says it all. I don’t think HP developed in the way he could have, and should have after the last book. So much was happening that he wasn’t involved with that I wished half way through that it had been written from Dumbledores POV. I wasn’t at all invested in the ‘ships. Some of the more interesting characters from previous books were under-used and under-written. I got bored with the whole ‘nobody believes me’ stuff. The only interesting stuff was with Snape. The end of the book saved it for me, but then left me hanging, and no I don’t think Snape is a Death Eater either.

    I have to remind myself that this is a kids book, but I get left with the feeling that I don’t trust Rowling as a writer, I need consistency and believable character development. That said I’m really hanging on for the next book.

  19. I wasn’t disappointed by the book. More like…it had some emphases I wouldn’t have expected after the last book. And it wasn’t as involving to read as Azkaban and Phoenix. But enjoyable nevertheless.

  20. I felt like they were made less competent to make Snape look more competent. Hermione is supposed to be the brilliant student of the trio, but at the same age Snape was inventing new spells and refining potions techniques already so established as to be included in a textbook for sixteen-year-olds. Harry’s dueled with adults before and held his own, but Snape blocks all his spells before they even make it out of his mouth. I like the idea that Snape is more competent and capable than we previously realized, but not at the cost of our established heroes.

  21. I actually thought that was a clever plot device that allowed Snape to indirectly “teach” Harry potions and advanced DADA, seeing as Snape would never teach such things to Harry in person.

  22. It’s the thing I found the most jarring about the ‘shipping in HBP. It was just ALL OVER THE PLACE.

    Well, I think this was one of the themes of the book, since in this one we also got more of Dumbledore’s philosophy of love conquering all, and we see what happens when loves gets denied or twisted. Obsession seemed to pop up all over the book like a Calvin Klein insert, and it wasn’t just used regarding the love potions but noticeably towards Harry’s dislikes of Draco and Snape. I don’t think that was slashy but rather to show us the flip side of the shmoop.

    I’m not convinced that it was particularly well handled but there were so many instances of the consequences of love denied (Tonks, Riddle’s mother, all the stuff with the kids) that I’m thinking it wasn’t just JK deciding it was time for romance but rather her big theme for this book.

  23. For me HBP’s Harry was more mature than before. I don’t think he went back to pre-OotP’s state of mind because he lacked the childnessness of those books. The rolleye-reaction-thing when Dumbledore started talking about the “power of love” was my d’oh moment.

    And Snape. Oh man, Snape. The shady guy we were trying so hard to trust and let us down at the end. So didn’t see that one coming.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s