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.