Sun, 17 Jul 2005
Erm.. yeah, I think I mentioned before that I don't do book reviews, but I couldn't help myself. Despite what appears to me to be a larger proportion of people my age and with my interests thinking the Harry Potter series to be a bit childish, I've found them very entertaining. And a good story line to boot.
So, A few weeks ago I dropped by a local bookstore to pre-order a copy - Raewyn and I had an agreement that I would be allowed to read the book first, as she is a significantly faster reader than I, and has a habit of letting plot secrets out before you get to finish it after her.. As such, I spent most of the 26 hours after it was released reading the sixth installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I decided to use the release as a location for a bit of photography practice with my new 20D..
The young chap in the first image had been waiting at the front of the queue for about 2.5 hours.. not for me!
I met a reporter at the store, and we discussed what he'd been chatting to some of the folks in the queue. A good point was raised - the length, complexity, and general tone of story had changed with each successive book to match the capabilities and understanding of the original target audience - Younger teens, who now, 8 years after Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone graced bookstore shelves, are approaching their early twenties.
Now, to the story - I do heartily apologise to anyone who reads past this paragraph - here is your warning: SPOILERS FOLLOW, if you want to read this book, I highly recommend you bog off now... I repeat, SPOILERS FOLLOW.
For those that just want to know what happens, in a longwinded and badly constructed sentence, here goes; Harry discovers jealousy, and falls for Ginny Weasley, Ron and Hermione do the courting dance, but neither get to the point of actually admitting fondness to each other, Snape's a traitor, Malfoy wants to be a traitor, Harry learns about Tom Riddle's past, and ultimately begins to understand with the help of Dumbledore, what he has to do to defeat Voldemort, and Dumbledore is killed (by Snape).
The story starts of rather slow, and with little intrigue compared to the finale of the previous book. Because of this, I kept thinking "Wow, I'm this far through, what could really happen now that's bad?" (little did I know!). Eventually, things kicked into life, as Harry learnt about Riddle's past with help from private lessons with Dumbledore involving the pensieve. Basically, Voldemort has created six Horcruxes (objects that are used to store a parts of a soul) which must be found and destroyed before Voldemort himself can be killed. One such Horcrux was Riddle's diary that Harry destroyed back in The Chamber of Secrets. After learning of this crucial information, the book comes to a screaming finale as Harry and Dumbledore journey to find and destroy another Horcrux (which turns out to be fake, but that's inconsequential at this point).
During the course of the story, Harry becomes more and more convinced that Malfoy is up to no good, but Hermione and Ron are not quite so sure - it turns out he was right, Malfoy had become a Death Eater in his fathers stead, and Voldemort had placed upon him the task of killing Dumbledore. Early in the story, when we are unaware of what the task is, Snape is approached by Malfoy's fearful mother who insists that Snape make an Unbreakable Vow to protect Malfoy, and to carry out the task if he fails - needless to say, he does, since Malfoy appears to not be up to the task.
This early meeting with Malfoy's mother, is where we are first introduced to the possibility that Snape may well be a traitor to the Order of the Phoenix. I was finding it hard to believe to start with, but it's been such a recurring theme throughout the entire series that he is suspected by many to not be as faithful as Dumbledore thinks, that it becomes much easier to swallow. Although, this very belief of Dumbledore's, plays a large part in his demise. Sadly, it tarnishes the character somewhat - but thinking back, Dumbledore does admit to Harry that even he makes mistakes. It's a shame that he only realises that his faith in Snape is wrong at the very end.
But what about stopping Voldemort acquiring the Philosophers stone you ask? That comes up - At the time, Snape thinks it is only Quirrell after the Stone.. There are other such points, and questions asked of apparent contradictions throughout the story.. All are answered, and quite satisfactorily in my opinion.
Anyway, to conclude, I'll state that this is another very good installment from Rowling - She's done well, and I honestly do look forward to the seventh, and I believe final, book in the series.
Oh, and who is the Half-Blood Prince? I'm afraid that I am going to leave that one for those that actually read the book!