Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nostalgia Review:: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, #6
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Still good?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I'm of two minds about Half-Blood Prince. There were some parts in it that were rather well done, and other parts that made me roll my eyes. It's just so frustrating to read a book and go, "Ugh, it was so close to being good!"

One of the major things that bothered me about the book was the heavy use of the Pensieve. Why? Because it's a cheap way to try and subvert that old writing adage, "Show, don't tell." Grabbing a memory from the Pensieve might as well be an "As you know Bob..." So basically, it's not just a plot device. It's a way to make J.K. Rowling's writing easier. Or lazy, depending on how you look at it. I honestly feel like all this exposition could have been done in ways that didn't involve what amounts to magical story-telling.

And while the whole "teenagers in love" bit is kind of realistic (not in my school experience, but whevs) it really grated. I don't read novels entirely for their realism. I don't really care how many bowel movements Harry has in a day. And talking about the "monster" within him that wants him to rip people way from Ginny... well, I've never experienced that, either. It makes me a bit concerned about Harry's character.

What I do love about this book, though, is the depth given to Snape and Malfoy. While I know early-ish on in the movies, J.K. Rowling gave spoilers to Alan Rickman, I often really have to wonder if she was planning on doing anything decent with them. The morality in the first book is just so black-and-white and we see that Greek idea that beautiful people are good and ugly people are evil. And we see this continue on... pretty much anyone with a strong negative characteristic has a strong "negative" physical characteristic.

In this book, you can see it well with the Hokey memory... The woman Hokey works for is old, hides herself under makeup, and overweight. See, we know that because she's fat, she's a hoarder. And because she tries to act like she's younger than she is, she has an obsession with vanity and shiny things. Wow, that's so deep! Last book? Umbridge looked like a toad and was a toadie. Gasp! There are actually very few characters (especially "bad" characters) that you can't do something like this with. Sometimes it's lazy and just ugly = evil, but sometimes it feels like J.K. Rowling is trying to be clever.

It was clever when I was a kid. It's not now.

We've also got a blatant subversion of her poor attempts of misdirection in other books. Harry thinks it's Malfoy and it's Malfoy all along! But... we know it's Malfoy because Rowling gave us a scene at the beginning that said it was. So... there really wasn't a lot of suspense there.

Maybe already knowing that Snape kills Dumbledore makes the impact of all that less, but honestly, it was clearly time for Dumbledore to go. He had started to do really stupid shit. And on a more meta level, his dotty witticisms were starting to annoy me. Granted, some of them still brought a smile to my face. But by this point, I'm enjoying Luna more and Dumbledore less.

The writing style also gets a lot better in this book, even if the writing technique doesn't improve that much. It was a much more enjoyable read than Order of the Phoenix (also a much shorter read), but I think the more juvenile feel of Prisoner of Azkaban might be why I enjoy it more. Maybe I expect more depth out of a book that's targeted at an older audience, as Half-Blood Prince clearly is. Or maybe Prisoner of Azkaban is just a better book.

Probably some of both.


  1. I never got this far, so I'm interested to see how this one wears without nostalgia...

    1. For some reason, this is the one I remembered the least.