Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

(Non spoiler review)

I had voiced my trepidation before the arrival of this book due to the very bad showing of ‘The Order of the Phoenix. Yet the fears were unfounded (mostly) when I started reading the book and was soon engrossed, leafing pages after pages as I went about reading about the exploits of Harry Potter and his magical world.

When the last we read, Voldemort has finally revealed himself to the public and the Ministry of Magic can no longer deny that they face their most formidable adversary yet again. Harry and his band of Dumbledore’s Army (DA) recruits as well as members of the Order of the Phoenix were trying to prevent the Dark Lord from obtaining a prophecy concerning the Chosen One who would defeat him in the end. In the end they succeeded but at a heavy price, Voldemort is still loose and the Order had lost a valued member, Sirius Black.

Thus in this dark atmosphere the tale of the Half Blood Prince begins. The world is turned upside down, the normal world has once again began to feel a convergence with the magical as Voldemort and his Death Eaters begin their killing spree even to the Muggle world. Harry as usual is stuck at Privet Drive with the Dursleys during the term break. Yet soon he was to be whisked away by Dumbledore to attend to a few errands as well as to be taken to the Weasleys. Thus in the process a new teacher appeared to teach at Hogwarts, a Mr. Horace Slughorn who used to teach at Hogwarts and persuaded once again to take up a post.

Thus in a subdued atmosphere where people are killed or missing, life goes on albeit with tighter security at the school. From the start, between Snapes’s conversations with Draco’s mother we know something sinister is in the work towards the end and leaves the readers guessing what this could be. There is also intrigue all along as Harry soon finds a deep seated vendetta against Draco Malfroy whom he suspects is up to no good. Yet classes, Quidditch practice and private lessons with Dumbledore soon take up most of his time. A significant event happens when Harry came across an used book on advanced potions, deciphering the scrawling on the margins, Harry soon finds he could brew potions brilliantly through his guidance and not only that even tips on casting curses all courtesy of the half blood prince. Yet will this be a repeat of Tom Riddle's diary in the Chamber of Secrets?

This time unlike the previous book, the storyline was more focused. It did not follow its predecessor in trying to insert every single character to date and to give them air time where none is needed and even if they were, at least it was kept at a minimum. More focus was given to the three main characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione and truly by the sixth book they have matured. Harry no longer seem the angry and depressed teenager he was portrayed in book 5 and here has attained somewhat of a stronger character especially under the guidance and tutelage of Dumbledore. Hermione and Ron’s antics are also worthy of note as we see them squabbling throughout the book and yet when it truly matters all ill will are put aside. Other main characters are also highlighted and well scripted; we’ll see more of the Weasleys throughout, several students in Hogwarts too have been given more of the spotlight while other features were shelved to a lower priority state. Quidditch fans will not be disappointed as Harry once again plays for Gryffindor yet not much coverage is given to this broomstick flying game as previous. The Hogwarts ghosts too have taken a backseat with only cameo appearances. Less emphasis too is paid to the classes the students attend to with a huge bulk of it focusing on Potions which is now taught by Slughorn.

One main theme throughout the book is dealing with the subject of love. Though at times it seems overdone, there were times when couples really shine out. Several unexpected pairing will be noted as the book progresses while others are just astounding when finally found out. Though some may not view it too unexpectedly as there were many indications that events would progress in this direction. The best part for me are the recollection of memories as Dumbledore reveals events in the past through the pensieve to Harry and many loose ends and back story on the rise of Voldemort will be revealed in the course.

Finally, her previous writings highlight Rowling’s willingness to allow main characters to be killed off and the Half Blood Prince is no different, a major character will be killed and many events will befall onto many of the characters Rowling had built up in her previous volumes. The theme was not as dark as the past books as well with many balanced chapters that bespeaks of hope that the Dark Lord might one day be defeated by the Chosen One, but will it be Harry? With ample twists and turns and misdirection, readers will be guessing at many of the plots which will soon unfold neatly at the very end as is her style.

I enjoyed the book, though it does not capture the imagination as the first few books she wrote, Rowling’s writing has matured. Recovering from the bad form she had in book 5, this time she maintains a coherent storyline with enough interesting plots and subplots to keep interest alive throughout. A coherent and a well fleshed out story helps rekindles interests with the Harry potter series and its down to earth writing makes us easily emphatic to the characters within. There are enough plots and subplots to keep you turning pages until the very last. Twists and turns will keep you guessing till the very end.

Old casts abound but instead of trying to put everyone in and thus cluttering the whole story, Rowling focuses developments mainly on Harry as well as Dumbledore. Yet old characters have been given ample spots within and not too much to the point of just being space fillers. A few new casts have been inserted such as Slughorn yet though they are well portrayed with their own idiosyncrasies and peculiarities none can match characters from the past such as Sirius Black and Mad Eye Moody. Though not many innovations and new interests have been placed within the story, many old facets have been refreshingly written to reflect the dire times the people are facing at this juncture. Overall it is a good addition to the Harry Potter series and again it has made me anxious to see how it will all end in the last chapter. Overall I’ll give a 4/5.

3 comments:

Adam said...

My wife has already got a copy and I will be reading it by this weekend. Unless of course my sis-in-law gets her hands on it first.

kuoksum said...

so you are sayig that its worth buying then... will look into that...

Kervin said...

adam: Happy reading, hope you'll enjoy it

kuoksum: Give it a try, not bad at least she has gotten somewhat back on track for me.