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Go on. Just guess. It's a shocker.

I was not bored by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Who could have predicted that Harry would end up in a foursome with Neville, Luna and Peeves? Such a novel use for butterbeer and chocolate frogs.

I also loved the scene where the two personnel officers accidentally stumble into a portkey at the LSE graduate jobs fair and end up asking Hermione to join Accenture to work on the muggle government's public-private finance initiative because that sort of thing requires magical thinking.

And who could possibly have been bored by the scene in which Hagrid strips naked before Trelawney and dances around the astronomy tower, yelling "how about them crystal balls, eh?"

Oh no. Did I spoil someone? Oops. Anyway...


I'm glad it was Potter this weekend. It made a change from the past week, which mostly involved insane rage at inanimate objects and news-junkie, obsessive-compulsive reading of every serious daily newspaper (and that fascist arse-rag The Daily Mail because I like to know what my mum's next mad rant will be about before it hurtles down the phone lines)

I bought the book at 12.10am at Tesco. I thought, "none of you buggers [by which I mean LJ, I'm afraid] is going to spoil me for big stuff" It was a pretty quick read. It only took about four hours on Saturday morning, whereas I remember OotP took a day and a half because I had to keep flipping back to make sure I had it all worked out.

I have no fully appropriate Potter iconage for this post. I made one which was appropriate and silly and unspoily in my opinion but then I imagined the whining of people who would comment with "OMG, you spoiled me, you have tainted my fannish experience and pierced my very soul". After all, some idiots think you can spoil *news*. They might well commit seppuku if you revealed that their ship of choice was jossed without putting it in whitefont, behind a cut-tag guarded by vicious attack-gerbils, and adding the phone number of an appropriate helpline to pick up the pieces afterwards.

I'm not talking about thoughtless so-and-sos including spoilers for new books, movies or TV shows in an open post immediately after broadcast/publication -- that's daft by any calculation -- but rather people who allude to the media product in question in a relatively generic way then get their heads taken off by shrill morons with an over-developed sense of entitlement.

Look, I have to ask: when someone posts such a comment, how many of you first write a reply stating "then stay away from LJ until you've read the book, you over-sensitive fool" ** or even tap out an elegantly minimalist "fuck off" before deleting and returning to the more tactful "That was not my intention, nor do I feel I spoiled you, but if your fannish experience is compromised, I'm sorry for that"

Just me then.

Anyway, here's a snarky Spooks/MI-5 icon. It's a Harry who said the quote, so close enough, eh?




Snape, Snape, Snape, my darling wee rotter, you're so very not-evil.

I read this entire book thinking about who was going to explode with fannish rage/joy at which point and I think it enhanced the experience. It helps to have no particular flag to fly (maybe a bit of Sirius/Remus and a liking for Hermione/Ron with a side order of Harry, but nothing too detrimental to my reading experience).

I didn't like this book best, but I certainly don't get the hate for it. I liked it pretty well. I think it did what it says on the tin: it got us from OotP to the final book of the series with all the pieces in the right place for the end game.

Occasionally, you could see JKR's hand shoving them into place despite the story rather than because of it, but mostly the writing was better than in OotP. She still has that gift shared by people such as Dan Brown and Terry Pratchett: compulsive readability. Though this feels like the middle part of a trilogy, pacy, sleek with plot and revelation, short on resolution, it's still a page-turner.

It probably says bad things about me that following Dumbledore's Suicide By Snape, I was reminded of that Oscar Wilde quotation about it taking a heart of stone to read about the death of Little Nell without laughing. The potion scene in the cave was genuinely chilling, as was the very notion of the horncrux, but once we got to the endless bloody funeral I was Reacting Inappropriately. I think that's the proper term. I just don't like being instructed on what to feel.

Same goes for The Chosen One stuff. Can't take that seriously at all. Is Harry also The Key to Everything à la The X-Files?


After all the whining last time about getting lost in extraneous information, I missed the rich texture of detail about the wizarding world and its other inhabitants. This book properly served only about a half-dozen of the characters but it mostly served them very well.

It's noticeable that Harry's no longer "the boy who lived", rather he's "Dumbledore's man". This was the book where Harry became an adult. It's only a couple of weeks since the end of OotP but Harry is a different person already; he's older than Hermione or Ron in experience, though you could argue that by the end, they have caught up.

There's a theory that evolution is not a steady progress but rather a series of sudden jumps, and I think that's what Harry has gone through. He's been hauled out of his adolescent anger and selfishness with the death of Sirius and the realisation that this is his war and he's going to have to finish it. It helps that he has been vindicated by events.

By the end of the book, Harry's almost an adult by the standards of his chosen society. If he were an ordinary Briton he would be old enough to get a job, to get married, to raise children (though not to drink or vote). He reminds me of nothing so much as the boys who went off to fight the second world war straight out of school. They didn't have the optimism or jingoism of the first world war and they knew the enormity of the task they faced but they went anyway.

Once again, you get Ron's annoyance at being left out (of the group that has money, or glory or experience) in the way he acts after Ginny taunts about him not having a girlfriend. It makes him react in a way that Harry might have reacted in OotP, with foolish defiance that leaves him stuck in a relationship he doesn't want to be in. (and wow, does JKR have a disdain for girly girls or what?) Hermione is more adult than Ron but it's a real signal of how much she's grown at the end of the book when she abandons her studies without a thought to help Harry.

I think I knew it was going to be different the moment that Draco stamped on Harry's face and left him bleeding on the train. That's a very non-magical, non-playful kind of violence, and it's a shift in tone for even for that nasty little bastard Draco. The development of Draco from 2-D school bully to a more rounded, 3-D antagonist was pretty well done, I thought, and I think he's going to end up reluctantly fighting on the side of right next book around. It was certainly signalled in his angst over killing Dumbledore.

We were so clearly directed to believe that Voldemort was the Half-Blood Prince that I knew it couldn't be him, but because I am thick, it didn't cross my mind for ages that it was Snape, even though the clues were there. I wonder whether the title came not from Snape thinking of himself as a prince, but rather from someone scornfully referring to him as "the half-blood Prince" and him adopting it.

I was amazed at all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Snape. It seems very obvious to me that Dumbledore is committing Suicide By Snape in order to save Draco and because he is dying anyway. Snape shoots him the look of hate for being forced to do that. My only fear is that this means that Snape won't get to live at the end of book 7 and it seems to me that he should, if for no other reason than I want to know what Snape will do when he no longer has the imperatives of the double agent driving his life. I'm guessing that Harry will reluctantly suspect that Snape isn't evil in Book 7 and that suspicion may partly arise from his study of the potions book.

I loved the way this book functioned as a character study of the enemy, though I was disturbed by the suggestion that Tom Riddle was born bad, from a long line of inbred purebloods (and seriously, who wasn't hearing Duelling Banjos, when Morfin and Marvolo were on camera? Well, this being England maybe it was Duelling Lutes) It's clear his mother had the capacity to love, even though she went about acting on that in the wrong way, but the only thing Tom ever seemed to love was Hogwarts.

The theme of this end trilogy then, seems to be love and redemption. Tom Riddle loved no one and spurned any chance at redemption and grew into a tyrant and murderer. Snape appears beyond redemption though I think he's on the side of good in the end. I'm hoping we'll find out that one of the things that spurred his hatred of James Potter (and James' hatred of him) was because he and Lily had been close once. Draco loves his family and now has a shot at redeeming himself. Harry is perfectly capable of darkness -- witness him trying to sling out the unforgiveable curses *again* -- but he loves.

Now to the troublesome parts of the story -- the tacked on, perfunctory nature of every romantic relationship save that of Ron and Hermione (and I wasn't too keen on the way that was spun out so far) I have no beef with Remus/Tonks in itself, since it does not preclude Sirius/Remus, but this came out of nowhere. Nor do I like the implication that love makes previously forthright and dynamic women into weepy messes with hair issues. I'd much rather it was out of guilt at the fiasco inside the ministry than love.

As for Harry/Ginny, could that have been more tacked on? "And then they were happy for a bit, until they weren't"

I suppose that Ginny signals home, safety and love to Harry. He loves the Weasley family and they love him right back, even if Mrs Weasley is a Scary Mother of Boys. (The Scary Mother of Boys is a psychological phenomenon wherein mothers who have only sons, or a large number of sons and one girl turn into the mothers from hell because their sons are Speshul and Perfect and couldn't possibly be little bastards. They will hear no wrong of their 'boys' (the boys in question are often in their thirties), they are adored by said boys and woe betide any woman who tries to win their heart if she is not worthy. 99% of women are not worthy, btw.)

Given that Harry cannot do what he seems to want to do, and marry Ron and Hermione, Ginny is the next best thing. However, JKR clearly does not want to deal with that, as we get the tortured "I cannot be with you because I make you a target!" Fine. If you say so. It was not well done.

In summary, seven out of 10, would be eight and a half if the ship stuff was eliminated, roll on the last book of the series.

Finally, I direct your attention to this post by pandarus. I agree with every articulate paragraph.

[** I know some people don't have the money to get the hardback right away but they may have to accept the possibility of spoilage leaking from the world in general, never mind LJ. ]

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Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
qowf
Jul. 18th, 2005 02:51 am (UTC)
And who could possibly have been bored by the scene in which Hagrid strips naked before Trelawney and dances around the astronomy tower, yelling "how about them crystal balls, eh?"

Just laughed so hard, I almost choked on the late night Taco Bell excursion.

Oh my god. FUNNEH. TEH FUNNEH.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:04 pm (UTC)
And you had to go mention Taco Bell. If I could have *one* appalling US restaurant chain in Britain, it would so be that one *g*
timesink
Jul. 18th, 2005 03:05 am (UTC)
Is Harry also The Key to Everything à la The X-Files?

Naw, I think he's supposed to restore balance to the Force.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:04 pm (UTC)
I *knew* I missed one.
snacky
Jul. 18th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)
Look, I have to ask: when someone posts such a comment, how many of you first write a reply stating "then stay away from LJ until you've read the book, you over-sensitive fool" ** or even tap out an elegantly minimalist "fuck off" before deleting and returning to the more tactful "That was not my intention, nor do I feel I spoiled you, but if your fannish experience is compromised, I'm sorry for that"

Um. I never get past the first bit.

Okay, I'm with you on the whole Snape thing, except I think he has to die in book 7. But he'll die redeeming himself, and then everyone will realize Dumbledore was right and they were wrong oh woes.

I actually liked Harry/Ginny, and I like Ginny quite a bit, and didn't think it came out of nowhere. I thought it had been building since GOF. Remus/Tonks, though. *That* came out of nowhere. I was thinking Tonks was under the Imperius curse until that came out.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:07 pm (UTC)
Um. I never get past the first bit.

I'm always thinking the second bit but I'm a coward and never actually post it.

I actually liked Harry/Ginny, and I like Ginny quite a bit, and didn't think it came out of nowhere.

I like Ginny, I don't think she's a bad sort for Harry to go out with, and I wasn't averse to them copping off in any way, just it felt as if it was, I don't know, rushed. It scarcely started before it stopped.
corianderstem
Jul. 18th, 2005 04:57 am (UTC)
Agreed very much about the relationships. I thought that took up way too much space in the book.

I think I was a little underwhelmed because while I certainly enjoy the books, I'm not as into the whole Potter-dom as many, many others. I'm okay with that.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:09 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. I think that if you're very into Potter, this book will only make you more interested (unless your ship has been violated!!!OMG!!!), whereas if you're uninclined to be very into it, it won't change your mind
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:09 pm (UTC)
Glad to know that I have hit the appropriate lofty literary tone *g*
curiouswombat
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:07 am (UTC)
And who could possibly have been bored by the scene in which Hagrid strips naked before Trelawney and dances around the astronomy tower, yelling "how about them crystal balls, eh?"

Ah - now you've got me hooked - going to dash out and buy it just for this scene!!!
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:11 pm (UTC)
Oh you should, it's a winner. And brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "blast-ended skrewt" *g*
vivwiley
Jul. 18th, 2005 12:44 pm (UTC)
I also loved the scene where the two personnel officers accidentally stumble into a portkey at the LSE graduate jobs fair and end up asking Hermione to join Accenture to work on the muggle government's public-private finance initiative because that sort of thing requires magical thinking.

Geek that I am, this is the one that nearly made me inelegantly snort coffee all over my monitor (hmmm...can one snort coffee elegantly? But I digress).

I also thought this was a much better read than OotP - and agree with most of your analysis. One of my major gripes was that Harry was proven right about nearly everything, which felt like a plot flaw (or maybe I just don't like people who are Always Right). Although, that may be setting him up for some egregious mistake in book 7. I think Snacky's speculation about Snape dying in a redemptive manner makes a lot of sense, although I would actually like to see him live.

And yes, on the Little Nell death-Dumbledore funeral comparison. I just sat there reading and thinking "huh. Okay. and now what?" But then, I'm a little infamous for my callousness about certain things.

Thanks so much for sharing all this with us. Cheers, V
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:14 pm (UTC)
One of my major gripes was that Harry was proven right about nearly everything, which felt like a plot flaw (or maybe I just don't like people who are Always Right)

I hadn't thought about that but it's true. And as for DD's funeral -- thank God I am not the only heartless so-and-so on LJ *g*
loligo
Jul. 18th, 2005 12:54 pm (UTC)
My only fear is that this means that Snape won't get to live at the end of book 7 and it seems to me that he should, if for no other reason than I want to know what Snape will do when he no longer has the imperatives of the double agent driving his life.

This is my greatest fear. A Snape heroic self-sacrifice is *just* the sort of pat resolution that Rowling is sometimes susceptible to, and would be so very, very unfair to Snape. I don't know what I'm going to do when Book 7 comes out -- it's very possible that I may have to skip right to the ending, just to see if Snape survives.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
This is my greatest fear. A Snape heroic self-sacrifice is *just* the sort of pat resolution that Rowling is sometimes susceptible to, and would be so very, very unfair to Snape.

I almost skipped to the ending of HBP, just so I could relax and read the damned thing instead of trying to work out who would die based on who had uttered the most schmuck-baity comment full of ominous meaning. I think Snape wants to go out in a blaze of glory and "I was right all along", and that's exactly why I'd rather he didn't.
comice
Jul. 18th, 2005 03:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you for making me spit take. Of course, I'll have the image of Hagrid's crystal balls in my head while I'm trying to sleep, so thankyouverymuch.

I really, really enjoyed HPB, in all its ship-sinking glory.

:: blows kisses to you ::
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
I am so glad that I am able to aid your fannish experience that way. Just lull yourself to sleep with "blast-ended skrewt" double entendres, and you'll be fine *g*
se_parsons
Jul. 18th, 2005 04:40 pm (UTC)
I'm not done with it yet, but I looked ahead at the end AFTER I read chapter 2 or whatever it was with Cissy and Bella.

I said to myself, "Ah, I see this is where Snape does his heel-turn."

And, interestingly, it seems to all come down to what Lupin said. "Do you trust Dumbledore?"

I think Dumbledore really IS that great a wizard. I think he really IS insightful and can see through to what people really are.

Thus, I think that he and Snape had worked out Snape's heel-turn beforehand, though the details might have been not finalized yet. That leaves Snape free to swear to Narcissa that he'll protect Draco and take the burden for him (and how is THAT not in character for someone who has always protected the kids?)

The Half-Blood Prince thing sounds very much like something a downtrodden genius would end up with. Either tacked on him by an enemy or a secret name for himself so that he could proudly endure the abuse. And THANK YOU JKR for proving Snape is a fucking genius at nearly everything with that old used borrowed potions book. And that house in the hideous factory town stuffed with books. My heart went out to him.

I have always believed Dumbledore has been playing a very deep game. I hope JKR doesn't sell us out. And this book makes me think she won't. Though I think Snape won't be allowed to survive. Which will suck. Because he SHOULD survive, and NOT get credit for anything he did except maybe grudging acknowledgement from the trio.

Also, if she had him (and Draco) REALLY be evil, what would that be telling kids? That everyone's personality is fixed by age eleven and that no one can change or grow or overcome their past? WOW, there's a cheerful message for children to take away. I don't think she'll do that. Especially with what she's now giving us about Tom Riddle, with his bad genetics and sociopathic tendencies. He's a loner because he fundamentally distrusts and hates and wants power over people. Snape is a loner because he was rejected and he longs for acceptance, recognition for his ability and admiration. Totally different motivations.

I also think this is largely because of who Snape is based on. It was a teacher she hated, who she has always said was horrible to them, but not that he was a bad teacher or that they didn't learn (at least not that I've seen.) i had a lot of teachers like that, too. And I know that THEY believed they were doing right and helping us. That didn't make them pleasant or nice. But it made them good guys.

AND this is the book where Dumbledore gave him the Dark Arts job. if that's not proof of trust, then what is?

I will continue to believe Dumbledore's trust was not misplaced and that Snape is now a plant inside the Death Eaters and insurance that Harry will be able to snuff Voldie until she writes it differently.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:31 pm (UTC)
I've been really looking forward to your analysis because it seemed to me that HBP proved everything you've been saying about Snape all along -- that he's not a nice man and he's a dreadful teacher, but he's a man with principles and great bravery.

I don't think JKR will sell out the Snape lovers. I think she was far too slippery in the way she wrote Dumbledore's death scene for it to be anything other than ripe for reinterpretation. Also, she loves the gotchas, bless 'er.
se_parsons
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
Seriously, if JKR doesn't go for the cheap Muldery "Harry was right about Snape all along" thing and really lets him be Dumbledore's covert agent guy, she'll have written one of the most complex characters EVER in children's literature. This is NOT a personality we've seen in kid-lit before, really. It's usually GOOD vs. EVIL, and all unpleasant/ugly people are evil and all nice/handsome ones are good.

If she goes for the hard reality, that some unpleasant ugly people are good, I will love her forever. And it certainly looks like she's going for it from what I can see.

I don't think she'd have left it so open to interpretation if she didn't intend the "gotcha" of Snape being on the side of the angels. And the Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco. It's what he already does. He would have sworn it anyway. He probably already has sworn similar to Dumbledore.

And right now, Snape is ideally poised to be the knife in Voldie's back.

He's Dumbledore's Wiseguy.
sheaclaire
Jul. 18th, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC)
Wonderful analysis of the book. I loved it myself and I'll have to reread it again to try ot get some of the finer points.

I wondered about Snape from the start. I never really figured he was evil -JKR just made that seen a bit too obviously forshadowing and something that was niggling at the back of my mind the whole book. At the end, I was a bit tricked and after I've read your and others comments I'm going to have to reread the Dumbledore Death Scene again.

The Harry/Ginny parts didn't bother me - I think that having the possibility hit Harry over the head is very plausible and realistic. Yeah - the "you can't be with me" was a bit overdramatic though.

All in all - I loved it.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:32 pm (UTC)
The Harry/Ginny parts didn't bother me - I think that having the possibility hit Harry over the head is very plausible and realistic.

Maybe you're right and I'm being hard on JKR. I don't know many teenage boys but I remember that they could be pretty thick about that sort of thing.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
I think you are being hard on JKR, here.

Harry has been pretty oblivious to many things emotionally all along. And his ambivalence with Cho last book should have been a bit of a clue that it takes being hit on the head with a brick for him to get things like this.
cazling
Jul. 18th, 2005 08:25 pm (UTC)
I was amazed at all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Snape. It seems very obvious to me that Dumbledore is committing Suicide By Snape in order to save Draco and because he is dying anyway.

Totally. Mostly, this is clear to me because if Snape is just plain evil and was all along, then the books aren't really that interesting anymore. Also, if he was EVOL, then after all that talk of Dumbledore having a cast-iron reason to trust him, we would have found out what it was. That particular gun which we were shown in the first act has not yet gone off.

The "OMG we must break up because you will be a target!!!!111!!!!1" thing mostly annoyed me because sorry, Ginny as she is drawn in this book and OotP just wouldn't go along with that.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 18th, 2005 10:12 pm (UTC)
The "OMG we must break up because you will be a target!!!!111!!!!1" thing mostly annoyed me because sorry, Ginny as she is drawn in this book and OotP just wouldn't go along with that.

She does give in very easily. I have no idea how to handwave that either
kellychenault
Jul. 19th, 2005 06:58 am (UTC)
Hum. My message will likely be lost in the 26 others (which I am just too lazy to be arsed to read), but I'll flap my proverbial gums anyway.

I mostly agree with what you've got there, save two points. Maybe three. 1. I was pretty sure it was Snape's book pretty early on, and I never thought it was Voldemort's. I mean, it was a potions book, for heaven's sake. And it was a second hand book. Also, that bit about the goate thingy that saved Ron. That was so something that Snape would have written in his book.
2. I didn't have the problem with the Ron/Hermione ship. But then I've been rooting for it since book 1 (because I am a sad, sick little girl. Also, because the foreshadowing hit me on the head and it hurt a lot). The Tonks thing was very random. That one I totally agree with you on.
3. Dumbledore's death hit me really hard. I mean, I kinda saw it coming since chapter 2, but still. I kept expecting Dumbledore to pull something out of his ass. But no. I guess his shriveled arm should have been a clue. Still, I could use a hug now. Despite myself, I am pedestrian enough to be sniffly since finishing the book. Which was like 10 minutes ago or so.

Also, it HAD to be suicide by Snape. I mean, Snape being bad is just too obvious, isn't it? Or is it? I'm not sure.

My mind feels a bit like it's been fucked the wrong way, smacked on the behind, and thrown out the door into the cold light of dawn.

Wah.
infinitemonkeys
Jul. 21st, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC)
Hello there, I missed this one until today. I think it's not so much that I had a problem with the R/H or even Remus/Tonks so much as that if JKR was going to do them I wanted them to be given a more sound foundation rather than throwaway references and lots of glossing over.

I think Dumbledore's death was something that either got you or did not. For some reason it just didn't get me and I can't explain that. I'm as susceptible to getting sniffly over fictional deaths as the next person.

My mind feels a bit like it's been fucked the wrong way, smacked on the behind, and thrown out the door into the cold light of dawn.

And isn't that what we like from a good book? *g*
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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