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. ]