Friday, July 14, 2006

Review

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling

The sixth book in the highly successful boy wizard series sees Harry, Ron and Hermione starting another year at Hogwarts in mortal danger. Having regained physical form the Dark Lord Voldermort is reeking havoc in the wizarding world and his wrong-doings are not going unnoticed in the world of muggles (non-wizarding folk, for the uninitiated) where the Prime Minister is being held responsible for the work of forces well beyond his imagination. Though he never appears in the flesh during the novel's 768 pages the Half-Blood Prince tells us more about Voldermort than ever, delving into his past and discussing how he came to be the way he is.

From a narrative standpoint the book has many flaws. First among them, it is much too long – is it really necessary to stage three Quidditch matches?! Many story elements are predictable and the plot is formulaic, never breaking the - character bit, plot bit, character bit, plot bit… pattern, so well worn by other books in the series. There are also several one-note characters, with a few notable exceptions - Snape, Lupin, Dumbledore and Voldermort are all enjoyable. And for anyone even vaguely familiar with the series I am spoiling nothing when I reveal, for the sixth time in six books the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher turns out to be the bad guy!

BUT…

It just goes to show you can do whatever you want as long as you capture the reader’s imagination, the only part of the story that really matters. Against my better judgement I found the book compelling and entertaining, reading it in less than two days. I’m sure the half-blood prince would have a few ideas on how to bottle the certain something it is that makes this series so likeable – if only his old textbook had been gifted to me in Potions class all those years ago.

Much is made of the so-called 'darkness' in the Harry Potter series, though there is scant sign of any of that here. Ever since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Rowling's writing has been favourably compared to Roald Dahl’s: both have written stories enjoyed by children and adults alike, with massive popular appeal, but that is where the similarities end. Roald Dahl’s stories are imbued with a nursery-rhymes-aren’t-really-suitable-for-children sense of meanness, whereas acts of violence in Harry Potter are all reconciled with a hearty dose of old-fashioned Catholic morality.

A more appropriate comparison might be Eynid Blyton and her Famous Five/Secret Seven stories. Both those and Harry Potter are about groups of children who solve mysteries, stay one step ahead of the adults, and put themselves in dangerous situations without ever really being threatened...

So, well done! Bravo! And ginger pop all round! I eagerly await the final instalment but please, try and make it just a bit shorter.

1 Comments:

Blogger Karic31 said...

I've never read a book twice. However, Harry Potter has tempted me. Cool review.

3:24 PM

 

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