Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead. If you belong to that part of the world that hasn't read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince yet, you may consider not reading any further.

If you like the Harry Potter series and have followed it like a fan you will find the book awesome. I did. After (a disappointing) The Order of the Phoenix, this was the kind of book we were waiting for and Rowling delivers. Rowling gives us a book that has the readers straining at the leash for the next one. It is immensely enjoyable and like the earlier ones you can go through each and every line with a magnifying glass and still be unable to tell what it is that makes it so. At the end of the book, there are a number of thoughts and emotions running through your mind. But the dominant feeling is that of impatient yearning -- for the next installment.

People who however complain about the Potter books, will also find a lot in this one to kvetch about. If there is one thing I would crib about this book is that while it gives us a lot of information on the various plots in the Potter universe, it doesn't give us enough. If all the plot strands in the series have to be neatly tied up in the last book, it's going to be a tome at least twice the size of Book six.

The book starts off, not at Privet Drive, but in the office of the (nameless) muggle British Prime minister awaiting a meeting with the minister of magic. All is not right with the wizarding world and the magic and sinister happenings of the magical world have started impacting the world of muggles. Rowling, one would expect, is only establishing the the tone for the book here.

But then Professor Dumbledore appears at Privet Drive to personally escort Harry to the Weasley's home -- The Burrow and we know that things have gone really bad in the wizarding world. The next few pages further establish the troubled times. A number of arrests have been made. Some established shops in Diagon Alley have been boarded up -- the whereabouts of their owners is not known. And the Daily Prophet brings in regular news about people going missing or getting killed -- some of them from the families of Harry's classmates.

Rowling then quickly takes us to Hogwarts and that's where most of the action of the book happens as Rowling deftly arranges the pieces in her gigantic jigsaw. From then on the main purpose of this book is very straight and simple -- set the stage for an humdinger of a seventh book and Rowling achieves this admirably.

For starters, Dumbeldore takes upon himself the job of preparing Harry for his final confrontation with Voldemort. And he doesn't do it by instructing Harry in advanced spellwork but by answering a number of questions and resolving some of the mysteries raised in the earlier book and supplying Harry with the information that will eventually help him when he confronts Voldemort for the final duel.

Rowling uses the overall search for the identity of the Half Blood Prince to maneuver characters and the various strands of the Potter plot into position.The dominant theme of The Half Blood Prince is the tying up of loose ends in preparation for the final narrative to come.

The sub themes are also strong and all lead to the seventh book. Relationships established earlier and new ones (Harry finally finds his girl) are as crucial as ever. These will matter in the times to come. The characters are all grown up. Harry is quieter and more sure of himself and what he is meant to be. A central character dies and the death makes Harry accept the "larger call," the "quest" (if you may call it that) which he has to undertake and fulfill. Importantly his friends are with him.

There are a number of other things even more subtle that add up and may (or will be) be of essence for the next book. Ginny emerges as a very strong character. Snape has suddenly become central and might play the most crucial role in the coming book. The Weasley twins are brought in to show their genius at invention and their inventiveness might play a part in the next book. A number of earlier important characters -- like Mad Eye Moody and Wormtail -- are mentioned and will probably line up on either sides for the battle that's to follow.

The book ends with a number of dramatic episodes that will stagger Potter fans. The Order of the Phoenix is rudderless. The enemy has grown stronger. Hogwarts might not open for the next year. And even if it does, Harry might not come back to school.

The seventh book is going to be awesome.

Wonder when that'll be in my hands.

Yes, the sixth book is just that good -- it makes you long for more. And after I finish tackling this blizzard of owl posts (it started pouring SMSes the minute I switched my cell on yesterday) -- I can't believe Snape did that! / What will happen to Ginny? / Will Harry die? / Do you think Harry is also a horcrux? / Will Harry kill himself? / Who the hell is R.A.B? -- I think I will go and read The Half Blood Prince again.
Meanwhile, if you think that this post has been too gushing about HP6, you can read an alternative view here.
Update: More on HP6: here and here.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you don't know who R.A.B is?
even the worst dumbass in the world could figure that out.
- Regulus A. Black -