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

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. RowlingEvents have conspired to make me wait nearly a month after finishing this book to write my thoughts about it and I find that I don’t have nearly as many as when it was fresh.

I can say that it is painfully obvious to me that Snape has been a red herring for Harry Potter since the first book and his apparent betrayal lacks only an explanation.

The reason for that is Dumbledore. Dumbledore is fallible and flawed in so many ways that it’s impossible to count them all but there is one thing that he is always perfect at, and that is knowing who to trust. This being the sixth book he has now trusted Harry and his friends (from the age of 11) to be there to defeat Voldemort five times now when a more attentive guardian or father figure might have stepped in and done something himself. Therefore if Dumbledore trusts Snape then Snape is acting on his orders.

It doesn’t help that, though Snape has an unhealthy obsession with how he was treated in High School (everybody gets picked on, most of us grow up and stop caring what happened to the bullies), he’s kind of justified because James Potter was a horrible person.

Ron has gotten more annoying, which is sort of a constant of all the books, to the point where he’s no longer likable. Hermione has gotten more awesome and makes me wish that she could be the hero of these books. Harry is still Harry, he rarely grows or changes beyond the person that he is — he is a character that is made interesting by the people that are around him, rather than because of himself.

There is another lengthy bit of contention between members of the core trio. This happens in every book so that it has become a tired formula by this point. Once again Hermione is right, Harry is cheating when he uses Snape’s old text (was anybody else surprised that Rowling drug that revelation out for so long — of course it was Snape’s old book, who else is a Potions genius?). She is also right about Ron being kind of an idiot.

Ginny seems to have completely changed from one book to the other — but not in a bad way. Luna is the same as always which is mostly amazing. She is possibly the best character in the series.

Dumbledore starts the book off by admitting that he hasn’t given Harry enough information in the past and that he’s decided to change that. Then he stumbled through the rest of the book speaking to Harry only on occasion and refusing to tell him things when he asks questions. So much for that.

I know that Rowling says that she had the series planned from the beginning but I don’t believe it. If it is true then she has done a poor job of foreshadowing things early in the series. Basically she hints only at the events of that particular book each time. I suspect rather that she started out writing fun adventures, decided to make them about Voldemort and figured out ways to tie them all together. That said, she did a brilliant job of bringing things back from the beginning of the series and making it important again.

I thought this book was better than the last one and infinitely more comprehensible than the movie, which I only vaguely remember. I don’t even remember what was confusing about the movie other than I finished it and had no idea what had just happened.

Once again Voldemort and his minions are incapable of putting together a plan that does not begin and end with the school year — they must all get summers off in their contracts.

While I think it is a better written book than the previous I have some complaints that mostly have to do with the ending. Up to now Harry has been right in the thick of everything, dueling Voldemort, raiding secret warehouses, rescuing stones, saving Ginny and fighting with Ron’s rat… In the climax of this book he tags along with Dumbledore and gets paralyzed and invisible just in time to watch Malfoy chicken out in killing his mentor only to have Snape come along and do it for him. Harry is completely inactive. For the plot, such as it is, to work, that was necessary. If Harry had been able to fight he would have and he would have gotten killed as well. That doesn’t change the fact that it feels very inactive and passive. Our hero, the one who is always charging out and doing things is just sitting back and waiting or things to happen. It made a powerful book turn sour just at the last moment.

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