Townhouse Books

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

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

OK, the new Harry Potter book has been out for three days. Someone had to start this thread, but I won't put much effort into an initial review. Those of you who have finished please share your thoughts on the comments page.

ETA: Yay! Harry! Also, I don't subscribe to any RSS feeds, but we're kosher for going spoiler-nuts in the comments area, right? I ask after I've posted, but I kept things pretty vague since I'm not sure how it might appear on RSS feeds. I should explore that soon. -- lillygog

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  • Snape is the Half-Blood Prince -- duh. Makes me realize how little backstory I know about any of the professors. I love the fact that Harry feels connected to him through the textbook at the same time that all of his worst suspicions about the man are confirmed.

    By Blogger Anna, at 6:39 AM  

  • I never for a second doubted that Snape was still on the good side, even at the end. He seemed to be doing what he was being asked to do. It's the only way he could have lived anyway, I suspect, because I feel like we're going to be told that he'd made an unbreakable oath to Dumbledore, too. That would be the only ironclad reason to trust someone in that position, in my opinion.

    By Blogger lemurcrazed, at 11:38 AM  

  • I just read "Today's Blogs" on Slate -- one blogger complained about the "Young Wizards In Love" subplot. What did you think? On the one hand, I appreciate it that Rowling lets the characters go through adolescence. But there is an awful lot of snogging and pouting...

    By Blogger Anna, at 1:55 PM  

  • Oh, I've got so much to say. Too much, you'll find. First off: I loved the book. I feel like I tend to sound like I'm overly-critical or as if I dislike things when I discuss them, so I tell you right now I lurrrved the book.

    Stylistically: I've been telling people that in my opinion this book just maintained. I felt like the others ramped up in terms of subtlety and style with every subsequent volume. This one "only" maintained the level of Order of the Phoenix, or improved on it slightly, which still makes it a pretty damn good book.

    Parts seemed particularly exposition-heavy. I'm thinking of some of those long scenes with Dumbledore where he just seems to function as a mouthpiece. But then I start to wonder how much of that is a feature of the fact that she's writing for a young adult audience. I mean, truly, I felt like a lot of the exposition and backstory was just better-integrated in Order of the Phoenix.

    However! The young teenagers in love? Yeah, heavy-handed, but I think in some ways showing more character engagement and development than previous books. Even though it's still a little herky-jerky, I think there's more connection between the outside world, the emotional development of the characters, and their interactions with each other. But yeah, shut up about the snogging already.

    Plus, Harry with an unrequited crush is just awesome. 'Cause on some levels, he's just a big dumb jock. And he should suffer.

    I'll probably have a lot more later, but there's one particular livejournal entry (found via Slate's Pottermania! -- thanks Anna!) that gives a lot of interesting and spoiler-y speculation: Theories and Spoilers.

    By Blogger lillygog, at 5:20 PM  

  • I didn't think about the RSS feed thing. (Mainly because Brian's explanation, though very good, didn't totally sink in and I still don't understand it) So for anyone who's ready to kick my shins for the Snape spoiler... sorry!

    I'm also interested in the Malfoy developments. Who thinks the next book will devote space to Malfoy and Snape on some kind of quest, character development, redemption path?

    By Blogger Anna, at 7:25 AM  

  • I liked the fact that Malfoy became three dimensional in this book, just like I enjoyed that we got some more humanizing aspects of Snape's character. I think a lot of young adults don't think about the fact that their teachers are people.

    I know that sounds wierd, but you nevere thought about your teacher having their own life and their own past in middle school. You simply didn't care. Knowing more about the school bully and what makes him tick never really seemed relevant either. I think the book does a very good job of learning more of the back story on some of the less lovable charaters in a timeline that seems reasonable for a kid to take an interest.

    Rowling has said, for instance, that Flitwick is half goblin, making him sympathetic to half breeds. She has also said that she's probably never going to get around to stating that in a book. I think we're learning things in a very child oriented fashion. This goes along with a lot of the monologues by Dumbledore being overly long and explicit to the point of being tedious. Kids need all that sometimes to get to the right conclusions. Plus I think I'm enjoying this growing up with Harry thing. Teen love nonsense and angry outbursts included.

    By Blogger lemurcrazed, at 12:08 PM  

  • I think Snape is evil. I have thought he was evil from the beginning. Had thoughts of "Maybe he had to do it to gain Voldemort's trust" ot "Maybe it's a hoax to make Voldemort take more risks." But... Fawkes' lament and departure make me think otherwise. I think Snape was an evil dirt rat-bastard and betrayed him. Dumbledore begged at the end (unless that was trying to make it more convincing that they weren't in league).... I hate Snape.

    I loved the fact that Trelawney's a drunk.

    All of the snogging got irritating but it hit me that she had to get everyone together in this book since the next one is the last. I feel like there is too much unresolved for her to finish it in one last book. I hope it doesn't become a Wheel of Time thing where she starts drawing out a week of HP time for 800 pages.

    The book really stayed with me. I cried at the end.

    I felt it was much darker and different than the other books.

    Matthew hasn't read it yet and won't... he takes too long since he's reading 9 books simultaneously. I downloaded the audio bookyesterday so we can listen to all 30 hours soon.

    By Blogger LPD, at 2:43 PM  

  • But Lauren, if Snape and Dumbledore can both read minds then their spoken conversation has to be the tip of the iceberg of what they're saying to each other. Dumbledore has already made the point when he was drinking the potion that his life is not top priority in this fight. Don't you think he would still believe that on the tower, with both Harry and Malfoy's lives hanging in the balance? He wasn't begging for his life, he was begging Snape to do something incredibly hard, that he knew would make him an outcast, to save other lives and to improve their long-term chances against Voldemort.
    I thought the phoenix stuff was heartbreaking, but at the same time, come on -- why write a character with a phoenix as a pet if not to suggest that he may be able to be reborn himself? And what's up with the "was that a phoenix rising from the funeral pyre?" stuff at the end? Hello, X-Men 2...

    By Blogger Anna, at 4:36 PM  

  • I'm totally diggin' on the idea of a Snape/Malfoy redemption arc. And the book started out with Narcissa being almost human, no? I'm also feeling like Snape is not eeeevil, partially because Rowling seems to be going on about the power of love, connection, and forgiveness, and it might be odd if Dumbledore was punished for showing those very qualities. Plus, as Anna says: Unbreakable Oath.

    You know what's weird? During the whole climax when Dumbledore and Harry take that trip, I was convinced that Dumbledore was someone using Polyjuice Potion. Maybe Snape and Dumbledore had traded places, or it was really a Death Eater and Dumbledore's captured somewhere...I don't know. But I almost felt like his sudden confidences in Harry, and even letting Harry come along on the mission, was out of character.

    But then again...if you go for the fact that Dumbledore knew he was on the outs and trying to pass along information, it makes sense.

    I also agree with LPD on the humanizing teachers thing. I think that's been a major thread throughout the whole book. Hints of what the students see vs. hints of what the teachers' lives are actually like. Isn't the series considered to have a lot to do with the English boarding school adventure novel? I'm imagining that connection is more obvious to our UK readers...

    Also, did anyone else love when Fleur told people off because they had all thought she'd leave Bill? I liked Tonks and Lupin, too, although I am getting the weird feeling that Rowling is safely pairing everyone off for the last book.

    By Blogger lillygog, at 4:56 PM  

  • I woke up this morning around 4:30 and read until I finished it around 6. Dang. I thought it was pretty awesome. I'm in a daze now. Anna, excellent reading on Dumbledore pleading with Snape to kill him, not for his life. and the look of hatred on Snape's face wasn't against Dumbledore but at what he was making him do. Loved it.

    By Blogger evt1618, at 11:17 AM  

  • I love early morning reading sessions. Also late night reading sessions, and lunch hour reading sessions. When I started "Lovely Bones" over a veggie plate at Famous Amos a few years ago, I was late back to the office because that first chapter was so compelling that the time flew by.
    I can't take credit for the mindreading suggestion, though. I don't remember where I read it, but I know I didn't even think of it when I was reading the book -- I was too caught up in the shock of Dumbledore's death.

    By Blogger Anna, at 12:39 PM  

  • Oh, "Lovely Bones" is like that, isn't it? "Shopgirl" got me like that, too. And they're making a movie of "Shopgirl", with Claire Danes.

    Um. This seems to be an entirely off-topic post. Sorry, y'all.

    By Blogger lillygog, at 1:03 PM  

  • Yeah... Anna, mnaybe you're right. But, I have never trusted Snape and was glad that he finally lived up to my suspicions. Perhaps it was their intentions all along to keep Malfoy from doing it so he would not be tainted with murder. (I still think they're both evil though). Of course, I'm still waiting for Sirius to come back too... --Lauren

    By Blogger LPD, at 12:59 PM  

  • i just watched part of prisoner of whaddayacallit on cable the other day and it was so GOOD -- sirius turning into a dog to protect the children from the werewolf... i should go back and read all of the books again.

    By Blogger Anna, at 4:07 PM  

  • I was just thinking of reading then all again too. Although I think I'll start with 3. Although flipped through 1 and 2 enough times.

    By Blogger evt1618, at 5:22 PM  

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