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Monday, July 18, 2005

Cover of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I know Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince is one of the "most talked about" books online now (at least according to Technorati), so it's hard to know what to write. I will say I was a bit surprised by the interest & reactions of friends who haven't read any of the Harry Potter books and have only seen the movies-- one heard all the brouhaha in the news about someone dying and had to know who it was that died; the other's first question was whether or not this book was better than all the others (a question I find extremely difficult to answer), and wanted to be reassured that his favorite characters hadn't been killed. As well-done and enjoyable as the Harry Potter movies have been, I find the books so much more pleasurable. You get so many more hours of entertainment (even if I do tend to cram it into just a couple of days, at least on the first reading); you get to know the characters better, and you get more details than you do in the movies. It's amazing how many people and how much time & money it takes to create a two hour movie... I suppose it takes many hours of J. K. Rowling's work, and the help of editors and publishers, but that seems different, somehow.

I didn't start The Half-Blood Prince right away (that is to say-- not on Saturday, when our Amazon pre-order arrived). I wanted to let G read it first, and usually once I start a book like this I have trouble putting it down, so I tried to show some self-restraint. (A couple of summers ago when The Order of the Phoenix first came out, I waited until we were on vacation, and then I read the whole thing in just a day or two.) But on Sunday, G told me I could go ahead and start reading (I thought it very generous of him to share), and of course I ended up spending most of Monday reading it (figured I might as well finish it and get it out of the way, so it wouldn't be distracting me from everything else I should be doing). I was lost in the world of the book, so I remember distinctly that when I finally closed the book and looked up, and rejoined the world of normal reality, it was exactly 2:30 in the afternoon.

I think I came across on J. K. Rowling's website a hint in answer to a question about how the Order of the Phoenix communicate-- she said they only used their wands, and that we'd seen them do it before (I don't remember when, but will have to look for it next time)-- it seems pretty clever to use the Patronus as a method of communication, and it has a built-in kind of identification. I wonder if Harry & his friends will be able to use that, too, now that Harry knows about it. I like how Rowling sometimes will take some magic we are familiar with and use it again, or in a slightly different way.

I was hit pretty hard by the ending... I think I was crying for the last several chapters. But I like the fact that Rowling makes the stakes real-- this is a real war, and there are real casualties, major players that we and the characters in the book care very much about. I was also fascinated, almost the whole way through, to see the ambiguity about Snape's position. Right from the beginning of the book, we don't have enough information to know who he is lying to and who he is deceiving. I think Dumbledore must have had a pretty good reason indeed to trust Snape (more than what Harry comes up with), and I partly wonder if maybe Dumbledore had Snape swear an unbreakable vow to protect and/or help Harry (since Rowling has previously introduced a particular kind of magic once, and then brought it back in a larger role later). I will be very interested to see how Rowling deals with Snape and Snape's relationship with Harry in the last book (among other things, of course)-- but I will try to be patient.

Title:Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Author:J. K. Rowling
Date published:2005
Series:Harry Potter
Number of pages:652


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