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Monday, July 09, 2007

Cover of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

In Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts, he begins taking special lessons from Dumbledore-- you could call them "Voldemortology," since Dumbledore is sharing all the painstaking research that he has done in collecting memories and tracking Voldemort's movements. All this is done to give Harry as much help as possible for when he eventually must face Voldemort. Harry also gets an old potions book owned by someone who called themselves "the Half-Blood Prince," and who left all kinds of interesting notes in the margin-- adjustments to the directions for potions that make Harry look brilliant (and Hermione very frustrated), spells in the margins, and the like. All year long, Harry suspects that Malfoy is up to something, but no one quite believes him. Harry's instincts are usually pretty good, and in this case (unfortunately) it turns out he's right.

It's interesting how much Harry trusts the scribblings of the Half-Blood Prince (in spite of previous experience with dangerous books). He randomly tries out on Ron a spell scribbled in the margins of the book, which, as Hermione points out, is really pretty stupid. Later on he uses a spell that the prince had labeled "for enemies"; the spell is horrible, dark magic and Harry feels betrayed. Near the end of the book you find out (don't read if you don't want to know!) that Snape was the Half-Blood Prince-- which gives a real sense of how brilliant Snape must have been, to fix potions directions and invent his own spells (however terrible).

Dumbledore seems a lot weaker in this one. His hand is blackened and shriveled, a memento from destroying one of Voldemort's horcruxes. Especially at the end, it seems like he makes some poor decisions-- but we don't have the whole picture, so perhaps (hopefully) there's something we don't know. As with Snape-- Dumbledore had some reason for trusting him (and I think it is more than what Harry says), but it hasn't been revealed to us yet.

The horcruxes are, of course, the crux of how Harry must deal with Voldemort. In his fear to death, Voldemort split up his soul into seven parts and stored those parts in various objects. Reading this again, I had a real sense of pity for Voldemort-- so afraid of death that he has maimed himself repeatedly to protect against it. Perhaps it's no wonder that he no longer looks or seems human, since he's only got a seventh of a soul. And, of course, that there could be a power in a soul that was whole and pure.

The ending... is crazy (and comes with a heartbreaking loss). It really leaves you wanting to know what Rowling isn't telling us, which side Snape is playing for, and how Harry will do without Dumbledore's direct guidance (I suspect he will still have Dumbledore's guidance indirectly, in some form or other). Fortunately, I guess, I don't have to wait so very long to find out.

I feel like I've timed my reading all wrong! Now I have to wait an agonizing week and a half before I get to find out what all this means. (How did I wait after I read this last time? I guess I kind of forgot about it.)

Finished in about four days.

Title:Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Author:J. K. Rowling
Date published:2005
Genre:Young Adult Fantasy
Series:Harry Potter
Number of pages:652
Notes:second reading


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