Day 137-- Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth and penultimate segment of J.K. Rowling's series. I liked it a lot. It wasn't my favorite in the series, but it was still quite solid.

Like the rest of the Harry Potter books, the Half-Blood Prince continues Harry's story as he attends his sixth year at Hogwarts, a school for young wizards. And, like the rest of the novels, the Half-Blood Prince is a mixture of Bildungsroman, mystery novel and young adult adventure. It's worth mentioning that--like the two books preceding this--the "young adult" elements are fairly scarce this time around.

Harry is now 16. The wizarding world is in turmoil; Lord Voldemort is back. Voldemort is the evil magician that not only tried to kill Harry when he was an infant (murdering his parents in the process), but has been making increasing attempts at gaining power over the past five years. Though Harry thwarted these attempts, no one--especially the higher-ups--wanted to believe him. Now they do: Voldemort and his followers are waging an open war against anyone that doesn't follow them, a war that's claimed the lives of some of Harry's dear friends.

Harry's school year starts off on this note. New professors arrive, old ones leave, others switch teaching positions. Harry finds love in a place he never really expected, and tension builds between Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger, Harry's closest friends. Hogwart's headmaster Dumbledor leaves the school mysteriously for long periods of time. And the classes are more intense than ever. There is help from a surprising source, though--Harry's Potions class textbook has notes written in the margins from someone with the handle of "the Half-Blood Prince," notes that end up making him the best pupil possible.

While the other Potter books have solid mysteries at their core, the Half-Blood Prince falters in this sense. It feels more like window dressing, whereas the other mysteries moved the story along. The Prince's identity takes a back seat to everything else that's going on in the school--the tumultuous setting and character building aspects really steal the show. The changing elements in Harry's world are captivating--the students scanning the obituaries in the newspaper to see if they know anyone, parents withdrawing their children from the school in fear of their safety, the magical government going out of their way to boost their image in light of some of their failings. And watching Harry, Ron and Hermoine grow is wonderful; the three maturing emotionally, finding love and dealing with everything happening around them.

Yes, as much as Rowling has improved as a writer, she still leans heavily on purple prose, and her adverb and adjective usage is often quite groan-worthy. But the depth of her characters pushes past all of this. She has created a cast of supporting characters that are incredibly nuanced, minor characters that steal the show every time they show up. And honestly, one of the best parts of Rowling's writing is that--while under the mislabeled guise of a "kids' book"--she deals seriously with loss and love. The Half-Blood Prince has a few moments where it's clear that Harry's world has changed because of death of loved ones, but that the one thing that can pull him--everyone--through is love. Not romantic love, per se, but more on the Philia and Agape aspects. It's--honesty--really stirring and moving.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 1/20/2007 03:53:00 PM,


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