Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Revisiting Potter, Part 6: The Half-Blood Prince

Hey, remember back when I was on a roll re-reading all the Harry Potter books? (Yea, I barely do too.) After a long hiatus and only two left in the series, I picked back up with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, another doozy of a novel clocking in at over 600 pages.

This sixth installment opens with a terribly ominous tone. You can feel it in the air. And the first thing we see is an odd interaction between Snape and some Death Eaters, during which he makes an Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco Malfoy as he carries out his mission from Voldemort... whatever that may be.

We finally meet up with Harry when Dumbledore collects him from Privet Drive and takes him on a visit to an old friend, Horace Slughorn, with the objective of getting Slughorn on staff at Hogwarts. We learn that Slughorn is a piece of the Tom Riddle/Voldemort puzzle, and Dumbledore believes it absolutely essential to learn whatever memories Slughorn is hiding.

And that's how the rest of The Half-Blood Prince plays out. It's an increasingly difficult puzzle that we must solve. Rowling advances the story by leaps and bounds with this novel by providing essential pieces of backstory that give explanation and by establishing the plot of where Harry's story needs to go from here. I don't think any of the other books have contained so much as this one, or been as necessary to the overall story.

I remember, when reading this book for the very first time, that this was the one that blew my mind, that made me really trust Rowling as an author who has a story to tell and is telling it in a very smart, calculated way. At this point, I had no doubt that Rowling knew how she was going to end Harry's story, and she was using her pages wisely to build up to it. It's like with good television, when they're writing with an end in mind and everything matters. Because the opposite is bad television, where they've been unnecessarily renewed and suddenly have to add episodes and plot points and, as a whole, it feels neither smart nor consistent nor necessary. The whole concept of the Horcruxes just clicked so hard with me that I felt like everything Rowling had written so far had been leading up to this, and she knew how it was all going to work out, and I still had this wonderful puzzle of a plot left to enjoy.

The characters, though always growing and evolving, really mature in Half-Blood Prince. Emotions are not only heightened by the dire situation at hand, but also because we're still dealing with kids—really, adolescents—who are still figuring out themselves and their relationships with others. Rowling never lets us forget that, and in this one we see it especially through the relationships of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. Our characters are also figuring out the world around them, and this entire plot, with Harry investigating Voldemort's past, helps him understand that many facets build a person; no person is simple, and every one is entirely human.

Note: I've been watching the movies alongside reading the books—several of them I had never actually seen—and it's doing wonders with helping me remember the details of each book--something I had previously forgotten entirely! Also, I have literally been trying to type this review for at least 2 weeks. Let's just cheer that today, on the second-to-last day of school, I finally finished it! So much more reading and writing to come! Finally!

No comments: