Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I've never had much patience for book series. Don't know why but even the best series...Isaac Asimov's Foundation, for example...loses it appeal for me after 3 books at most. But I...hardly alone, of course...have happily gone along for 6 volumes of the Harry Potter series and will, in however many months or years it takes J.K. Rowling to finish it, be patiently waiting for the 7th and final book in this charming series.

Perhaps that's part of the reason I haven't lost my enthusiasm for the fantasy series, Rowling has sworn that there will be an ending...a tale told in 7 engaging volumes...and I am more than interested to find out how the expansive, touching, comic, darkly adventurous story turns out.

While I quite liked it, on some levels I had found the 5th book...Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix...to be my least favorite of the series (it was oppressively gloomy, it also felt padded [perhaps too long by 100 pages], and the titular hero was, teenage angst will do that to a boy sometimes, ill-tempered throughout most of it) so I approached this one with wary, lowered expectations.

I needn't have worried. The Half-Blood Prince is as dark and foreboding as Phoenix but the story fairly crackles off the page through the portents, betrayals, revelations (some of which will probably turn out to mean something other than seem to at first blush), and death. It's a grand yarn.

Rowling downplayed some of the bits that, after 5 books, had started to get a bit rote: the Quidditch games were a minor part of the story and, just as importantly, the increasingly tiresome "Cinderella"-like relationship between Harry and his cartoonish...and apparently irredeemable...aunt, uncle, and cousin was given short shrift. Instead she steamed ahead telling a compelling story here while, at the same time, deftly setting up the climatic final conflict between Harry and his arch-nemesis in the concluding book of the series.

They say that these books are getting kids to read and I hope that that's true (we certainly need as many avid readers as we can cultivate.) If I were a child when they first came out, I would have thoroughly enjoyed them too (just like the child in me...safely and happily ensconced in this cynical old adult body...does here and now.)


Dana said...

What a wonderful post. I heartily agree. The newest Potter book was different in that it glossed over it's regular themes such as games, classes, Malfoy vs. Harry. It told more of a back-history that I found fascinating.

Doug said...

Good review. You actually make me want to read this series.

birdwoman said...

I'm TOTALLY with you on series books. I'm a fantasy freak - but I try to avoid books in series. It's ok if the stories are standalone, but the things like JOrdan's wheel of eternity, or whatever it's called, would really peeve me.

I also find that her ability to write teenagers is absolutely uncanny! As much as I disliked Harry in book 5, he was a total 15 year old. And as much as I disliked the snogging in book 6, well, that's what life's all about at 16!!


Arien said...

I'm glad you posted your review because I hear more than anything parents either complaining about it's dark themes (witchcraft) or the length of the books - even people in some of my writing groups haven't read them, and yet they judge. I've read them and look forward to the final chapter as well.