Strange Brouhaha

Saturday, July 16, 2005

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

I would like to start out by saying that this book is so different in tone and style from the others that either J.K. Rowling has been working very hard, or she had some help. Or she's finally finding her real voice as an author.

Two examples.

First, Dumbledore doesn't "sound" like he did in the first five books. His presence is greatly increased here as compared to the other books, and he is no longer the slightly-dotty-yet-impenetrably-wise counselor/teacher/father figure. He is much more serious, almost as if Rowling was intentionally writing the book to translate directly to the screen, and was keeping in mind what's-his-name who replaced Richard Harris.

Second, the increasingly pastiche-y pacing of the first five books is almost completely gone. The book utterly lacks the feeling that the others have, of being summaries of larger stories. This book is a tale unto itself, fairly complete from beginning to end, and it doesn't leave the reader with a sense of having missed something.

There's not a whole lot a person can say without giving away plot points. Suffice it to say that a whole lot of fan speculation appears to be wrong (but wait for the next book) and a whole lot of other fan speculation appears to be right. And there is something that a lot of the more vocal fans have been waiting for that is given and then taken away. Rowling also deals with the problem of what to do after book seven. I can't decide if her solution is a cheat or if it's nicely done, which probably means it's a little of both.

In short: The stakes are much, much higher in the sixth "Harry Potter" adventure, and while the denouement is quite shocking--younger readers beware--J.K. Rowling delivers a much more solid tale than she did in the two previous installments. Recommended reading for fans, of course, but newcomers should have no problem starting here.


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