Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
June 15, 2016 10:33 PM - by J. K Rowling - Subscribe

Harry enters his 6th year at Hogwarts as the Chosen One and begins private lessons with Dumbledore. Through the year Harry is pressured by the new minister of magic to ally with the Ministry, learns about Voldemort's murky past, and excels in Potions due to an old but useful textbook. Contains series spoilers

Every element of the formula is in place, but at times, it feels like Rowling is zipping down a checklist of familiar names and situations, giving them each one brief moment in the sun before she gets back to her central plot. This rapid service doesn't do justification to many of her long-running storylines; some characters appear to be making contractually mandated cameos, the unmasking of the mysterious Half-Blood Prince is forced and abrupt, and Harry's latest romance amounts to a few vague, unexplored longings and some offstage conversations. -AV Club

This novel is built around a series of meetings between Harry and Dumbledore, the Hogwarts headmaster, where the great wizard and his apprentice have a pronounced tendency to explain the rules and anomalies of magic to each other. If they understand all, good might triumph. After all, why should evil be defeated? As Fudge tells the British prime minister: "The trouble is, the other side can do magic too." So the workings of magic must sometimes depend on the intelligence and virtue of those who use it. Harry and Dumbledore magically revisit the past and try to divine Voldemort's devilish schemes by understanding his past. Family history is all. Their meetings are the marrow of the narrative, for they combat evil without much help from others. When they are not together, you feel the plot is lost. - The Guardian

Also a review from NYT which seems to have implemented some form of DRM.
My Own Sickle
-This is my favorite HP book by far. I enjoyed having two chapters at the beginning where we get to see the world outside Harry's purview (as I was quite sick of him after OotP). Seeing the interactions between Fudge and the Other Minister was such a gift as was the scene at Spinner's End.
-Collecting Slughorn was a fun adventure. I wish there had been more Harry/Dumbledore action scenes in the series. It was also a good place to mention Regulus again.
-I couldn't decide whether to mention this early on in my post or later... but I fucking love Remus/Tonks as a ship and would gladly read a JKR penned story about them. I could tell based on the bits about them that she wanted to write more about them. I loved where their sub-sub plot came together at the end of the book.
-The Ministry and media turnaround about Harry was... not surprising. Scrimgour is a very interesting MoM. I like how he tries to use Harry as an asset and aggressively pursues him.
-Harry's change in popularity is just a bit over the top. I mean, are people shallow enough to think he wouldn't care about or notice the 180 the general population at Hogwarts did?
-The exposition lessons with Dumbledore were a fun way to get history on Voldemort and the big reveal about the horcruxes. Although the lessons are not super useful in the next book when Harry is out to hunt horcruxes, learning the thought pattern behind Dumbledore's search seemed useful.
-The romance in this book is quite awkward. Ron's thing with Lavender, reluctance to break up with her, and the jealousy between Ron and Hermione are all red flags about their future together. I didn't get too worked up about Harry and Ginny other than "okay, they're happening."
-Um, this might be an unpopular opinion but Ron definitely fell in esteem this book. His attitude/aggression about quidditch, authoritarian behavior towards Ginny's dating activities, and the whole Hermione/Lavender debacle are all why I couldn't see him and Hermione lasting very long.
-Luna and Neville were just to die for in this book (as individuals, not in a couple-y way). They've both gained confidence after the last book and are much more sure of themselves.
-Harry's rise to stardom in potions and his use of the HBP book show a bit of an unethical streak in Harry which I sort of enjoy.
-The Astronomy Tower battle left me wanting more than Harry's glimpse as he ran through. The retelling of it from others was not quite enough.
-The scene in the cave was so scary. I get chills each time I read that.
-Dumbledore's death was so upsetting. I mean, not a surprise given what happened but Harry's reaction to it was so difficult as the grief was felt by everyone in the wizarding world who Harry had close contact with.

I think that's everything for now. I might add more depending on what others bring up.
posted by toomanycurls (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Felix Felicis sequence is one of my favorite sequences from any book. It almost feels like a parody of other books where characters meet and events play out more via blind chance than the actual agency on the part of the characters. It's one of my pet peeves so I like seeing it on display here as the ridiculous trope it is. The book is otherwise often dark and serious so seeing important things play out via the main character saying "whatever let's go this way!"

Harry tricking Ron into thinking he was under the effects of the potion was great too, in the classic "you were the magic feather all along" way.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:00 AM on June 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

My favorite as well. I felt the HBP revelation was deftly handled, as this was perhaps the first time Snape and Potter successfully connected as teacher and student. And the events in Voldemort's hidden cave were fantastic, showing Harry just how much Voldemort will force others to hurt the innocent in order to further his aims—and how Harry will have to accept that and play his part in it for the greater good.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:15 AM on June 16, 2016

all red flags about their future together

A lot of people don't like Ron and Hermione together, and I just don't understand the problem. Are we really expecting fully formed, mature behaviour from teenagers? Being a problematic insecure hormonally challenged proto-adult means we don't deserve to be with anyone ever? These are two people who obviously care deeply for each other, and didn't have the skills to express it properly as kids. There's a lot of time between the end of high school and "nineteen years later" for both characters to change, develop, and mature.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:58 PM on June 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

Snape finally gets what he wants.
posted by brujita at 6:09 PM on June 16, 2016

Are we really expecting fully formed, mature behaviour from teenagers? Being a problematic insecure hormonally challenged proto-adult means we don't deserve to be with anyone ever?

For me it's always been the level of insecurity and jealousy that made me side-eye Ron ever being able to grow out of it. Most people are shits at that age but Ron just seems a bit worse off than others. I don't have a super strong, rational argument. Just feelings. Perhaps my feelings are also increased by his interaction with the horcrux next book. Also Hermione is on a pedestal where no one really deserves her.
posted by toomanycurls at 8:34 PM on June 16, 2016

Snape finally gets what he wants.

I assume you mean the Defense Against the Dark Arts position ( Ooobviooously). It's interesting, I don't have the text in front of me to confirm, but I don't remember reading any scenes taking place in Snape's DADA classes. Oh. wait. He spends most of it trying to teach them to do magic without saying their spells out loud doesn't he. Right. Carry on.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:12 AM on June 17, 2016

It's fascinating to me how not in line with conventional thinking I am with this book. Most of my friends (and it seems y'all) love it. I much preferred Order of the Phoenix at the time and still do upon re-read. However, I'm far more comfortable with this book than I was the first time out when I was disappointed that it was mostly teenage romance shenanigans and Voldemort backstory with one major plot point. And admittedly -- Dumbledore's death is a HUGE plot point.

I do remember not being surprised by the HBP reveal, as a friend had said, 'It has to be Snape,' when the title was revealed and then made multiple specific arguements on why that was the case. Sadly, I forget what her exact arguments were, but they were convincing enough that I was just "yep, Suzanne was right."

The scene where Dumbledore and Harry go to the caves is quite lovely. The Dumbledore/Harry relationship has always felt to me to be one of the major cruxes (pun slightly intended) of the whole series -- that and the friendship of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. But with the death of Dumbledore, I found I really missed the explanation of what was happening scene at the end of the novel.

And... I just don't care about the teenage romance shenanigans. This is where I feel most like an outlier as a Harry Potter fan. I don't find Harry's behavior in Order of the Phoenix to be obnoxious. I find EVERYONE'S behavior here in terms of their crushing, particularly Ron in regards to how he treats Lavender Brown, to be really obnoxious. However, no one comes off well for me in the teenage romance shenanigans department.

Between that and the fact that all the Voldemort reveals being backstory... this book slogged for me in a way that others didn't. Of the three that I did the midnight release party thing for -- this was the one where I decided to actually go to sleep before finishing it. Sometime around six in the morning, I said, "screw it," and slept for a few hours.

However, I know I'm a complete anomaly on this as it's often lauded as the best HP book. And it has grown on me a lot as I come back to the series. Maybe a few rereads from now I'll see it the same way that everyone else does.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 6:57 AM on June 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also Hermione is on a pedestal where no one really deserves her.

...which means she gets to spend her life alone? And if she truly is as bright as we all agree she appears, isn't she capable of making well reasoned decisions about her life and her happiness? Perhaps she sees what others overlook about Ron (and let's face it, they're a family that seems to get overlooked or disrespected but are almost universally and wholly good).

...his interaction with the horcrux next book

You mean where he is faced directly with all the negative things he's ever thought about himself and his self-worth, is graphically shown that which he fears the most, is tempted with the reward of everything he has been denied, and still chooses what's right? Where he squares off against Voldemort and wins? That interaction, you mean?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:05 AM on June 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

A lot of people don't like Ron and Hermione together, and I just don't understand the problem. Are we really expecting fully formed, mature behaviour from teenagers?

My major issue is not that I'm expecting fully formed, mature behavior from teenagers, but that I feel that the Ron and Hermione's romance detracts from what I feel is the true emotional strength of these books -- the power of friendship. I'm far more interested in Harry, Ron, and Hermione's friendship than I am in a romantic subplot between two of the three. Everyone marrying each other feels like too neat of a narrative bow and diminishes from the non-romantic relationships that are the core of this series. Why can't we celebrate the importance of chosen family instead of having to pair everyone off into romances? I think it would be a stronger choice for Harry and Hermione to realize that they were Weasleys anyway, without having them marry into the family. My distaste for the Ron and Hermione's relationship stems mostly from it's part in the larger whole -- it's connected to Harry getting together with Ginny.

Also, I really hate how Ron treats Lavender Brown. If you like one girl, don't go out with another to make her jealous. Particularly when that girl is actually interested in you. I know we're supposed to think that Lavender is a fool, but that's really cruel behavior. Yes, it's believable as a teenage thing and an insecurity thing -- but it's something I find rather unforgivable. And Ron doesn't acknowledge that he was a jerk. He's just happy that she dumps him.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 8:36 AM on June 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

Upon posting -- unforgivable is a little strong. It's just behavior that really irks me that mostly seems to be condoned by the narrative as okay in the larger sweep of the story.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 8:43 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a soft spot for Nicole Dieker's Ron.

As for HBP, I haven't had time to reread and have only a general recollection of this one. I do remember thinking that I empathized with Harry's frustration that nobody seems to take his concerns about Malfoy seriously enough to investigate further.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:10 PM on June 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

The thing that bothered me about this book the most was the sheer level of magic Dumbledore had to do to even access the fake Horcrux in the cave scene. Harry wouldn't have even been able to find the door on his own. I don't know that even Hermione could have. And then Dumbledore dies and they're supposed to do it all alone?

I think this is why I appreciated the "endless camping trip with no purpose" bit in the next book. I felt like, well, obviously that was going to be the result without Dumbledore there to help.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:16 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dumbledore displays some blind spots that are typical of the privileged and powerful. He asks for trust but seldom truly gives it. He is forgiving and congenial but does not grant his subordinates much independent agency. This is a failing that gives an unhelpful rigidity to his plans in contrast to Harry’s own improvisational style. His momentary surrender to the temptation to seek control over death itself leads to his fatal injury, yet the lesson he takes from this (though later repents of when he meets Harry in the King’s Cross limbo) is to hide knowledge of the hallows from Harry out of fear he will succumb to the same temptation, rather than trusting in the boy’s character.
Ultimately Harry succeeds in large part despite Dumbledore’s machinations rather than because of them. A crucial lesson of the series, though I have no idea if JKR intended this reading, is the importance of trust. Trust requires surrendering a degree of control, of making oneself vulnerable. Molded by his youth, Dumbledore was often unable to bring himself to trust, in contrast to Harry and the generation of students who succeed where he failed.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:27 PM on June 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

« Older Podcast: Radiolab Presents: Mo...   |  Podcast: Radiolab Presents: Mo... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments