Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scarhead is back... with a bang!, 22 July 2005
This review is from: Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince: Children's Edition (Harry Potter 6) (Hardcover)
For me, what makes the Half Blood Prince the most momentous and important book in the whole series is the amount of talk that takes place between Dumbledore and Harry in the numerous lessons that Harry has with the Headmaster. Everytime Dumbledore empties a memory into his Pensieve and everytime both him and Harry jump headlong into this memory sink, we get a breathtaking account of the book's main antagonist, Voldemort's past and the book's graph soars to an all-time high. Right from his innate magical skills, his ancestory, his naming, the troubled times of his parents and most of all his time as a student of (hold your breath) Dumbledore are to be read to be believed. Layer by layer, as Rowling's crisp writing and gripping narrative peels off the hitherto well-shielded Voldemort's past, the whole series gets a newfound depth and understanding.
Even otherwise, the way the book keeps developing the already-established characters, especially Potter himself, is amazing. The slow but definite growth that Harry shows with his uninhibited spouting Voldemort's name, uttering curses, understanding his relationship with Ron and Hermoine and most of all, an understanding of himself as the prime hero is a welcome relief from the peckish and confused teenager he's been for the last 2-3 books. Meanwhile, the author knows that the only way Ron can be different is by being dumb and the only way Hermoine can still be distinguished from a barrage of similar aged females like Luna Lovegood, Ginny, Lavender Brown, Katie Bell, Parvati Patil is how much time she spends in the library and how quickly she raises her hand everytime a question is asked in a lesson. Predictable though it might be, the camaraderie between the lead triplet still retains its ingenuity and spontaneity that's been synonymous with it in the past. Joining the feel-good brigade are the Weasley brothers and surprisingly Hagrid, whose "summat" and "yer" and "ter" and concern for Magical Creatures is nowhere as boring as his obnoxious tale in the last book.
With every new installation comes the expectation of new characters and newer magic and though this talk-heavy book gives us precious little in terms of both, whatever little that makes it to the pages lingers long after you have read the last line-namely the Felix Felicis (luck-enhancing) potion, Horcruxes (the darkest of all curses) and the numerous other ones which Harry has fun trying thanks to the scribbles of the Half Blood Prince. For a change, there's blood too-the curses slash skin deep, the maledicted doorways require even the most able of wizards to slit through their wrists and let the blood spurt to open them and a fair amount of peril too with not-so-subtle references to soul-splitting, exorcism, dead bodies wringing to life, women being physically abused and Rowling's penchant to make the series darker is alone enough to give it an above 12 certificate.
Of course there are some hiccoughs too in the narrative and the most audible one is that the series has aged. And however much Rowling hides it in the thrills and chills, there are sections where you really wish to be over soon. Like Harry's stay at the Dursleys, or his customary visit to the Burrow, or him boarding the Hogwarts Express and having a duel or an argument with Draco-it gives a strong feeling of having been-there-seen-that and it irritates you even more when you are aching to complete the book within a day and these "regular" chapters keep popping up and dividing your attention span. Though Quidditch matches have been reasonably truncated now to brief 3-4 page affairs with fairly entertaining commentaries, the book does hit a low every time Professor Slughorn throws a party for his favourites or everytime Neville Longbottom gets a charm wrong.
From the plot's point of view, the assassination of one of the most lovable characters of the book is rather implausible considering his ace intelligence and ultra fine tuned perception. Also, the consequent climactic duel proves that the "good" namely the Hogwarts' Professors and the Ministry are so woefully weak that a mere group of Death eaters leave them all tattered, battered and decidedly defeated. Its only now that one wonders whether the "increased" security, the school's highly charmed outer shield, the Secrecy Sensors and most of all, the exceptionally well trained and learned Professors are anything more than useless twaddle.
Of course one tends to overlook the flaws when the book's so written. Free of the unnecessary fat that so plagued the Order of the Phoenix, the writing is sharp, incisive, very British (for proof count the craps and innits and summats) and thoroughly enjoyable. From jinxing to teenage crushes, from Potter Apparating to Potter mourning, from the confines of Harry's room at Dursleys to the vastness of the accursed caves and towers-the words, the expressions and the descriptions seldom miss their effect. There's less effort gone into creating an atmosphere, and understandably so-being sixth in the series the book's teeming with the outlandish-comic magical terminology its so easily inherited from its five predecessors which Rowling doesn't have time to explain, and besides this reason, the fact that there are some crucial points which link to The Chamber of Secrets and Goblet of Fire, make sure you have read both of them before coming anywhere near this one.
With this rather dark and dispiriting, not ultimately gratifying (being the penultimate) yet excellent sixth book, Rowling makes sure that her bizarre "created" world of wizards loses none of its believability and to an extent, originality. The book shouts for a sequel-so much so that it makes you wonder why she didn't just stick 300 more pages to it and finish it for once. Hence, the need of the hour is a quick release of the series finale lest she wants us, Pottermaniacs, to still love and feel for the Scarhead as we have been doing for years.
All said and done, this one's an absolute must-read!
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Location: London, UK

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