A case of too much of a good thing?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
by J.K. Rowling
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2005
ISBN 0-7475-8110-X

This is an incomplete and crude review. I struggle with words just like I struggle between liking and hating it. This must make it great literature, if I can’t decide whether I like it or not.

I will try not to spoil the fun for those who have not yet read the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. Then again, there are bound to be spoilers so you are better off running to a bookstore and getting yourself immersed than reading this through blindly.

If you insist, though, I will begin.

Harry Potter is in his sixth year as a student in Hogwarts. The magical world is overcome with fear — the darkest wizard ever known, Lord Voldemort, has returned. News of various killings appear in the newspapers at regular intervals. One character regularly casually asks, not insensitively but with a sense of foreboding, much like being in a war-torn area — and here I’m speculating, thank God — “Anyone we know been killed today?” or something to that effect. Wizards and witches everywhere try to live normally, sending their kids, against their better judgment and begrudgingly for some, to Hogwarts.

This is the general atmosphere, which tells you, it is bleak. It is dark.

The main characters are Harry, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, sixth year Hogwarts students. Harry is famous for having survived Voldemort’s attempt on his life when he was one year old and for having been the subject of a prophecy that he is the only one who can destroy Voldemort. Ron and Hermione are his school friends and adventure companions. The whole motley crew — family, school mates, good wizards, Death Eaters, giants, what have you — complete this crude characterization. (I even get bored with my own bullshit.)

The Half-Blood Prince is the former owner of Harry’s old Potions book. He is a seemingly brilliant student who had written on the margins of his book notes on how best to create some potions (most of the time, against the author’s instructions). Believe me, it doesn’t matter who this mysterious person is; when his identity is finally revealed, you get just a few more pages before you are forced to blurt out: “So what?” It is irrelevant, at least in this particular instalment.

One well-loved character gets killed, and again, you’ll wonder what for. Very few things get fully explained. Characters, scenes and conflicts have been included more to prepare for the seventh (and last) book in the series than to explain what’s going on in the sixth book. If you read this one without having read the prior books, you’ll most likely get lost. The word “muggle” has been explained but the word “squib” has not. There is no focus (much like this pointless, er, critique). Everything shifts and you’ll wonder if you have not been ripped off of a pretty penny. (Well, I haven’t; I borrowed the book from a friend.)

Still, I suppose I could have read my law books. (Ewwwww!)
I’ll try to write a more formal, more believable review when I’ve had more time to think about it. Meanwhile, for those who of you who like magical children’s book, check out John Bellairs. He wrote around the time I was born. I would think he would be some sort of an inspiration to J.K. Rowling. His witch has a Ph.D. Or rather, a DMagA (and yeah, I forgot what it stands for, doctorate for magical studies, something like that). Try looking for The House with a Clock in Its Walls and The Figure in the Shadows.