Monday, August 01, 2005

The Half-Blood Prince

Okay, I'm way behind the curve on this, but I might as well throw in my two cents. I liked Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Unlike Robert Jordan's current books, or the Clancy novel I read, J.K. Rowling continues to build on her strengths without letting her weaknesses take over.

Oh yeah, the weaknesses are still there. I'm still not thrilled with the way magic seems to follow no real rules (the school curriculum notwithstanding). Take charms, for instance (ok, I've never really discussed this before, so it may seem like a big rant out of the blue, but I'll try to keep it short). I don't like the way charms are written. With the Patronus charm, you have to maintain a certain mental state to make it work. With other charms, you have to flick your wand a certain way. And we're constantly reading descriptions of classes in which the students repeat the incantations and flick their wands for hours, with no results. But in Half-Blood Prince, Harry decides to cast a certain charm from simply reading a name out of a book, and gets it perfect on the first try. Just by saying the name once after reading it. How does one invent a spell if all it takes is a random name, perhaps combined with a wand flick or mental image? The whole Wizarding World concept is just as half-baked.

And in one sense, I'll be really glad to see the series end so that I won't have to take another year of Complicated Plots That Start At The Beginning of School And Miraculously Wrap Up At The End Of The Term, Just In Time For Summer Break And Another Dursley Visit (who, by the way, I'm also getting tired of).

So why keep reading? I love her characterizations. I really pull for Harry and his friends. I like the way she's built a huge extended cast to make the school and its environs seem like a real place. I like the way she has continued to give the villains depth and character, so that even as we wish for them to be defeated, we can understand why they do what they do, and even empathize to an extent.

And I like the rhythms of her books, and the way she makes each year pass: some find her detailed descriptions of classes and the fixed rituals of each term repetitive (which they are, to an extent - I think even she's getting tired of the Sorting Hat). But at the same time, it's like life, the way each year is different, yet certain touchstones remain the same. I think she's got a nice touch with it.

Can't wait for the next one.

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