Monday, July 03, 2006

18. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by J.K. Rowling

I’m going a little out of order in terms of posting what I’ve read, but having stayed up until 3am last night to finish the latest Harry Potter, I have to give you my thoughts on it RIGHT NOW. As always, spoilers abound, so if, like me, you managed to go all this time without hearing about who died and want to keep it that way, avert your eyes now.

I remember before this book came out, at which point I’d only read through the second book, there was much speculation that Ron would be the one to get the axe. After reading the fourth book I had a speculation of my own – that it would be Dumbledore. I mentioned this guess casually, having no evidence to support it but knowing it would be the most shocking character possible. Think about it – your first reaction is that Dumbledore can’t die isn’t it? Who will teach Harry? Who will lead him to Voldemort? Without Dumbledore, Harry will actually have to start making his own decisions and god knows that’s something Rowling has avoided as much as possible. We don’t want Harry to have an active role in his future do we? But this being the case, only one person’s death could greatly alter the course of events. Ron’s or Hermione’s deaths would be sad, but that’s it. Malfoy’s death would be satisfying. The Aurors are all too peripheral. And while Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were possibilities, they’d be too much like losing parents again. So there was only one viable option – Dumbledore. I did not, however, at all expect how it would happen.

Seriously, what’s Snape’s deal? Is he good or bad? Is he in cahoots with Voldemort or is he a double agent for Dumbledore? Snape is by far the most interesting character in the entire series if only because it’s impossible to pin him down. It would be easy to say he’s pure evil and has been in league with Voldemort the entire time, but why has Dumbledore trusted him so? If he is, indeed, on the side of good, he’s still a mean-spirited person who’s got some serious issues to deal with. Here’s how I interpret that final scene: Snape is basically good, but because he was one of the Death Eaters, Dumbledore has set him to appear as one of them again, doing whatever possible to make his deceptive allegiance convincing, whether this is making Unbreakable Vows or encouraging a young Death Eater or employing the Unforgivable Curses. Remember when Dumbledore makes Harry promise to obey his every order, even if this means saving himself and leaving Dumbledore to die? I think Snape has made this same promise, even if it means he must kill the person to whom the promise was made. And since Snape is so accomplished at Occlumency, Voldemort will never have the chance to discover differently.

That’s my theory, anyway, because claiming Snape was bad the entire time would be just too easy. It would also make everyone who trusted him seem like a complete idiot.

The latest rumor is that two people are going to die in the final book and the theory is that Harry will be one of them. I’m inclined to agree, if only because that’s the only way Rowling can put a definitive end to the series. It’s a practical decision more than a creative one. And if Harry dies, then Voldemort has to die, too because Voldemort living and Harry dying would be too depressing of an end and, man, we did not invest thousands of pages and hours of time just to have Voldemort win, now did we?

But back to the book at hand and my grievances therein. I know I’ve said this before, but as long as Rowling fills hundreds of pages with unnecessary stories, I’m going to keep complaining. Here are some things I don’t need to hear about again: Quidditch trials. Quidditch matches. House elves. People hooking up with other people just to make the object of their affection mad (although this was pretty funny). The Dursleys. Unicorns, huge spiders, or other magical creatures. Grawp. Fleur Delacour. Cho Chang. Things I want to hear more about, because they were nearly absent in this book: Sirius and Regulus Black (R.A.B.?). Mad-Eye Moody. Kingsley Shacklebolt! The Black house. Kingsley Shacklebolt! (Give a wizard brother some love!) And Snape’s true plan of course, but I’m going to make the wild assumption that we’ll get that. If not I’ll throw my book against the wall, I really will.

One of the problems I have reading these books is that Rowling packs in so much irrelevant information that when something important is mentioned, I usually don’t notice it until it’s mentioned a second time and I’m left wondering why these things have seemingly come out of the blue. And I’m not going to go back through four hundred pages to try to find that first mention. Someone needs to tell J.K. that sometimes more pages don’t make a better story – they just make a longer story. I wouldn’t be surprised if book number seven skims the thousand page mark and I doubt it’ll be just about Snape and Horcruxes and the final showdown between good and evil. But Quidditch or not, I’ll be there reading it with the rest of you. We’ll see if my predictions turn out to be right one last time.

Oh – did anyone else think Voldemort was the Half-Blood Prince? Because I did and even though it turned out to be Snape, who is just as dangerous as far as Harry’s concerned, you’d think that would have crossed someone’s mind. Voldemort is a half-blood, after all, and I believe so megalomaniacal as to refer to himself as a prince. It seems stupid to try spells from unknown sources with complete abandon. Just sayin’.


Blogger piksea said...

I think we were supposed to think that Voldemort was the Half-Blood Prince, but having it be Snape was really a little touch of genius, IMO. I wasn't that crazy with Harry going all Peter Parker/Spiderman on Ginny Weasley.

You've got to hand it to Rowling, she keeps us talking about it. The other night at a family dinner, my brother started in on how silly it was that we were having a heated discussion at the table about the two victims in the next book.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Exxie said...

So what's your family's theory on who's going to bite it? I've been avoiding the newspaper articles on it for fear they'd reveal the sixth book's death. Now I'm curious to hear what everyone else thinks about the seventh.

10:54 AM  
Blogger piksea said...

We're thinking Harry and Lupin. With Lupin going first, of course, because heaven forbid Harry should have an adult who actually loves him and is concerned for his well-being.

I'm just realizing what a hypocrite I am. I don't care for the Lemony Snicket books because they are too depressing. Poor little Harry Potter, it can't get much worse for him, can it?

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Heliologue said...

My working theory is that Dumbledore's apparently 'plea' to Severus is supposed to sound like he is begging for his life, when in fact he is really begging Snape to maintain his disguise and possibly fulfill some ridiculous part of a prophecy that only Dumbledore knows about. Goodness knows that apart from certain details, Dumbledore's been painted with broad strokes as a hair's breadth away from omniscience, so it seems unlikely that he would not have foreseen such an event as his own death.

No one ever accused Rowling of being overly subtle.

12:25 AM  

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