Harry Potter’s inevitable final battle with the Dark Lord is looming closer and closer; knowing this, Dumbledore, esteemed Headmaster at Hogwarts, decides to show Harry Voldemort’s past to better prepare him for the future…
Immediately after starting Half-Blood Prince I realized that it wouldn’t at all face the problem Order of the Phoenix did in plentiful amounts: EMO-ness. Sure, there were certainly moments of angst, but come on – no book with a teenage protagonist is without that. What’s interesting about this, though, is that the actual story of HBP is much darker (well… minus the romance) than in OotP, but it’s just the writing that gets a little less unbearable. Believe me when I say that this was such a relief after the previous book.
Yes, there were plenty of things in this book that make it much darker than OotP – the story, flashbacks having to do with Voldemort’s past, the ZOMGHUGE death (which everyone in the world seems to know about even if they don’t know anything else about the series… whatever, I don’t know how either) and… romance? Wait a second… what is this? A book with a generally dark story and excessive amounts of romance do not mesh! I OBJECT!
Man in Black: Overruled. It doesn’t matter if there’s a lot of random romance, MizzeeOH, you must continue with the review.
*sighs* Fine… but I’m not going over it until later!
So, since I’m not discussing that aspect of things for a little while still, let’s get onto the general story for now. This is the first novel where we get a glimpse at the items that will ultimately be very important in the last book: Horcruxes. In a nutshell, there are seven of them, each one containing a piece of Voldemort’s soul; he can’t be totally killed until each one is destroyed. You gotta love a good Macguffin. While the sudden inclusion of these is random enough to make you wonder if Rowling thought this idea up suddenly while writing the beginning of the book and decided spur of the moment to put it in on a whim, it doesn’t read like that. What I mean is, that very well could have been the case, but if it was, rowling wrote it into the story smoothly enough that it felt like a perfectly natural inclusion, something you only stop a moment to think about before going, “Oh. Well, that makes sense.” Plus, it gave genuine meaning to the filler that was Chamber of Secrets – which is a very welcome thing in my book.
While we’re on the subject of story, I should probably mention the titular subplot about the Half-Blood Prince himself. And… Well, I’m going to have a very different opinion on this than most people, I imagine. To give you a brief summary of what role the Prince takes in this novel, Hary comes across an old Potions schoolbook that has some interesting notes in it – from, of course, the mysterious “Half-Blood Prince” – that actually improve upon the original recipe of a potion, as well as giving things like new spells to use against enemies, etc. In other words, the book sets the difficulty level of Potions class from “Nightmare” to “Easy” for Harry. Cheating, yes, but highly convenient.
So of course, we go through the whole book wondering who the Prince is until we finally find out at the end. Summed up in two words, my reaction to this was basically, “So what?”. That whole plot never had any real relevance to the main story – sure, it was an ongoing issue, but was there any real importance? Really? Especially when, at the scene of the actual revelation, the character confessed that they were the Prince in a way that was similar to, “Oh BTW, I’m the Half-Blood Prince. KTHXBAI!” Think I’m exaggerating? Go on, go read the scene for yourself. You’ll know I’m right. Everyone has always said that the Half-Blood Prince plot has so much more importance in the book than it did in the movie, but aside from more scenes involving the book that didn’t really go anywhere, I’m just not seeing it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this subplot, but really, what impact did it have on anything at all?
There’s an even bigger death this time around than Sirius’s in Order of the Phoenix. Of course, I’m sure that the majority of you know what that death is – it’s as unavoidable as the Jersey Shore kids getting STD’s – but let’s assume that you don’t actually know what it is, because I’m not going to say what the now-famous meme is specifically. So there. Anyway – yay for getting way off topic! – while I may not personally have been surprised when I read it (like I’ve mentioned before – everyone already knows what it is) I can certainly see why this was originally such a shocking moment for readers; it does sorta come out of nowhere even if it makes sense when you think about where the series is at this point.
One thing that jumped out to me as I read this part, though, was how much more sense certain things made in the book than in the movie. Yes, film, someone extremely important at Hogwarts dies, Death Eaters are parading around the place like they live there (well… Maybe “making a mess” is more like it but still) and no one at Hogwarts notices – not even the teachers! – until it’s way too late. Right. But that’s not what we get in the book; oh no. Instead, we get a freakin’ epic battle between good and evil. Hell. Yes. Can someone tell me why this was cut from the film? They included that random ass Death Eater scene at the Burrow and that wasn’t even in the novel; they could have cut that and included this and it probably would’ve cost the same and been an equal amount of time, if not a little less if they had wanted to make that the case. Did they think the pointless Burrow scene was cooler than OMFGEPICHOGWARTSBATTLE? It wasn’t.
I suppose now would be as good a time as ever to talk about the romance in HBP. If you thought there was a lot in OotP, think again, ladies and gentlemen. I kind of have to chuckle at the people who criticize the movie for centering on the romance aspect of of the story too much – have they read the book? Really read it? Because, unless I can’t remember the film at all – which I guarantee you is not the case – I can tell you that the novel had a LOT more focus on it than the film did.
But was it well done? Well, I’d say so, especially since, admittedly, I’m a bit of a sucker for a good romance subplot, but I can also assure you that if you happen to find these sorts of plot annoying, you’ll find yourself constantly irritated by HBP. Aaah…. teenage tales of loooove.
As for where HBP stacks up against the other novels – that’s a toughy. There was good action, a solid story, strong character development, plus a multitude of other great things that add up to what should have been an epic book, but honestly? I can’t muster up the love or excitement for this one that I have immediately for some of the others so far. I found the whole thing a tad ho-hum. Maybe it’s just because it was such an obvious setup to Deathly Hallows, I don’t know, but I didn’t find it all that adrenaline-pumping. It was still a solid book, however, but it mostly just made me more eager to get to the last novel of the series.