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Half-Blood Prince  Preview
3 January 06 from Dave 7
This might have been considered already, but it seems that the "phony" Horcrux medallion could potentially be a powerful item in which Dumbledore placed HIS essence, much as Voldemort put his sould into other items. It seems that it was created during the death of someone (Dumbledore), much the same as with a traditional Horcrux. The only difference is that it appears to be a Love-based trinket that might have more power than the other Evil Horcuces (plural? :^). That's my theory, anyway...
15 September 05 from Anna 6
You have a few good points..um like ten or so. I suspect in the end our hero won't face evil alone but love will prevail. At least I hope so. I assume Dumledore's death was planned by himself..at least it was written to be interpreted that way. Anything else would be too blindingly obvious. The next film had better be good.
29 August 05 from mlmitton 2
glenn complains that Quidditch has outlived its usefulness, and it seems that JKR agrees. This is from a post-HBP interview:  

"MA: You said that during the writing of book six something caused you fiendish glee. Do you remember what that was?  


JKR: Oh, god. [Long silence as Jo thinks.] What was it? It wasn't really vindictive [laughter] – that was more of a figure of speech. I know what I've enjoyed writing – you know Luna's commentary during the Quidditch match? [Laughter.] It was that. I really enjoyed doing that. Actually I really enjoyed doing that.  

You know, that was the last Quidditch match. I knew as I wrote it that it was the last time I was going to be doing a Quidditch match. To be honest with you, Quidditch matches have been the bane of my life in the Harry Potter books. They are necessary in that people expect Harry to play Quidditch, but there is a limit to how many ways you can have them play Quidditch together and for something new to happen. And then I had this moment of blinding inspiration. I thought, Luna’s going to commentate, and that was just a gift. It’s the kind of commentary I’d do on a sports match because I'm — [laughs]. Anyway yeah, it was that."
 

I understand the need to include things your audience expects. Authors write to an audience. But, at some point there's a limit....  

At least we now know why Harry managed to miss so many Quidditch matches.
17 August 05 from tris mccall 5
My major problem with *Half Blood Prince* was that there's not enough Hermione. But there is never enough Hermione for me. And I expect her to be back in a big way for #7, just as she rebounded from her lackluster *Goblet Of Fire* by dominating *Order Of The Phoenix*, coming up with most of the good ideas, and pulling Harry back from the brink whenever he was going really apeshit.  

Yes, Rowling's magic system is terrible. She seems to think of magical combat as nothing more than gunfights with different kinds of bullets. Somehow I do not mind. The trouble with stories in high-magic universes is that after successive climaxes, everything gets so causally tangled that the author starts contradicting herself with every turn. If Buffy is going to be bulletproof at the end of season 4, why can't she ever pull that trick again to get her out of trouble? What did your adventuring party do after you got that plus twenty broadsword? Rowling's lack of a magical imagination is actually helping her here. She's never really upped the ante, so she's not giving Harry the outs that, say, Susan Cooper would have by now.  

The trouble going into *Half-Blood Prince* was that too much of the story was overdetermined. If you had any background in fantasy lit, you knew Dumbledore was getting the axe. If you'd ever read a coming of age series, you knew Harry and Ginny were going to get together. You knew that the Snape plot was going to thicken. So Rowling had to discharge a whole bunch of plot-specific mechanics that you could already see coming. Considering all that, I think she did an amazing job of keeping things exciting. That stomach-churning cave scene is going to stay with me forever, as will the flashbacks of Tom's conversations with Dumbledore and with Slughorn. The *Sectumsempra* chapter, in particular, was just electric: the description of Ginny and the culmination after the long detention was drawn perfectly, one of the most satisfying pieces of sexual tension-release I think I've ever read anywhere -- including pornos. Versimilitude is not a virtue I'm big on, but that sure as hell felt like a kiss to me. She can do that sort of thing -- she can push that kind of passion through the pages. Hell, Taran never even got to kiss Eilonwy. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for laying that scene on me.  

Frankly, I think it's characteristic of her ridiculous generosity that she let Dumbledore hang around as long as she did. After *Azkaban*, I never would have bet that he'd make it to the end of #6. Lloyd Alexander used to kill off characters the minute you got attached to them. Rowling let us have pages and pages of extra Dumbledore, and in a sick way, I thank her for that too, even though it probably wasn't the best literary decision. Obi-Kenobi is supposed to go down halfway through the story.  

What else? I agree that the scar is probably a horcrux. But I hope that's a red herring too, even though I consider horcruxes her one bit of vaguely imaginative magic. Although it *is* completely stupid for Voldemort to continually go on vacation during the middle of the Hogwarts school year, I found the evil in *Half Blood Prince* far more palpable than in was in the other books. The introduction of Tom Riddle as a real character was a great idea -- not because the Pensieve is anything other than a naked plot device, but because he turned out to be one genuinely bad and scary m.f. Not a redeemable villain like Darth Vader, or an anti-hero with a streak of goodness like you get so often these days, but a really scary m.f. -- one who is dispassionate and cold and swats away to teachers, and who hates you like hell for catching him stealing. The other books in the series gave me Voldemort the stock bogeyman. This one gave me a Tom Riddle for my nightmares, burning wardrobe and all.  

She's a great writer. Sure, she uses too many adverbs and she marks time with elaborate digressions and descriptions of floo powder and whatnot. She is sloppy and reckless and unedited and all the rest. She's annoying in all the ways everybody says she is: the psychological profile of Riddle *was* more CSI than *Lord Of The Rings*. But when she gets around to the moments that count, she rolls up her sleeves and comes with it: Harry poisoning the father figure, Ginny blazing in the Gryffindor common room, Snape with the killing curse. At those moments her prose is tough muscular -- even elegant in its ferocity -- and those moments redeem everything else.  

********************  

"Unless your core audience is young readers whose parents own lumber companies": the kind of laugh-out-loud pop culture comment that I just do not see on the Internet anymore. God do I miss those TWAS columns.
16 August 05 from glenn mcdonald 4
I certainly hope and believe that Dumbledore planned his own exit (there's no other explanation for the clumsy misdirection in how we sort-of find out what Snape and Draco are up to), and planned for Harry to be the audience for it. Which suggests again that Dumbledore isn't actually dead, or at least that he doesn't need to be. Harry's not observant enough for method-acting that extreme to be required to fool him. But I'm not fond of plots that hinge on deceiving a supposedly-bright character and then counting on them to act in a linearly irrational way in response. Nor of plots whose drama hinges on deliberately deceiving the reader, for that matter...  

I do like the idea that Harry is a Horcrux. But I still have the definite sinking feeling that book seven is going to add complexity without adding depth. And even if book seven pulls off some kind of transformational miracle, I think it's lame that the first six books required one.
14 August 05 from Michael Zwirn 3
1. Dumbledore dying struck me as entirely obvious, and indeed necesssary, for the plot arc that Rowling has set in play, in which Harry ultimately has to face Voldemort without the protection of parents, mentors, etc. For a split second, however, at the end of the confrontation between the DA and the Order and the Death Eaters, I thought that Rowling was also going to kill off Hagrid, which would have been truly bold/cruel. But no, that didn't happen, and I felt for a second a bit ripped off, just like in Revenge of
the Sith, where Anakin doesn't actually slaughter Amidala — which would have been really bold of Lucas, but put Anakin outside the realm of future rehabilitation. But I digress.  

2. I keep being disappointed in the lack of growth in Harry's skills or competence as a wizard. It's clear that he has the unique gifts of the prophecy and of surviving Voldemort's attack, but he's not that competent a wizard — even by 6th year standards. He has no clue what Dumbledore is doing more of the time during the final exploration of the cave, and more significantly, he doesn't ask. He
uses the same spells he used in previous books, except for the stuff he rips of the Half-Blood Prince, and I find it puzzling that he's not showing more growth in advance of the challenges to come in Book 7.  

3. I was pretty blown away by Snape killing Dumbledore, as opposed to some other less significant Death Eater like LeStrange. Even if this is part of a pact he has with Dumbledore [which I believe it is, thus Dumbledore's ambiguous pleas to Snape], it's going to shape the rest of the story as Snape is now cut off from the rest of the
Order entirely.  

4. Rowling has a load of fairly direct political commentary, from the Prime Minister expecting a call from the president of a distant country, a "wretched man," but mostly in the clear allegories between the Ministry's fight against the Death Eaters and the war on terrorism. Most notably was the imprisonment of innocent citizens caught up in the war on terror — like the driver of the Night Bus — and the Ministry's attempt to manage the public relations problem and improve morale rather than waging the difficult fight
against Voldemort and the Death Eaters directly. I'm pretty sure that down the road Percy is going to turn out to be an agent for Voldemort inside the ministry ... not sure how Scrimgeour turns out, but he's an interesting new twist.  

5. Slughorn is very cool and the fact that he will presumably return next year (as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?) should indicate that Slytherinhood by itself isn't an indication of an inclination to join Voldemort. But at the same time, I would expect that some of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, and maybe Gryffindors even, will turn out to be sympathetic to the Dark Lord. I've always found the black/white Slytherin/Gryffindor dichotomoy irksome, so hopefully Rowling will start making the distinctions a bit
fuzzier.  

6. Face facts — Rowling is not much of a stylist. We're reading her for the characters and the action and the setting. But her repeated use of unusual terms — "mutinous" to describe frustrated anger? "gormless"? — could make one heck of a drinking game.
14 August 05 from mlmitton 2
Some of glenn's comments are apt but I think he's short-changing her in other ways. So here are a few randomly scattered thoughts, without filling in all that I think.  

It is indeed completely out of character for Dumbledore to plead, unless he's not actually pleading for his life. Then it makes perfect sense.  

The prime minister (who is mentioned in book 3 as having contact with Fudge) has no need to appear again, because he's only there as a (humorous) plot device to remind readers what happened in Book 6. I think a brief recap is needed, and this is far better than her recaps in earlier books, which get thrown in as random asides throughout the first few chapters.  

Fleur was useful for what may have been my favorite line in the book. Without that accent, something like, "You think just because he is bitten he will not love me?" She's certainly annoying, but annoying people can surprise you (surprising, but not a surprise out of nowhere).  

The upside-down prank was not supposed to be amusing, not amusing at all, in fact. It was supposed to show Harry's relation to his father, and as a reminder for why Snape [has good reason to] hate Harry's father.  

Her ability to outline I find to be amazing, actually, and some of what could be considered filler takes on meaning after having read later books. Sirius is in book 1, in two sentences that would seem to be filler until you read book 3. At least as early as Book 2, you can see that she's planning the Horcrux plot (that may be pseudo-latin, but I'd say "horrible burden"is pretty good pseudo-latin), and I'm pretty sure she shows us the Slytherin Horcrux in book 5. The existence of the prophecy is revealed in Book 3. Neville's role as "Harry's opposite" is pretty clear in retrospect early on. Just 5 things off the top of my head. I'm sure I could come up with a hundred more. (That said, I'm now re-reading book 4, and boy those first 150 pages could have been done, and should have been done, in 25!)  

Snape is neither caricature nor buffoon. Conditional on being in a book a 12-year old can reasonably be expected to read, maybe the most interesting character I've ever read.  

Hasn't Draco's year of dedicated purpose changed him ways he never intended? I mean, didn't he learn once for all that when it really becomes time to choose, he could do nothing but lower his wand?  

House-elf politics disappears because they only really appeared in book 4, which is where we first get the full tension between purebloods and mudbloods. Hermione, as a mudblood, is the only one who recognizes that the way she is thought of by purebloods is the way all wizards think of house elves. We're all guilty. She's done that theme--she need not beat it to death.  

The existence of the Prince's book and its explanation will affect the outcome in Book 7. It was Snape's book, but before that it must have been Voldemort's. That connection, for better or wose, will be important. (Oh, I forget which, but it's in an earlier book where she mentions that Snape couldn't afford new books, and got them second-hand. Planning ahead, again.)  

And my most provactive: I think there's a pretty strong case to be made that Harry is himself a Horcrux. And yes, that implies that to kill Voldemort.....  

Anyway, like I said, I think glenn makes some good points, but I do think he underestimates what she's actually written.
13 August 05 from John 1
I enjoyed glenn's rant about Harry Potter (although maybe not as much as the one about the last book), and I share many of his frustrations.  

I think two things are increasingly clear about Rowling and this series. First, she has never done, or really even tried, the tough work of world-building. A lot of what I liked about the first few books was their looseness and sense of surprise, the way they suggested an alternate reality rather than do what most post-Tolkien authors do, which is to explicate it laboriously. But as the page-count and complexity has increased, it is ever more obvious that she does not really have an idea what magic is and how it fits into Muggle reality, and the logical gaps in her world (along with the unsatisfactory band-aids that she uses to cover them) have gotten too numerous to keep counting. Even at the basic level, she has no idea how to manage the characters she has created. She keeps them around (Hagrid, Tooks, Dobby, Neville), but they are meaningless.  

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and even Edward Eager and Evelyn Nesbit, had a program. Rowling has nostalgia, and love for their books (and for the countless schoolboy narratives that I and obviously she were force-fed), and some skill as a creator (but not an elaborator) of characters, but she's a couple of pints short for really satisfying literature.  

Second, she's a prisoner of her own popularity. This is increasingly evident as the characters age -- something I looked forward to some years ago. She can't write with any degree of realism about 16 year-olds and keep selling books to 7 year-olds and their parents. As my resident 16 year-old points out, when he likes a girl it isn't a nameless creature in his chest that tips him off. And romantic relations among older teens are much more baroque, and much, much more discussed among the participants, than these books indicate. Rowling makes a half-hearted effort -- she hints at teens' love for drugs and parties -- but she is stuck at PG, and it's too bad.  

She's also a prisoner of her form. The school-year convention has become inadequate, and one of the things that's hopeful about the end of this book is that it leaves open the possibility that she recognizes that and is prepared to abandon it in Book 7. Hogwarts is now a dead end. Rowling doesn't even believe in its obvious value: You would think that Harry, convinced that he is headed towards a mano-a-mano with the most powerful wizard ever, surrounded by people who actually know a lot of magic, and befriended by the most talented student of his cohort, would take the opportunity to learn a thing or two. But no.  

Some of glenn's comments seem over-hysterical. Although I'm certain that Harry will have meaningful solitary moments in the next book, I don't think that there's any chance that he will Venture Forth To Confront Evil Alone without his posse. (And I'm pretty sure Ginny will continue to be an integral part of that posse, too, although she may be back at Hogwarts.) There's simply been too much crap about love being the advantage Harry has over Voldemort for Harry (or Rowling) to throw that away -- although he may try to.  

I also don't think the death of Dumbledore was meaningless to kids. Both of mine, and most of their friends, were quite devastated by the end of the book, even though Dumbledore's death was widely anticipated by them. (To be honest, the breakup with Ginny was a big deal to them, too.) And while Dumbledore was getting very Aslan/Gandalf-y, I don't think his actual resurrection is much of a threat. I expect him to be more of a benign presence, like Yoda and Obi-Wan at the Ewoks' victory celebration.  

Some things about where Rowling is going are pretty clear. Harry is going to have to trust Snape (via Dumbledore's benign presence) and work with Draco to defeat Voldemort. We are going to learn a lot more about Snape and his relationship with Harry -- I suspect Snape was in love with Lily and resents Harry's survival at her expense. There is going to be more working-out of Dumbledore's idea that Harry is really the creation of Voldemort's bad conscience, abetted by Dumbledore's elaborate charade of crediting Trelawney's prophecy.  

On the other hand, I hate the Horcrux thing. It is like she decided that she doesn't have enough licensing revenue, and has to have a video game, too. And I know the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but Quidditch outlived its usefulness long, long ago.
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