Saturday, January 4, 2014

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

2005, British hardcover Bloomsbury first edition, American hardcover Scholastic first edition
J. K. Rowling
American edition illustrated by Mary Grandpre
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
British edition bought new for 16.99, American bought new for $29.99
Both in good condition

OK, I still think this is the weakest book in the series.  It starts out with two chapters that, while not as unnecessary as "Hagrid's Tale" in the previous book, really don't work.  The worse chapter is first, "The Other Minister," where we see the Muggle British Prime Minister (John Major in the real summer of 1996, except that this one has a male predecessor) meeting with Fudge and his successor, the almost unpronounceable Scrimgeour.  There's little information here that isn't conveyed elsewhere, and more efficiently, and I don't find the chapter nearly as funny as Rowling seems to.  (The funniest thing is actually what one of my friends noticed at the time, that the American edition uses "site" for "sight.")  I think it's perfectly fine that this chapter was left out of the movie.  It does show the political parallels between the Muggle and magical worlds, but I think the later list of "simple security guidelines," including the impossible "You are advised not to leave the house alone," is much sharper satire, especially in light of Code Orange and all.

As for the second chapter, it's better, but it has bad-fanfic overtones, as when Narcissa Malfoy falls on her knees in front of Snape.  (To plead for Snape's help for Draco.  This isn't actually fanfic.)

Fandom uses an abbreviation OOC for "out of character," and that's the main issue I have with this book, particularly in the characterisation of the female characters, a shame after the triumphs of Order.  I've read this book enough times now that it doesn't bother me as much as it used to, but I still don't like Hermione attacking Ron with magic birds, or Ginny being Fred-and-George cruel to Ron.  Yes, they're both provoked, but I felt like they went beyond what was necessary, or what was true to their earlier characterisation.  And we have usually lively, joking Tonks moping around over Lupin.  Only Luna seems like her previous self, and I think that's partly due to the amazing Evanna Lynch, whom Rowling has admitted is the only actor or actress whose portrayal has affected her mind's eye view of her characters.

Other signs of the movies affecting Rowling include not only the previously mentioned "punch" of Draco by Hermione (the slap was in character by the way), but the little shout-outs to Rupert Grint.  At the time this book was published, we were four months away from Movie Four.  Fandom was only strengthened by the movies of course, and I suspect that all the slashy lines, such as Harry being "obsessed" by Draco, and Snape saying he'll decide how hard to be on/with Draco, are deliberate teases by Rowling.

One thing that I think is much better in the book than the movie is the visit to the cave, which contains some of Rowling's best description.  I have mixed feelings about the Pensieve memories being cut back.  I don't think it's Rowling's best writing, but there is some important information there.  I also think the movie bungled the explanation of Horcruxes, but I'll go into that someday when I've got a movie blog.

I will note that Grandpre is finally drawing the characters as if they're older than twelve.  Her green-toned cover art is good, on the front showing Harry and Dumbledore looking at the basin with the locket, on the back picturing Ron, Hermione, and Ginny gazing up at the Dark Mark.  I haven't really mentioned the British cover art, partly because it always seems to be by a different artist, but this time it complements the American: Harry and Dumbledore surrounded by fire on the front, and on the back the basin in the middle of the lake.

No comments:

Post a Comment