Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
I've found myself avoiding some information on this book. I kept forcing back the urge to peek in on the "Rita Skeeter All Purpose Spoiler" thread at Chicklit. Generally, I want all the information I can get my hands on, about, well, everything. I wasn't really worried about stuff being given away, (e.g. deaths, twists, romances) but I do prefer to make up my own mind about what I read. I wanted to avoid having my thoughts on the book colored before I even got to form them. I think what I really mean is that if people are gushing about it and I read it all hyped up for the greatest experience ever, I am bound to be disappointed.

I finally got around to reading a couple of the non library books on my To Be Read pile and, hooray, this was one of them. After reading it, I think I will still request the audio from the library, just because I would really like to hear Jim Dale perform it for me. I was prepared for another death and I went in with an idea of who I thought it would be. I didn't use the storyline or the big picture, but thought real life might have influenced Rowling. I was right, but probably not for the right reasons.

Things have been getting bad for witches, wizards and muggles alike. Cornelius Fudge is out and there is a new Minister of Magic. Those pesky death eaters have been causing a great deal of trouble in England, too. In muggle England, the prime minister is being blamed for tragedies occurring on his watch, but has been informed of the very real threat posed by Lord Voldemort and his followers.

Harry is still having trouble dealing with the loss of his godfather, Sirius Black and all that he learned about the dark side and the fallibility of the Ministry of Magic. He's back on Privet Drive with the Dursleys, just as agreed/promised to Dumbledore. Harry gets an owl from the headmaster informing him that he will be coming to get Harry and will be taking him to the Burrow to spend his summer vacation with the Weasleys. When Dumbledore arrives to escort Harry to the Burrow, Harry finds that one of Dumbledore's hands is blackened and dead. The headmaster tells Harry that he needs his help and that he will fill him in on all that has happened.

Their first stop is at the home of Horace Slughorn, a full of himself ex-Hogwart's professor. Once again, there is an open position at the school that needs filling. Professor/Headmaster Dumbledore knew just what it would take to get Slughorn to accept the position, and that was the famous Harry Potter. Apparently, Slughorn's great gift is his ability to align himself with people destined for fame, power, respect and then make the most of his connections. Using Harry as bait made Slughorn a certainty for the position of Potions Master.

After that stop, they are bound for the Burrow. Mr. Weasely has been promoted and with his new job duties, the new Minister of Magic and the scary stuff going on with the reborn Voldemort and his Death Eaters, he's not around much. That doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of excitement at the Weasely household. Hermione is also there for the summer, Tonks is visiting when Harry arrives and Bill is home with his fiancée, Fleur Delacouer. Fleur is a big hit with Ron and Bill, but the women don't really care for her and Harry can take her or leave her.
The kids are waiting for their OWL scores/results and discussing the coming year. This will be the first time that they select their courses and they do so with thoughts of their future careers. Ginny is a year behind the trio, so she's got her OWL year coming up. She also appears to be quite competent in every respect and probably the most popular girl at Hogwarts. So, Yay! Ginny.

This year Harry, with his new status, from his battle the spring before with Voldemort, his name cleared with the general public, and his position as Quidditch team captain, he's going to have a lot to deal with as far as unwanted attention goes. He has fawning girls, Professor Slughorn and a variety of people who just want to get close to their famous peer. Then you've got all the people who begrudge Harry his abilities and think he's seeking fame, like Malfoy and Professor Snape.

Harry has to put together a new Quidditch team. Between the students who graduated and losing the Weasely twins after they left school, the team has been gutted. There are crowds of people at the try outs. Many from other houses and most as spectators. Harry puts together his team and ruffles some feathers in the process.

Professor Slughorn is another problem altogether. He makes a point of collecting favorite students. He judges based on fame, connections and students with great potential to become famous or good connections that will benefit him in the future. He plays favorites but he's no comparison to Severus Snape and his campaign of shame and degradation. Harry has a used potions text that is filled with tips to help him outshine the rest of the class. In fact, the book, previously owned by the self proclaimed half-blood prince is filled with all kinds of interesting and often malicious information. Despite the warnings of his friends, he continues to take advice from the prince.

As predicted from the previous books, the proper romances are started. I was pleased with the way they worked, until that crap Spiderman ending. Do you remember the first Spiderman movie? At the end, when Peter Parker finally wins the love of the girl of his dreams, he goes all, "with great power comes great responsibility" and dumps her because loving him puts her in danger. I hated it then and it ticked me off here too. I know. I know. They are both purely works of fiction, but it's no fair to get me all involved in the story and then mess stuff up. That's all I'm saying.

Since the whole series works on twists and surprises, I'll avoid going into any more detail on the book. The Handsome Honey must have trained me well. Knowing what happens doesn't ruin a story for me, but then, I'm a hard person to surprise with a twist. I generally see them coming from a mile away. So, it doesn't matter that much to me if I know the secrets going in or I figure them out myself shortly after starting. My peeve is when the coming attractions make it look like a totally different story than it is, but I guess that's really besides the point here.

I'm one of those people who just think too much. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes against. I'll figure everything out and then second guess myself. I'll think "I must just be guessing and if I know what it all means already, then I must be wrong, because I'm supposed to be surprised by a twist later on." So, I'll reconfigure what I know or I'll follow the author/director, only to find that I had it figured out from the beginning. If it weren't for the fact that no one believes me until the big reveal, I would ruin movies for a lot of people.
It's been my contention for quite some time that Rowling knew from the beginning what she was doing to have built so well upon things. I often wish I could have an audience with a couple of good authors. I'd like to find out who plots it all out in advance and who lets the story just take its course. I would imagine that there are plenty who do it either way to good or ill effect. A talented writer makes it all work, but how many times do you read a book that's been thrown together, or at least reads like it has? I want to know what makes writers tick.

It's a little sad that there's only one book left in this series. I keep promising myself that I will just go with the flow. I will not try to out-think or over-think the story. This will be my last chance to just enjoy the author's vision for these characters as it unfolds. For this reason, I will savor it.

I might have to make that my mantra and override my brain's natural inclinations. I think it's a Faust thing. How appropriate that my last name is that of a man who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge. Not the whole selling the soul to the devil part, because that's just weird, but the eternal quest for knowledge, I am all about that. Strangely, it is not a quality that I share with any of the Fausts. I have all kinds of interesting bits of knowledge from my dad, but he wasn't a reader, or someone you would think of as being scholarly. Instead he collected interesting bits of knowledge that he ran across and was good at whipping them out at the appropriate times. It's funny how often I think of things that my father taught me, all things considered, I learned a lot from him. He had his own kind of smarts.

On a totally different topic, the brainy and beautiful Little Squirt is 20 years old today. Happy Birthday!!!!! I love you, Little Squirt!

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