So after I posted my Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince review, my friend Joe was a little bit upset. The sixth book is his favorite, he said, so how could it be my least favorite?! We always agreed about Harry Potter! And he wasn’t wrong – until now. We simply disagreed, and after he wrote roughly a million (maybe a slight exaggeration there) words explaining why, I asked if he’d be willing to really think about it, and write a post for FifteenThousandPages explaining why he felt how he felt about the book. After reading his words and listening to his thoughts, he certainly made me think about the book in a different way. Here they are:
In every friendship, there’s a moment when the two parties stop thinking of each other as acquaintances. For me, this moment is usually a discussion about basketball or professional wrestling, or otherwise I’m blackout drunk and wake up with a new friend. While I can’t exactly remember (what I wouldn’t give for a Pensieve), I’m pretty sure the moment when Danielle and I stopped thinking of each other as ‘that RA I see around’ and ‘net violation guy’ was when we discovered our mutual love of Harry Potter. So when I saw that Half Blood Prince is her least favorite of the 7, I felt the need to explain why it is by far my favorite.
First of all, this book has my favorite climax (other than Hermione Granger fan fiction). It’s like 6 chapters! It starts with a huge reveal (Snape was the one who overheard the prophecy!), continues on with the extremely eerie scene in the cave (what was Dumbledore seeing when he was drinking that potion??), Snape kills Dumbledore (well, guess we won’t find out), and the Half Blood Prince reveal.
But these books are all exciting. To me, this is the book in which it’s easiest to relate to these characters, Harry specifically. Most people aren’t simultaneously orphans and massive celebrities, with the weight of an entire community on their shoulders. I have no idea what that’s like. However, I have had friends who have dated and then stopped speaking. I have been grossed out by couples ‘thrashing about like eels’ in my presence. I have pined after pretty young ladies that have boyfriends. Harry is ‘The Boy Who Lived’, but he’s also a 16 year old boy, going through things that all teenagers go through. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I get goosebumps every time I read Harry going for that smooch after the Quidditch Cup (it’s happening now, and I read that chapter three days ago).
In my opinion, the most consistent theme throughout the series is that it is ‘our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.’ Harry and Dumbledore talk a LOT about the prophecy in this book, and how the prophecy is only significant because Voldemort made it so. And Harry wants to be the one to kill Voldemort, not because the prophecy says so, but because Voldemort killed his parents, Cedric, and countless others.
Dumbledore ends his eulogy of Cedric by saying to remember Cedric “if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy” and you can boil down many decisions in this book to that question. The most prevalent example of this is the Half Blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion Making. After following the notes in the margins yields spectacular results and a bottle of Felix Felicis, Harry continues to trust the ‘Prince’ implicitly, taking shortcuts through an entire year of Potions lessons. (Side note: Auror is a pretty high-pressure career, and the course wouldn’t be mandatory if it weren’t important. Maybe it’d be worthwhile to actually learn how to make potions since Hermione isn’t always going to be there to bail you out). This leads to Harry nearly murdering Draco Malfoy. Even this isn’t enough to turn Harry against the ‘Prince’, it takes the ultimate betrayal of Snape revealing that he has been the Prince all along for Harry to realize the error of his ways.
This realization has huge implications in Book 7. When Harry finds out that the Elder Wand truly exists, he’s faced with a decision. Does he race Voldemort for the wand, or does he continue on the path he’s on? For the first time he doesn’t follow his reckless impulses and is able to recognize the dangers of taking a shortcut.
Now Danielle’s point about this book jumping around is very valid. It’s true. And after rereading the book with that in mind, I do agree that the pacing could have been a little bit better. The book is 652 pages, but after 200 pages it’s still the first week of the term, and the last 100+ pages are the climax. Throw in another 100 pages in the Pensieve, and that doesn’t leave much room for Herbology, Charms, and day to day life at Hogwarts. But that’s one of my favorite parts about this book. Now that Voldemort is back in the open, he’s no longer just the Order’s problem, he’s affecting the entire country, magic and muggle. Everyone is in danger, and Malfoy’s right; no one’s going to care how you perform on your Defense Against The Dark Arts OWL if Voldemort takes over.
So while I agree that the pacing could have been better, I thought it was necessary to give us the backstory we needed. Remember, cutting the Pensieve and horcrux chapters left us with the absolute abomination that was the 6th movie (starring Fenrir Greyback as Sabretooth). Fuck that movie.
Movie Grade: T
What do you think, lovely readers? Does Joe change your mind at all? Or does he have the same thoughts you’ve had?