Monday, August 01, 2005

J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A few days ago, I did a simple piece of original research - to see whether there were now more people reading the latest Harry Potter novel on the London Underground than people reading one of Dan Brown's awful bestsellers. I was pleased to note, that Harry Potter was winning.

Pleased, because I refuse to turn my nose up at Ms Rowling's creation. True, it's not great literature, true it's a children's series read avidly by adults. True, there are lots of things to be said about it's marketing, and I ain't convinced that simply getting more children to read Harry Potter improves their general consumption of books.

But there is no doubt that Harry Potter offers adults and children the thing that everyone needs once in a while - escapism.

These debates have been explored elsewhere, I don't want to repeat what others have said. does the latest book compare and is it worth it? Well, it's fun in the way that the earlier books are. As other reviewers have said it's not as refined as the earlier ones, the themes are perhaps more adult-like (though the characters have now reached 16 and 17, so that's not surprising), in places it reads like it's been written more for the adult audience than younger readers.

But the main criticism I'd have and it's been made elsewhere is that this is a filler novel. It ties up some loose ends (creates a few more) and is all about setting the scene for the final book. Given that the wizarding world (and the human one too - we meet the British Prime Minister in the first couple of chapters) is entering the final showdown between good and evil, it was always going to be unlikely that too much of the novel would be taken up with the day to day goings on at Hogwarts, the wizard school.

So the termtime pattern from the earlier novels (arrival at Hogwarts, various birthdays, Quidditch matches and Christmas) is there more as a backdrop to the main story line. But Rowling has wisely kept this in, after all it's what made the earlier books so original and fascinating to the earlier readers. Some of it though is a little bit clumsey - there are a couple of things added in earlier in the book simply to make the ending work better, whats the old Latin phrase that sounds like a spell? Ah yes. Deux ex machina.

Ultimately of course, anyone who enjoyed the earlier books will read this and it's sequel. But I hope that Ms Rowling and her publisher don't rush the next one out. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince would have benefited from a little more work.

I'm not going to say more. If you like Potter, you'll read it. If you poo-poo it you won't and little I can say will change that.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I agree completely with your assessment of 'Halfblood Prince' as a "filler novel". I found that many of the key players seemed flat throughout the book, to the point where they were almost out of character. I found myself wondering at times if one or more of them were someone else who'd taken Polyjuice potion. But no, they were simply the result of the overall feel of a novel that was published rather rough. Also absent, I noticed, were the small, quirky details that made Harry's world so alive and engaging in earlier books. While not strictly necessary, I think things like Bubotuber Pus and Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday Party went the extra mile to make the books seem real. The miniature Puffskeins just weren't up to snuff.

Resolute Reader said...

Deus. Yes, thankyou. Can you tell I never studied Latin?