Harry Potter's sixth visit to Muggle Land
All in all, the Half Blood Prince is a well-crafted book, a perfect prelude to the final edition.
BY SAMIDHA SATAPATHY
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The much-awaited Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince finally hit the stores today, and as millions of fans even now peruse its contents delightedly, for those speedy readers who have already zipped through its pages, we look back to where the book leaves us in the classic good vs. evil battle (warning: this means, if you haven't read the book yet, don't read on!).
The biggest 'surprise' that was not quite the surprise it should have been was of course - Dumbledore's death. Somehow, Rowling might even be thanking her stars that some fans had been forewarned by the 'leak' that started off rumours about the great wizard's demise: after all, such a tragedy takes time to digest, and for some at least, might make the book 'too' tragic. The news will not come as such a great shock however, for Rowling had already disclosed that a major character would die in this book, and sure enough, Potter's mentor and father-figure (the 'voice' of Rowling as she claims) is killed off, leading to a crucial twist in this seven-book series. Where once Dumbledore and his school had stood for safety and protection for those on the side of 'Good' - at the end of this book, Harry stands alone to fend for himself and the world.
With the revelation that a major character (Severus Snape - the Potions Master) is actually a Death-Eater, and not a spy working for the Order as everybody had believed, we are left with more questions than answers. The significance of this news is not so much that there is one more baddy to fight, but that the great Dumbledore can be fallible. As one of the characters (Lupin) echoes a sentiment that fans and other characters had pronounced time and again throughout the series with regard to Snape - Dumbledore trusted Snape, therefore, in trusting Dumbledore, and his judgement, one must trust Snape, however dodgy he may look. In the second Chapter of the Half-Blood Prince, that 'trust' is sorely tested as we find Snape giving a death-eater a blow by blow account for why he is to be trusted. As the book progresses, we are reminded, time and again that we 'believe' Snape only because Dumbledore does. Yet in a classic son killing father scene, 'Severus' turns on Dumbledore and quite chillingly, kills him. Harry must be left wondering - what is this great power of 'love' that Dumbledore had so relied on?
As the ghost of Dumbledore might argue - the bad side is the bad side because they kill mercilessly, and the good side is the good side because they don't kill. If baddies can't be killed, the only thing to do with them is to 'turn' them, show them the folly of their ways, and get them 'back' to the good side. This is pretty much what Dumbledore seems to have in mind when he sets out to give 'private lessons' to Harry - not classes in advanced defensive spells, but trips down memory lane (literally) and into Voldemort's past. The death toll significantly accelerates in this book with minor characters (Mrs. Bones, etc.) being killed off in almost every chapter, warning us in advance that no character should be held too 'dearly'. Yet the news of Dumbledore's death shakes up not just the reader and Harry, but pretty much every 'species' represented in the book (the merpeople and the centaurs come to pay their respects at Dumbledore's funeral while a giant looks on) and even the newly revamped Ministry of Magic.
Even the usually rigid format of this book is somewhere 'shaken up' - beginning with a highly non magical scene in the Prime Minister (of England of course!)'s office, Rowling's familiar satire departs (temporarily) from its usual magical analogies to more direct references. And unlike the breath-taking pace of Goblet of Fire or Prisoner of Azkaban, where adventures and baddies creep up in surprising bursts, a more 'pensive' mood pervades the tempo of this book, with the only heart stopping chase coming in towards the end that leads to the revelation of Snape's true allegience. The rest of the book focuses on two broad themes - the humanisation of Tom Riddle and the lovelife of our various heroes.
The Half-Blood Prince emerges as both alluring and dangerous - yet this storyline is too similar to the Chamber of Secrets to become more than mildly thrilling. What Potter fans will take from this book - Harry coming into his own with Dumbledore's death, Snape as something of a limit-logic to how effective love can be, countered with young Malfoy's indecision suggesting the effectiveness of love (over fear), and in terms of plot, the Horcruxes as a practical method for Harry to conquer Voldemort (without Dumbledore).
All in all, the book is definitely worth its long awaited read - if not so much for the suspense and revelations Potter fans have come to expect, definitely for a well-crafted prelude to the final seventh-book battle.
BY SAMIDHA SATAPATHY
(Disclaimer: The author of this review is a muggle)