July 18, 2005

Harry Who?

Bought it and read it. For those of you who are interested, my review appears in the extended entry, because it is CHOCK FULL OF SPOILERS!


For those of you who aren't interested, or aren't finished, a brief take: good setup, flawed or odd characterizations. Still looking forward to #7.

Okay, so Snape is evil, Malfoy is a craven coward, and Dumbledore is dead. We're all set for the great Horcrux Quest and Final Confrontation that will be book seven. Those were the good points, and the action, when it happened, was well done. The look into Tom Riddle's history was good as well. The last 5 or so chapters were the payoff. Harry seemed to be on a more even keel emotionally this book, but everyone else seemed off, and not in the "hormones do wacky things to teenagers" way.

Seriously, what happened to make Hermione and Ron dismiss Harry out of hand not once, but several times, and even when confronted with evidence? The Ministry battle had been a fiasco, but Harry is right more often than wrong, and Ron and Hermione know that. It just seemed as though Rowling had to make them behave that way just to advance the plot, which was unfortunate.

Why did Hermione screw up the questioning in Knockturn Alley? Is this the same girl who managed to lure Dolores Umbridge to her doom? Why did she refuse to offer help? You cannot expect the reader to believe that she was so undone by Ron that she forgot her best friend was preparing to battle the ultimate evil.

And Ron--well, why was he even in this book except to pledge undying loyalty to Harry in the last two pages?

Ginny gets the Mary Jane Watson role from the first Spiderman movie, and seems pretty blase' about it, really.

I got the sense that Rowling wanted to concentrate on Harry, Voledmort's backstory, and Dumbledore in this book, but was afraid that would be too dark. So you get the "lighter" romantic subplots, which wouldn't be a problem except that given the characters' circumstances lightheartedness is sometimes tough to achieve, which I think leads to some oddly out of character moments.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. Still not as good as Azkaban, but a fun read.

Now I just have to wait however many more years for the last one.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at July 18, 2005 10:54 AM

BAW - I am soooo disappointed in you. Yes, you nailed some of the characterization weak points (esp. Hermione's weak questioning) but did you really buy that Snape turned on Dumbledore?

Dumbledore pleaded at the end. He would never plead for his own life. Never. He was using a "pleading" tone for the benefit of the other death-eaters present but he was ordering Snape to go through with it.

Look at how Snape did _not_ taunt Harry with having killed Dumbledore when Harry was chasing him. Snape never passes up an opportunity to hurt Harry (emotionally). Why not throw that up at him? Because it hurt him to have to do it. And when Harry called him a coward? Well, that set him off because he had just done a brave thing - obeyed orders he hated even though it means that the wizarding world (not to mention the Order) will be out to kill him for the apparent murder of Dumbledore.

Snape is a stupid git much of the time, but he earned Dumbledore's trust for some reason... and I saw no evidence at the end that Dumbledore had revoked that trust, so do we trust Dumbledore or not?

Posted by: kyrielle at July 20, 2005 10:06 PM

RE: Snape

I know--I'm thinking that Dumbledore had known what was going to happen and had told Snape to do it, but it seems kind of contrived. Why go to these lengths (i.e., his death and the villification of Snape) to spare Malfoy when Dumbledore says that he could protect Malfoy--why wouldn't he have confronted him earlier with the same arguments?

I like that she's left it open, but frankly, I'd be just as happy if Snape were simply irredeemably evil.

Posted by: BAW at July 21, 2005 08:20 AM

I wonder if there was more at stake than just keeping Malfoy's hands unbloodied and/or Snapes cover withing the Death-eaters... but I suppose that only time (and book 7) will tell. :-)

Posted by: Kyrielle at July 21, 2005 03:26 PM

I agree with Kyrielle. Dumbledore would never have pleaded for his own life. Remember when Hagrid overheard Dumbledore and Snape arguing and he said Snape remarked that too much was being asked of him? And that he had 'promised'? Hmmm... interesting. I have a theory...
In the prophecy, it says that the one to vanquish the dark lord will have powers that the dark lord knows not. Well, he had the ancient protection/magic that his mother bestowed upon him with her sacrifice. Lord Voldemort found out about that and used Harry's blood in his rebirthing ceremony and now Harry no longer has that secret edge... Unless... if Dumbledore sacrificed himself for Harry... kept him hidden and didn't want his help even to save his life... did he somehow give Harry another dose of some ancient protection? Protection that Voldemort won't know about because nobody knew Harry was there.I think Dumbledore knew this might be coming and made provisions for the possiblity of his death. I think it is something that Snape didn't want to do.

I don't particularly like the character of Snape..but he is fascinating.Every time we have thought he was evil, he has proved us wrong (except for his innate meanness).Dumbledore trusts Snape implicity...for some reason. I still have faith that that trust was not misplaced.I also think, that as a writer, JKR likes characters that are not 2 dimensional. They are not all good nor are they all bad. JRR Tolkien's characters are like that.

I think Snape has some vital role to play. Snape had a life debt bond with James when James saved his life...as much as Snape probably hates to be in anyone's debt.Wormtail also has a life dept with Harry, so that might come into play which could be interesting.When JKR was asked why Snape was not the one wearing the turban in SS (instead of Quirrell) she commented, 'Because I know all about Snape, and he's not about to put a turban on.' Now, what could she possibly mean by that cryptic comment? Is he really loyal to Dumbledore? I cannot wait to find out.

Posted by: RoseMorninStar at July 22, 2005 03:38 AM

I'm voting for Snape being a vile person, but a faithful member of the Order of the Phoenix after all. His aid will be vital in finding the missing Horcruxes. R.A.B, who is R.A.B? It would be beneath Rowling's skill to introduce a new, vital character this late in the story.

I feel, however, that this book was weaker in plotting and characterization than the previous books.

Posted by: liz at July 22, 2005 04:47 PM

R.A.B. by most people's guess, is going to be Sirius's brother, Regulus A.Black. Now, we don't KNOW that Regulus's middle initial is 'A.' but we think it's a good guess. 'A' names kind of run in the Black familly... like Uncle Alphard, Andromeda,Araminta...

We know that Regulus was a Death eater but then balked and wanted out when asked to do certain tasks for Voldemort. He was later ordered to be killed by the Death eaters & is presumed dead.

I have a couple of guesses/theories here. One, I don't think most of Voldemorts Death eaters are aware that he is a half-blood. Just think of some of those in the Black family coming to the realization that their 'Dark Lord' is a half-blood. I don't think they will be amused. If you think back to 'Order of the Phoenix' when Harry tries to tell Bellatrix LeStrange that Voldemort is a half-blood I believe she calls him a liar or says it's blasphemy or something like that. The fact that Voldemort is a half-blood could be the 'secret' that is mentioned in the note by R.A.B.... or the secret could be the fact that he knows about the horcrux(es).

Either way.. I would think a 'regular' member of the Black family & other loyal pure blood Death eater types would feel pretty angry and mislead when they find out about Voldemorts half-blood status.Will they turn on him as R.A.B. did? Did R.A.B. destroy the horcrux locket? Was it the same locket found in the Black household (the heavy locket they could not open) when they were cleaning out the cabinets? Did Mundungus nick the locket & sell it? Did Aberforth Dumbeldore buy it? There was that strange exchange between the two in front of the Hog's head pub in Hogsmead.

Lots of questions. I cannot wait to find out the answers!

Posted by: RoseMorninStar at July 22, 2005 06:31 PM

I just finished the book and am thankful to BAW for the opportunity to discuss, since my wife has yet to start. I agree with commenters here that there is more than meets the eye where Snape is concerned. In that regard, I thought she handled everyone's treatment of Harry's suspicions regarding Draco and Snape pretty well -- what do you do when you balance (a) all the apparent circumstantial evidence against Draco and Snape vs. (b) the fact that everyone has good reason to trust Mr. Omniscient T. Dumbledore, who doesn't seem concerned.

I will be interested to see if, in the final book (a) Dumbledore will experience a resurrection in the nature of Gandalf the White, Aslan, Obi Wan Kenobi, and certain other fantasy heroes; or (b) Dumblodore remains dead, but his death gives Harry the additional magical protection he needs to take care of Voldemort. I will also be very interested to see how things end up with Snape (and learn the Snape/Dumbledore backstory from this book).

I agree that some of the romance stuff with Ron, Hermione, Ginny, etc. was a bit hoky this time. Usually I think part of the charm in the books involves the mixing of fantasy magic saga stuff with basic teen problem plotlines, and think she usually handles this stuff with pretty fair insight and sensitivity. For instance, I thought the disintegration of the Harry/Cho romance in book 5 was quite well done. This time, maybe you're right that there was so much focus on the main plot that it seemed she simply pulled the romance stuff from a Lizzie MacGuire episode (and the ending bit with Harry and Ginny from the first Spiderman movie).

Posted by: Poppleton at July 24, 2005 02:44 PM

My wife and daughter and I all read the Potter books as a family when they come out. We all believe that:
1.Dumbledore was dying. The withered hand was a greater injury than it appeared and was slowly killing him.
2. Dumbledore was pleading with Snape to go through with the plan.
3. The plan--for Snape to kill Dumbledore--had a greater purpose than protecting Malfoy. Young Draco isn't going to be in anyone's good graces for failing to finish Dumbledore. There was a bigger issue.
4. By killing Dumbledore, Snape hopes to earn the complete trust of Voldemort. This is the most important reason that Dumbledore had to die by Snape's hand. Whatever Snape told Bellatrix about his status with the Dark Lord, Voldemort did not trust him completely. There were too many wary death eaters (like Bellatrix) who felt Snape had betrayed them. Dumbledore's death --as described by Harry Potter, the perfect witness--is the one possible ticket to Voldemort's inner circle. Dumbledore knew his death was inevitable, and he set events in motion that he hoped would make his very death a blow to Voldemort.
It'll be interesting to see, lo those many years from now, if any of this speculation is correct.

Posted by: dhanson at July 25, 2005 01:51 PM

Personally, I think Dumbledore's death has everything to do with the 'gleam' that Dumbledore got in his eye in Goblet of Fire when Harry told Dumbledore what happened at Voldemorts rebirthing ceremony. I think Dumbledore realized that the love/sacrifice that Lily made afforded Harry some extra special protection (according to the prophecy,'...a power the Dark Lord knows not...'). But Voldemort made sure to use Harry's blood so he could overcome that particular hurdle. But, lets just say Dumbledore got the idea that should he sacrifice himself for Harry, Harry would, yet again, have a power 'the Dark Lord knows not'. The only way Dumbledore could do this was by purposefully and knowingly sacrifice himself. So, should Draco or one of the other Death Eaters have killed Dumbledore, that would not have worked. But, if Dumbledore had made Snape promise to follow through on the Unbreakable Vow (with similar language that was used when Dumbledore made Harry promise to make him drink all of the potion no matter what it did) Harry would once again have that special protection.

I just wish I could figure out what the final horcrux is.

Posted by: RoseMorninStar at July 26, 2005 04:56 PM

Rose -

What if Harry were the final horcrux--"neither can live while the other survives?"

Posted by: BAW at July 27, 2005 08:37 AM

BAW, I know that JKR said that she (and Professor Trelawney) worded the prophecy very carefully. I still cannot make heads nor tails of it because, if you ask me, they ARE BOTH currently 'alive' unless you figure that Voldemort is only 'half alive' with most of his soul gone...

I'll tell you what I think might happen. I think that very possibly that the final horcrux is not Harry, but Harry's scar. I also believe that when Voldemort split his soul, he did not do it all at once, so the first time he split it the first horcrux would have half of his soul, the next time he split his soul, there would only be half a soul to split, so the second horcrux would only contain 1/4th of Voldemorts original soul...and so on until the final horcrux would only contain 1/64th of Voldemorts original soul (if that is how it works). So, let's just say that the diary and the ring are destroyed. AND when Voldemort tried to kill Harry but the curse rebounded on him Voldemort SHOULD have also died but did not because of the horcrux(es). So, that part that was within Voldemort ORIGINALLY was also destroyed and he is now using, let's just say, the part of the soul that was in the Hufflepuff cup. We don't really know if the locket is destroyed or not. That leaves whatever is in Voldemort and two, maybe three others. To of those possibly being Harry's scar and Nagini. I don't even know if Voldemort is AWARE that Harry's scar might be the horcrux. Many things did not go as he planned that night 16 years ago!

So, let's say in the final duel between Harry & Voldemort (and it seems Dumbledore & HArry did not really calculate that Voldemort has already USED UP one of his bit's of soul)that Voldemort uses the Avada Kedavra curse upon Harry.. it rebounds because of the protection Dumbledore affords him with his sacrifice & love ('...a power the dark lord knows not..') and then when the rebounded curse hits Voldemort it destroys the final horcrux, which is Harry's scar... which then disappears and Harry no longer has a scar. (Which, JKR has said, 'scar' is the last word in the next book unless something changes that would make her reword it.) I still cannot seem to rectify that with the wording in the prophecy, which makes no sense to me. Perhaps it will when the final plot is revealed.

Posted by: RoseMorninStar at July 27, 2005 06:56 PM

P.S. Also, in an interview when someone asked if the shape of Harry's scar was important, JKR answered that the shape of Harry's scar was not the most important thing about the scar.

Posted by: RoseMorninStar at July 27, 2005 07:01 PM