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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (no spoilers)

Well I read this book today, and my initial impression is more or less what I expected. The short version: a good book, a good story that I am more than happy to have bought, but naturally not upto the hype. There are several dozen books I think are better in various ways, but it is all the same very good, and a very good addition to the series.

Coming in at 607 pages it is more tightly-written than both Order of the Phoenix (which I thought was quite sloppy in places) and Goblet of Fire. In retrospect it seems clear J K Rowling just needed time to get comfortable with the longer format. It reads very easily - I was whipping through at a little over 100 pages an hour - but not simplistically.

In relation to the previous books this one reminds me most of Prisoner of Azkaban, in a number of ways. It starts off with Harry in No.4 Privet Drive, and his obligatory adventure on the way to school. Harry is a more convincing 16- than 15-year old I feel, indeed I feel the characterisation of all the main characters is a good deal better than in Book V. There are two main plots. The 'main' one - or so I think - is by far the best. The second one is weaker, until its culminatio which is really very good. There are of course various subplots, not least the Half-Blood Prince character of the title.

Indeed, in some respects I think it the most interesting title of all the books so far. After all, the title could refer to a variety of people, but I will say more of that in a few weeks time once I've digested a bit more.

There is of course a new teacher, Professor Slughorn, and like all the other teachers he is a wonderful character, stepping full-bodied out of the pages. This is actually where J K Rowling excels, in just creating utterly believeable and imaginable characters, and the series of teachers are a prime example of this.

If people have enjoyed the other Potter books, there is really no excuse not to read this other than penury. If however you loathe Harry Potter this will not change your opinion, and I urge you to save your blood pressure the hassle, unless that is you wish to confirm to yourself what doggerel it all is!

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