Wednesday, July 27, 2005

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

Yes, I was one of the Potter geeks hanging out at the local Borders for the Midnight Magic release on 7/16/05, just like the last book . . .

I've been enjoying the Potter books since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came out in paperback, and our Book Group read it back in the Fall of 1999. And with each successive book, I've had mixed feelings about the series itself as well as the quality of each novel (e.g., in my opinion, Goblet of Fire is a clinker, though some Pot-Heads may disagree).

Nevertheless, I just finished reading Half-Blood Prince and thought it was pretty good. Rowling still draws heavily from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in various ways, and our book group has watched in each book as Rowling borrows again and again. For example, Tolkien has evil entity Sauron, and Rowling has evil entity Lord Voltemort; Frodo has a ring which makes him invisible, and Harry has his Invisibility Cloak; Gandalf and Dumbledore; Ringwraiths and Dementors; Gollum and Dobby; the list goes on. Half-Blood Prince continues the borrowing: notice the similarities between how the Fellowship enters the Mines of Moria, and how Harry searches for the entrance to the Room of Requirement, and later how Harry and Dumbledore seek entrance through a solid wall in "The Cave." I also detected a bit of Tolkien's Dead Marshes when Harry and Dumbledoor see the Inferi (and, of course, fighting off Inferi with fire, like Tolkien's Weathertop episode).

Sidenote: Let me just say that, regardless of the Rowling book, Quiddich chapters bore me to death. But that's beside the point.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing of Half-Blood Prince which, like all the Potter books, has a rapid element of crime fiction to it that always engages the reader. Likewise, the "new" magical elements introduced in this book, like Horcruxes, are fun to consider from a religious or philosophical standpoint. Yet I still cannot fathom those who denounce the series for its supposed "occultism" -- au contraire, if nothing else Harry Potter celebrates friendship, loyalty, academic discipline, family ties . . . not to mention those who make the ultimate sacrifice for those they love (you'll know of whom I speak when you read the book).

Sadly, Goblet of Fire hits theaters this November. I hope it's better than the book.

(By the way, I caught this on on 7/29/05 and wonder if Ms. Rowling knew it when she created the "Sorting Hat.")