The Half-Blood Prince is a bit of a confusing book in the sense that it becomes increasingly difficult to tell which side Snape’s on, resulting in what looks like the ultimate betrayal, and to top it all off I ended up feeling more sorry for Draco Malfoy than I’ve felt for anyone else in the whole series so far (except perhaps Sirius). We find out more about Voldemort’s backstory and the task of destroying his horcruxes, but it seems unlikely that there’s any hope of succeeding without Dumbledore. It was probably to be expected though; afterall, he was getting (very) old and had shown himself to be more vulnerable with a dead and withered hand. Of course no one would have been able to kill him if he had his wand, but he was weakened by his mission to secure the horcrux, and had lost his wand by spending valuable time protecting Harry instead. It doesn’t bode at all well for the final book. There isn’t anywhere, and especially not Hogwarts, that will be so safe without Dumbledore.
Then of course there’s all the raging teenage hormones flying around, leading to all sorts of romances and ‘feelings’. Maybe I’m just a cold-hearted cynic (very likely), but I found it all to be rather distracting and unnecessary. At least it wasn’t as bad as in the film though. Film-Lavender was downright deranged, Ron and Hermione were waaaay more obvious, and there were more completely cringeworthy moments between Harry and Ginny than you could shake a stick at. I nearly turned the whole film off when she fed Harry a mince pie, it was completely vomtastic. It wouldn’t have been so bad if film-Ginny was as feisty and interesting as in the book, but she just seemed to spend most of her time giving Harry meaningful glances.
It’s so frustrating rereading the book and knowing that no-one’s paying any attention to Harry’s suspicions about Malfoy and Snape though. And yet it was interesting to see that Malfoy’s mother was so desperate to secure his safety. The ‘baddies’ in children’s books (and I use the term ‘children’s books’ very lightly) are so often portrayed as being devoid of real human emotion, so it’s almost a relief to see that they care about each other too. It makes them seem more vulnerable.
Having said that, I really didn’t like Helen McCrory’s portrayal of Narcissa, she wasn’t anywhere near desperate enough. Plus she should have suggested the Unbreakable Vow instead of Bellatrix. Bellatrix was given a far greater role in the film, from turning up to fight in the tower to the absolutely absurd scene where she and Fenrir Greyback attack the Burrow.
Everything’s made a lot more obvious in the film. Malfoy’s clearly trying to fix the vanishing cabinet in the Room of Requirement, but I suppose actually showing this happening rather than giving a lengthy explanation to fill in the gaps works much better in the film medium.
Again, there were some things that were notable by their absence in the film. It would have been nice to have seen Dumbledore’s funeral, although I think the film was quite long enough as it was. Instead we had a weird display of everyone pointing their lit wands in the air around his body, as if they were hearing a ballad played at a concert. Dumbledore’s death wasn’t anywhere near as emotional as the book, but then I never warmed to Michael Gambon in the role. I was, however, very pleased with Daniel Radcliffe this time around, who was very funny and just seems like a genuinely good egg, and Alan Rickman was of course excellent because Alan Rickman is always excellent. However I don’t understand why Harry, who hadn’t been immobilised and had his wand in his hand, didn’t bother to help Dumbledore when he was wandless and confronted by Malfoy and other Death Eaters. I don’t believe for a minute he’d have obeyed Snape’s orders, he didn’t trust him as far as he could throw him. He should have been immobilised in some way, like he was in the book, because otherwise he just looks like a coward who should have helped but didn’t. There was also no resistance to the Death Eater invasion by the Order or the DA, which seems a bit strange as it would probably have made the film more interesting. I’d rather see a proper fight than Harry and Ginny making moony eyes at each other every five seconds.
I really enjoyed reading the Half-Blood Prince, more than any of the others so far, because I’d only read it a couple of times before and not since Deathly Hallows came out, so there was so much that I’d forgotten that it was almost (not quite, but almost) like reading it for the first time again. I’m feeling so nervous about reading Deathly Hallows tomorrow, I must admit. I’ve only read it once, on the day it came out, so again I’ve forgotten pretty much everything it seems except the deaths, and I know there were an awful lot of those. It’s making me pretty anxious as I know I’ll probably spend most of the day in tears, but I’ll be intrigued to see just how much I’ve forgotten. I can’t remember the films in the slightest, I only saw them in the cinema, but I know for a fact that I’ll be furious if poor Bill doesn’t finally make an appearance. I hate to end on a shallow note, but I’m just desperate to see if he’s every bit as cool and good-looking as I’d hoped.
See also Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.