July 26, 2005

The Half-Blood Prince

I haven't done a book review yet, so I thought I'd write a quick one.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

½★

I thought the best way to explain why this book was absolutely terrible was to compare it to the first novel and explain why that novel was very good, while this novel was truly one of the most dreadful novels I have ever read.

a) Punctuation. The novel's punctuation was terrible, and had clearly not even been edited like the first novel. There were comma splices everywhere. If you're going to publish thirty million copies of a book, you should at least run it through Word grammar checker. God invented semi-colons for a reason; please use them.

b) Lack of Narrative. The original novel was full of narrative description. Pages were spent on describing scenes in minute detail. This novel had almost no description at all; they were virtually Platonic dialogues. This made the novel flat and empty. What description they had was ridiculously bad, like Voldemort's grandfather's house. It had grimy walls, a dirty floor, dirty pots and pans, smeared windows and, I'm not joking, his mother was wearing a dress matching the color of the dirt. His house was so dirty even the dirt had dirt on it!

c) No New Ideas. J.K. Rowling is completely out of ideas. The original novel had so many ideas, I'm surprised she managed to fit in characters. Even the candy was fascinating. However, there are virtually no new magical inventions and nothing inspires awe in the whole novel. Even the funeral at the end was boring, and she mainly just lists who is there. The only new idea is the horcruxes, which as far as I can tell are just phylacteries from D&D's liches.

d) Bad Mystery Faux Pas. J.K. Rowling breaks two key rules of mystery novels. First, she lets the reader know more than her protagonist in a scene with Snape and Narcissa early on in the novel. This means scenes later are revelatory only to characters in the book and frankly boring to the readers. Second, at least one of the mysteries in the novel is completely insoluble, even by an "ideal reader". A key clue that is utterly necessary to determine the half-blood prince's identity is only revealed after the identity has been revealed.

e) Too Long. This novel is far, far too long. It is three times longer than the original. Moreover, nothing at all happens in all this length. The reader knows as much on page 450 as he or she did on page 50. The mystery isn't progressed. Voldemort doesn't seem to be up to anything. There are entire chapters devoted to characters telling other characters what happened in the last chapter, and then an entire next chapter devoted to characters complaining they weren't believed last chapter when they talked about what happened two chapters ago. Without exaggeration, one could start reading this book at page 450 and not miss anything important. It's that bad.

f) Jarring Contrasts. Harry Potter has painted itself into a corner by creating an "arc" that is far, far more important than Hogwarts 90210. Yet, coupled with this story of ultimate evil is a teenage snogfest that couldn't possibly appeal to the eleven-year-olds who liked volume one. Volume one was able to get away with it because Voldemort wasn't actually back, and the new world she is creating is so fascinating that the friendships at the centre have a place to flourish. However, the teen angst throughout this novel just seems like killing time for 400 pages next to the apocalyptic arc.

This is all a result of bad editing. What is means is that the Harry Potter series will never be a classic. Since volume four, the series the series has been cumbersome, slow and boring. It is a shame to see a series the started with so much promise descend into a muddled mess.

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