Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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There's no way to discuss this book-- or at least, anything I really want to discuss about it-- without spoiling it. Fair warning, then-- spoilers ho! If you're OK with that, click on through the More... link.

Am I the only one who felt like the pacing on this was way off? For much of the book, nothing really happened. There was, essentially, no plot. Malfoy's up to something, flashbacks reveal bits of Voldemort's past, Harry and Ginny finally get together while Ron and Hermione, against all reason, do not... and nothing really happens. Every other volume featured a self-contained adventure of some sort threaded through the year at Hogwart's, but Half-Blood Prince did not. And then, in the last hundred pages, kaboom! Suddenly everything kicks into high gear and we finally start to get really interesting... and then the book's over. More than anything else, this felt like the first half of a single story that will be concluded, along with the entire series, in volume seven. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but it's a departure from the rest of the series.

I hadn't given a lot of thought to the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, but the penny dropped for me during the bathroom scene with Malfoy and Snape and I realized who the Prince was. But it was a minor mystery at best-- the identity of the Prince was completely irrelevant to anything. I'm hoping the payoff for that will come in book seven.

Dumbledore's death I never saw coming, least of all at Snape's hands. I've been maintaining that Snape's on the side of the angels, that Dumbledore's conviction of that fact was too strong to be an error. The reason for his conviction has been kept hidden from us (Harry's feeble explanation at the end of the book seems more like a jumped-to conclusion than the real deal) so that the reader would continue, like Harry, to doubt Snape. Rowling herself explained why Dumbledore's death was necessary, dramatically-- by removing Harry's last protector, he's finally able to grow up, face Voldemort, and meet his destiny.

We saw a body. We saw a funeral. No mysterious disappearance through a vortex, no vanishing over the edge of a cliff. But despite all that, I'm not convinced. On the one hand, it sure looks like Rowling went out of her way to give Dumbledore a proper sendoff and say to the reader, "Look, he's really, truly dead. Really!" But I still believe in Dumbledore, which means I believe in Snape. He was bound by the Unbreakable Vow to help Malfoy in his mission to kill Dumbledore, and I'm betting Dumbledore knew about that. Which means he would have planned a way to let Snape satisfy the vow-- by faking his own death, perhaps-- and still survive. I'd like to think Rowling won't simply pull a magical rabbit out of her hat and invent some spell that saved Dumbledore. She's had six volumes to show us the gun before firing it. I've actually been impressed with the number of concepts-- the invisibility cloak, the Marauder Map, the Room of Requirement, Polyjuice Potion, etc.-- she introduced and then used again as plot points in later volumes. So perhaps there's something I'm forgetting from early on that would explain Dumbledore's salvation. But given how strongly Rowling has expressed Dumbledore's faith in Snape, I can't believe it was wrongly placed. It would not surprise me to see Dumbledore pull a Gandalf and reappear when Harry needs him most.

I'm also hoping we've already met "R.A.B." although the initials don't ring any bells for me.

And... if *I* were Slughorn, I'd be quaffing down some Felix every day. I mean, why on Earth wouldn't you? Everything goes your way, with no side effects? Sign me up!

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"Suddenly everything kicks into high gear and we finally start to get really interesting... and then the book's over."

Not merely over, but over in a very unsatisfying way. All that heroism with the emerald potion, the physical courage of Dumbledore and the emotional courage of Harry... nope, sorry, complete waste of time, no horcrux here, move along. Makes you wish that R.A.B. (about more anon) had, I dunno, maybe told somebody what he was doing. The good news I guess is that Book Seven is clearly already plotted out, so maybe we won't have to wait very many years for Part II of this story.

"Dumbledore's death I never saw coming, least of all at Snape's hands."

The Snape thing caught me by surprise, but I canceled Dumbeldore's life insurance the minute I heard HBP featured the death of a major character. Rowling's craft is just too polished at this point; there was no way she would weaken Harry's heroic arc by leaving him with the world's most powerful wizard as backup in the final book. I expect he'll lose whatever help the Order of the Phoenix could provide too. It'll come down to Harry, his school cohort (who are all reflections of Harry), and Snape (who is also a reflection of Harry, in his way).

Snape will, at the last, die in battle against Voldemort, redeeming himself and making Harry's victory possible. I agree that within the scope of the series our faith in Dumbledore's judgment can be absolute... although since Snape betrayed Harry's parents, he doesn't get a happy ending for himself. Without Snape's redemption, though, the entire series has been about how all adult authority figures are either useless, evil or doomed to die, and how if you don't like someone, you will ultimately wind up having to kill that person anyway so you might as well do so whenever convenient. Not such a great message for the kids, I'm thinking.

"So perhaps there's something I'm forgetting from early on that would explain Dumbledore's salvation."

The archetypal symbol of rebirth that Dumbledore kept on a perch like a parrot sure seems like a pretty strong clue, doesn't it? But it just doesn't feel right for Dumbledore to come back, precisely because of the dramatic necessity that required him to die in the first place. When would he come back? Surely not at the beginning of Book Seven; he wouldn't have been dead 50 pages then. If he came back for the fight at the end of Seven, then all he'd do is weaken the conclusion of Harry's arc. So he'd have to come back in the middle, provide some sage advice and then on some pretext become useless to Harry before the climax—precisely what he's done in every book so far, which raises the question of why bother killing him at all. At best he could maybe do an Obi-Wan Kenobi right at the end, but of course that would feel derivative, so she probably won't go there.

"I'm also hoping we've already met 'R.A.B.' although the initials don't ring any bells for me."

We haven't seen him, but he was referenced in Five: Regulus Black, Sirius' brother who became a Death Eater then tried to leave the cult and was killed by Voldemort. We just didn't know until now the extent of his betrayal. Funny how the supposed dark genius Voldemort had so many turncoats in his organization... really calls his character judgment into serious question.

A quick flip through the mental rolodex turned up Black as a possible "B", but I don't remember the reference to Regulus Black at all. Glad to hear we heard about him. Perhaps this means Harry's inheritance of Kreacher and the Black estate will prove useful after all. Is the real Horcrux hidden somewhere in Sirius' house?

The identity of the last horcrux seems obvious-- Harry himself. Voldemort was planning to use Harry's murder to create one, and it explains why Harry speaks Parseltongue and could sense Voldemort's emotions-- he's got a piece of Voldemort's soul inside him. Probably right in that distinctive scar. "The Dark Lord will mark him as his equal." Not an equal in power or significance, but an equal in the sense of having a piece of his very soul.

And here's a shirt that turned up in my Google fact-checking for this reply (it's mere existence is more amusing to me than the shirt itself).

It is my humble opinion, among many I hold regarding HP, that Dumbledore is good and dead, for all the reasons mentioned above. The redemptive father figure who will stage a return to bolster Harry's courage will, naturally, be Sirius. And I continue to hold that the final, emotional conflict of the series will be between Snape and Harry, and this will be when Harry learns that "Love is the most powerful magic." (I paraphrase, but that's the gist of what Dumbledore said.) The fireworks between Harry and Voldemort will be secondary.

I put the odds of survival for Dumbledore at about 25%. There is a site that talks about this: http://www.dumbledoreisnotdead.com . Basically, a few problems:

First of all, Dumbledore insisted over and over that he has secret reasons for believing in Snape, and even argued with hiim outside the forest that he should do something that he was obviously reluctant to do.

There was much hullabaloo made about non-verbal spells in the book, but nothing came of it. It is a strong possibility that Snape said the words of the killing spell but actually cast a different spell non-verbally. Add to that the prevalence of polyjuice potion, no actual body at the funeral, etc...

Also, Dumbledore seems to have wanted for everyone, including Harry and Voldemort, to think he was dead.

The reason my percentage is so low is for the above reasons: plotwise, it doesn't sit well. Who really wants Dumbledore coming back, and to what end. Still, JKR might pull it off ok.

As far as Snape goes, I am 98% convinced that he has done nothing wrong, even if he killed Dumbledore. He was acting on DD's explicit order to do so, and even at the last moments, DD was pleading with him to do it.

Every other action on his part, from the pathetic list of reasons he is still with DD at the beginning of the book, to his not harming anyone else except for DD, and even protecting Harry on the way out during and after the battle, rings clearly to me as someone with a very difficult task as a double agent.

Harry's jumping to conclusions about Snape is typical of his behaviour, and he is usually wrong until he has been hit over the head with the truth.

The 2% possibility exists only because DD himself said that even great wizards make great mistakes. If this is the case, then the entire Snape betrayal arc is JKR teaching us that lesson, and this is very out of character for her.

But, noone really knows, do they?

I think this book is the best, and in fact, I think that each book has been better than the last.

"Not much happens" is totally irrelevant. She continues to write absorbing prose, and her style gets better with each book. She has two hundred well defined characters, a world that keeps consitancy, is compelling and believable. Each page is rich with detail and style. Beautiful.

Yehuda

Can't believe I'm commenting on HP but I'm with you, Peter. I was fairly convinced that Dumbledore wasn't really dead, despite the weeping and funeral, and that Snape is really working to bring down old Voldemort.

Harry has accused Snape of something evil in about every book, but really Snape has been protecting Harry every time. Harry has always been wrong about Snape. Why should he be validated all of a sudden?

First a disclaimer: Some of my past predictions about Harry Potter have been proven wrong and I suspect some of my current predictions will also be proven wrong.

Dumbledore � Not only is he merely dead, he�s really, truly, surely dead. (apologies to the Munchkin coroner). It�s not that JKR couldn�t come up with a convincing explanation for how Dumbledore is not really dead. It�s that the plot is better if Dumbledore is dead: Harry is the driving force behind Voldemort�s final defeat versus Dumbledore uses Harry to defeat Voldemort.

Snape is on the good guys side. Here�s how various scenes could be interpreted to this end. The partially overheard argument is Dumbledore ordering Snape to kill Dumbledore under certain circumstances. On the roof, Dumbledore is pleading with Snape to kill him. Dumbledore�s reasons for Snape to kill him include: to save Draco and so Snape can gain trust with Voldemort so as to be in a better position for the final betrayal. While Snape is fleeing, he protects Harry (the excuse being that Voldemort wants to kill Harry himself, however Voldemort wanted Draco to kill Dumbledore but Snape didn�t hesitate a moment in killing Dumbledore himself). Snape was upset at being called a coward because killing Dumbledore was the hardest thing he ever did.

We also learned that it is because of Voldemort that no defense against the dark arts professor has served more than one year. This explains why Snape was not made dark arts professor before. This year he was made dark arts professor because Dumbledore knew that, in order to gain the trust of Voldemort, Snape would have to appear to betray the good guys and leave Hogwarts. I don�t believe we yet know why Dumbledore trusted Snape so completely, this argues for Snape being on the good guys side. Finally, how did Harry end up with Snape�s potion book? As Harry guessed, Snape could probably have figured out Harry had it long before the incident with Draco.

Before book 6 was published JKR stated that books 6 and 7 would be more like a single story. Book 6�s is like The Empire Strikes Back in that respect.

I did not figure out who the Half-Blood Prince was until the end. The fact that the potions book was 50 years old threw me off track. I remembered 3 students from 50 years ago: Voldemort � who JKR had stated was not the Half-Blood, Hagrid � who I suspected (even though he doesn�t seem the type to excel in potions or penmanship) until my sister-in-law (who finished the book before me) let slip that it was not Hagrid, and Moaning Myrtle.

I thought I remember Slughorn suggesting that Felix did have side effects if overused.

Voldemort was going to use Harry�s death to create the last horcrux. Dumbledore suggested that since Voldemort failed to kill Harry, he used a murder he committed recently to put the final horcrux in his snake. If this is true, Harry is not a horcrux.

Ah, that's better.

So were you hoping that this book would have continued the trend of increasing page count like the other volumes?

I noticed the pacing thing also, but did not regard it as much of a serious problem as you, except for the long Pensieve scenes. I actually think it's better not to have a central caper in this book unlike all the others, making it instead fulfill an "all arc, all the time" role in the series.

I think Dumbledore is just as dead as Obi-Wan Kenobi was in the last two movies of the original trilogy. That is, he's only as dead as the storyteller needs him to be. I do not think he has a Horcrux of his own, given the steep price of producing such a thing.

I reckon the Ministry of Magic randomly tests all potion masters routinely for illegal performance-enhancing use of Felix, and that the Daily Prophet would pillory anyone caught. Oh, the shame!

Abigail Nussbaum believes that R.A.B. is Regulus A. Black.

I agree with Eric that Dumbledore was ordering (pleading with) Snape to kill Dumbledore. If you look at it logically and assume Dumbledore can be killed (while hurt and wandless), then this move by Snape is just similar to a sacrifice move in chess.

Look at that showdown: you have Snape plus wandless/useless Dumbledore on one side, vs 4 (IIRC) death eaters. Even if Snape tries to save Dumbledore, the chance of success would not be that great. And even if successful, the good side would gain Dumbledore but lose Snape as an agent. It is therefore a very viable alternative to sacrifice Dumbledore to maintain (and in fact enhance) the image of Snape as a bad guy, in the eyes of the rest of the bad guys.

I had to re-read that section a few times to convince myself, but it's right there. Dumbledore kept saying "Severus, please..." (IIRC) It is intentionally ambiguous whether he was pleading for his life, or, pleading for Snape to keep the big picture in mind and to have the resolve to kill him. The ambiguity is necessary to fool the death eaters, and also to confuse the readers.

And see? I made all that argument using just the internal consistencies of the characters, without reference to whether Dumbledore's death makes for good plot or not. ;)

As for why Dumbledore trusts Snape so much, my guess is that Snape made another unbreakable vow years ago to assure Dumbledore. The reason I think this way is that otherwise there is less need for Rowling to introduce the concept of unbreakable vow. Obviously, as I argue above, such a vow to oppose Voldemort would not conflict with the vow in book 6, since killing Dumbledore and killing Voldemort are not mutually exclusive.

well, i think that snape is really good. he could have been told by dumbledore to kill him, so that he could still be a spy, or help them in the end in some way. besides, you never actually SEE dumbledores body, do you? and the pheonix's song is supposed to totally overcome the listener, or so it has in the rest of the books. but this was different. harry only noticed it occasionally, like when he stopped talking or listening. he couldve been pleading with snape to go through with a plan to "kill" dumbledore, and the look of hate could be at what he had to do. he also never killed harry. there must be a reasonfor that.

dumbledore said "Severus, please," which couldve been a plea to follow with a plan to kill dumbledore, which may not be killing at all. the only thing that is confusing me is the portrait of dumbledore that suddenly appeared. but, dumbledore is very smart. im sure he could some way to make it appear there.

im gonna say that dumbledore is alive, althrough the book he said he trusted severus. he argued this fact and he is the most smart and powerful wizard in the world.

i just dont believe that dumbledore could be wrong.


another thing about jk rowling is that she seems to copy many other books.

aragog = the spider out of LOTR
Harry Being the One = star wars, the matrix (i dont know if the matrix was originally a book but yer.}
The prophecy = many books talk about prophecies

the final battle between the one and the one's equal on the bad side. such as luke vs darth vader,

also the one having no parents and being the underdog.


a male guide = (obie one, gandalf/aragorn, serios/dumbledore.

ive been waiting for somebody in harry potter to come back from the dead, because she would definetely include this. killing off important characters. why would she kill serius after two books of doing nothing?

so im gonna say dumbledore will come back because of things said above as well as the fact that he was too smart to be killed by someonethat he fought to defend.

i also wouldnt be surprised if voldemort was harrys dad

Is it at all possible that Snape is not a deatheater, and he is truly a genuine good person? When Snape murders Dumbledore in J. K. Rowling�s newest book, Harry Potter and the Half -Blood Prince, the book provides a negative portrayal of Snape and his actions. After Dumbledore�s freeze charm wore off Harry, he quickly runs after Snape. As soon as the murderer Snape and the other deatheaters escaped, even members of the Phoenix were shocked by news of Snape murdering Dumbledore. So this has led the majority of Harry Potter readers to conclude that Snape is a deatheater.

However, through reviewing the scene of Dumbledore�s death I have come to believe that Snape is not truly a deatheater. Why does Dumbledore place a freezing charm on Harry? Did Dumbledore want Harry to observe himself being murdered by Snape? This was a murder planned by Dumbledore and Snape for the good of the Wizarding world. Actually, Snape is a valuable member of the �Order of the Phoenix�. Despite Harry�s many doubts, Dumbledore has always trusted Snape, for good reason.

If Dumbledore wanted Harry to see himself being killed by Snape, why would this be helpful to the cause of killing Lord Voldemort? Snape killing Dumbledore ensures that Snape is not only trusted as a deatheater, but the closest servant to Lord Voldemort. Harry will naturally try to seek revenge on Snape and when Harry finds Snape, Snape will tell Harry what he has learned about Voldemort�s weaknesses. As Dumbledore�s has emphasized day in and day out is love is greater than any magic. When Harry met Voldemort for the first time, love saved him and now Harry�s love for Dumbledore will be the ultimate protection.

I think DD had to die so Harry could face Voldemort by himself without anyone else helping him and because he could have put a charm on harry that protects him for the rest of his life. (like how Harry is protected when he goes back to the Dursleys b/c the have his mother's blood) Also i think that Snape is rele a good guy and will ultimatly help Harry in the end.

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