July 16, 2005


Harry Potter Works His Magic Again in a Far Darker Tale (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, 7/16/05, NY Times)

In an earlier Harry Potter novel, Sibyll Trelawney, divination teacher, looks at Harry and declares that her inner eye sees past his "brave face to the troubled soul within."

"I regret to say that your worries are not baseless," she adds. "I see difficult times ahead for you, alas ... most difficult ... I fear the thing you dread will indeed come to pass ... and perhaps sooner than you think."

In "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," that frightening prophecy does in fact come true - in a thoroughly harrowing denouement that sees the death of yet another important person in Harry's life, and that renders this, the sixth volume of the series, the darkest and most unsettling installment yet.

It is a novel that pulls together dozens of plot strands from previous volumes, underscoring how cleverly and carefully J. K. Rowling has assembled this giant jigsaw puzzle of an epic. It is also a novel that depicts Harry Potter, now 16, as more alone than ever - all too well aware of loss and death, and increasingly isolated by his growing reputation as "the Chosen One," picked from among all others to do battle with the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

'Half-Blood Prince' review: Be brave, kids, as Potter fights evil (Emily Green, July 16, 2005, Los Angeles Times)
This much can be said about "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" without spoiling the plot. Once Harry was 10 and stars rained down on England to augur his arrival. Now he is 16, and as the book opens, bridges are collapsing. Wizards from the Ministry of Magic are popping out of the Prime Minister's fireplace to explain that the cause is not bad construction. It's evil. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back.

In what even a newcomer can detect as an alarming cabinet reshuffle, the charming Cornelius Fudge has been replaced as Minister of Magic by the shrewd Rufus Scrimgeour. Harder times demand harder characters.

Relief comes in the form of well-observed personality quirks and some first-class toilet humor. Bored figures in paintings are not above picking their ears. Amid the potions in Fred and George's magic store, there is a sign that reads, "Why are you worrying about You-Know-Who? You should be worrying about U-No-Poo -- the constipation sensation that's gripping the nation."

Then there's the romance.

Our local book store was packed to the gills last night. Those crowds waiting on the docks for the next installment of a Dickens novel had nothing on us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 16, 2005 9:24 AM

"Does live?"

Now get to work on 7.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at July 16, 2005 9:31 AM

All hail Miz Rowling, the new Dickens.

Posted by: Al Cornpone at July 16, 2005 3:34 PM

My local Barnes & Noble was loaded with kids in creative wizard costumes and Hogwarts gear. When it was announced that people with wristbands sporting such-and-such numbers could now approach, a bunch of girls let off high-pitched squeals of delight.

The whole Dickens parallel occurred to me, too.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 16, 2005 4:13 PM