Harry Potter series
Excerpt from my review of Book 5, 6/23/03
Books 5 and 6
by J.K. Rowling
Its a big, complicated, gripping story. Its easy to sympathize with Harrys anger, though he sure does make trouble for himself by not controlling it very well. But of course what ends up being the lynchpin of the story is the basic reason for Harrys frustration...namely, that after all that he has done, people (particularly Dumbledore) dont trust him to be able to handle the information he needs, and deserves, to know. Of course everyone knows an important character is supposed to die in the novel and just about everyone anyone thought it could be looked like they were a goner at one point or another, JKR really keeps one guessing about that until the end, and yet when you look back at the end of the book you experience this moment of awe: it seems like it should have been obvious from the beginning, because it is an absolutely, perfectly plotted tragedy in which irony and inevitability are paradoxically combined. The fatal flaws of three heroic characters, and one villain, intertwine in a climax that seems totally fated, after the fact.
But from Harrys point of view, thats the part of the story that plays out in dreams and vague hints and little episodes here and there, whereas the main body of the story what actually goes on at Hogwarts during Harrys fifth year is another gripping story altogether. The story of a year of hell for Harry in which everyone thinks he is off his rocker (and that Dumbledore is too) for saying that Voldemort is back...in which the hostility of the Ministry of Magic turns Hogwarts into a repressive police state under the worst teacher the school has ever had...in which Harrys first romantic relationship is bumpy and confusing...not to mention Quidditch woes, homework woes, detention woes, and capping it all off, private lessons from Snape...that poor boy really goes through hell! And at the level of maturity he is at, hes not really handling it very well this year! (His anger comes to a head in a scene in which he trashes Dumbledores office, while Dumbledore watches). Nevertheless he is still a great kid and a terrific hero, who is just now coming to grips with his own importance...and hes surrounded by an unbelievably large, rich, and varied cast of characters, inhabiting an imaginary world that shows more facets (and amazing places) than ever. And the climactic battle is the longest and most complicated bit of wand-to-wand wizard combat ever.
I had kind of noticed that each book paired Harry with a different friend during the final, climactic stage of the adventure. Of course at the high-stakes moments he was always fighting alone, a point that is brought up more than once in this story. But you know, he had Ron and Hermione helping him through the trapdoor in book 1, and Ron went part of the way to the Chamber of Secrets with him in book 2, and Hermione had the time-turning adventure with Harry at the end of book 3, and in book 4 Cedric Diggory went to the graveyard with him (but since Cedric died right off the bat, that meant he was pretty much alone). This time Harry goes on his climactic adventure with not 1, not 2, but 5 friends from Hogwarts, and the last one left standing beside him is, of all people, Neville Longbottom. Neville really does grow in significance in this book and I think he will continue to do so in the books to come.
Its kind of sad to think that the series is 5/7 over. And as you get toward the end of this book, you feel sad that its ending too. Now you begin to grasp all the things youre going to be dying to find out in book 6...and another round of guessing and waiting is on!
Excerpt from "Re-Reading HP5" on 6/23/03
So Im already re-reading Order of the Phoenix.
It does reward a second reading, though I am so physically tired out from the first read-through that its taking me longer this time. (A couple short nights of sleep have resulted in a tendency to drop off into naps.) A couple things that I didnt really notice the first time have become really interesting to look at this time through, including the magnificent illustrations by St. Paul, Minnesota resident Mary Grand-Pre. I especially like her illustration for the chapter in which Ron finds out hes going to be a prefect. The expression on the faces of Hermione, Ron, and Harry are exquisite, and the composition of the picture seems to signify that the Prefect Badge is something that is going to bring Ron and Hermione together, but separate them from Harry. I love the way she imagines the characters Umbridge, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Snape, even Aunt Petunia. But above all she draws a really cool Harry, Ron, and Hermione. (Check out Chapter 1s illustration, too. If you look close you can see the TV through the window, and Harry looks just right.)
The special edition cover features No. 12 Grimmauld Place, which appears superimposed on Nos. 11 and 13 as though it occupies another dimension. Its interesting to note that theres a broken pair of spectacles dangling in the foreground, an owl bearing a message, the feet of several people coming in for a landing on broomsticks, and (in the attic window) another silhouetted figure who, I think, must be Sirius. This much information is pretty much handed to you in Chapter 3.
Anyway, I love Grand Pres work. Ive seen it in some other books (including the covers of the Gone-Away books, though the inside illustrations are done by the Krushes who also illustrated the Borrowers books). Theres so much humor and imagination and feeling in it. I also, I must say, like the tune Weasley is Our King plays to in my head. I dont know whether I should take credit for it or if its somehow magically copyrighted by J.K. Rowling. However, the aspect of the book that stands up most spectacularly to re-reading is the detail, the foreshadowing, the clues Rowling drops along the way that make you slap yourself on the forehead and say, Why didnt I see that one coming the first time?
Maybe I shouldnt be so appalled and depressed by critics and authors who lampoon these books as trash literature. Were talking childrens entertainment and look how much I, a well-read man of 30, am getting out of it! How many childrens novels have so many thrills and chills, such a rich tapestry of background and setting and incident, so much detail, so many characters you grow to enjoy and even care about, such variety within a safe, predictable formula (i.e., every year at Hogwarts is so different, you just have to wonder whats going to come next), such sparklingly imaginative magical ideas, deeply thought out plot pathways, and moving depictions of the fates and feelings of people both good and bad. I think the epitome of it is that shes Roald Dahl meets Charles Dickens, with the delightful fantasy of the one and the scintillating observations of persons and places of the other, and yet without the sometimes shrill moral sermonizing of either. Or to put it another way, its a panoramic portrait of real-world settings and people transferred onto a wonderfully imagined, fantasy-world canvas. Its so good, as childrens fantasy entertainment goes, that it ends up being unfairly and hopelessly measured by standards of serious adult literature. So I think the bad reviews it gets (based on criteria that dont apply) are, in a way, compliments!
Lips Sealed 7/16/05
I have finished reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for the first time. My lips are sealed about what happens...but it was awesome. Very funny, very scary, very sad, more mature drama, more rich character interplay, more detailed mystery than ever before, plus a more likeable Harry than the fifth book (he only has about one sentence in all caps). Kind of shocking, too. You cant help thinking, at the end, how J.K. Rowling is going to write her way out of the corner she has written herself into...
"Favorite HBP lines" 7/26/05
Snape: Well, Wormtails here, but were not counting vermin, are we?
Molly Weasley: What is your dearest ambition?
Arthur Weasley: To find out how airplanes stay up.
Molly Weasley: Mollywobbles.
Fleur Delacour: Zere isnt much to do ere, unless you like cooking and chickens.
Ron: Sounds like the sort of mental thing Dumbledore would say.
Hermione: I squeezed it and it it punched me!
Malfoy: Who blacked your eye, Granger? I want to send them flowers.
Why are you worrying about You-Know-Who? You SHOULD be worrying about U-No-Poo The constipation sensation thats gripping the nation!
Hermione to Ron: Well, next time you can show me how its done, Master of Mystery!
Snape: Yes, sir.
Harry: Theres no need to call me sir, Professor.
Trelawney (while Harry hides within earshot): "Two of spades: conflict. Seven of spades: an ill omen. Ten of spades: violence. Knave of spades: a dark young man, possibly troubled, one who dislikes the questionerwell, that cant be right."
Dumbledore: From here on in, Harry, I may be as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher, who believed the time was ripe for a cheese cauldron.
Harry: But you think youre right?
Dumbledore: Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being forgive me rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.
Marvolo Gaunt: Do you know who youre talking to, you filthy little Mudblood, do you?
Bob Ogden: I was under the impression that I was speaking to Mr. Gaunt.
Luna Lovegood: Nobodys ever asked me to a party before, as a friend! Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do mine too?
[Also practically every line that comes out of Lunas mouth.]
There was a noise like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink and Ron surfaced.
Ron: Well, you cant break an Unbreakable Vow...
Harry: Id worked that much out for myself, funnily enough.
George: and if you want people to help you, Ron, I wouldnt chuck knives at them. Just a little hint.
Rufus Scrimgeour: Dumbledores man through and through, arent you, Potter?
Harry: Yeah, I am. Glad we straightened that out.
The lines Flitwick made Seamus write: I am a wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick.
Dumbledore: I hear that you met the Minister of Magic over Christmas?
Harry: Yes. Hes not very happy with me.
Dumbledore: No. He is not very happy with me either. We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on.
Madam Pomfrey: You shouldnt overexert yourself for a few hours.
Harry: I dont want to stay here overnight. I want to find McLaggen and kill him.
Madam Pomfrey: Im afraid that would come under the heading of overexertion.
Harry, to Dobby and Kreacher: Just stick to Malfoy like a couple of wart plasters.
The drowsing creature in Harrys chest suddenly raised its head, sniffing the air hopefully.
Dumbledore: Divination is turning out to be much more trouble than I could have foreseen, never having studied the subject myself.
Ron, on breaking up with Lavender: The more I hint that I want to finish it, the tighter she holds on. Its like going out with the Giant Squid.
Moaning Myrtle: I promised I wouldnt tell anyone, and Ill take his secret to the
Ron: not the grave, surely? The sewers, maybe...
Ron, on Hermiones Apparition practice: Oh, she was perfect, obviously. Perfect deliberation, divination, and desperation or whatever the hell it is we all went for a quick drink in the Three Broomsticks after and you shouldve heard Twycross going on about her Ill be surprised if he doesnt pop the question soon"
Hermione: This is Felix Felicis, I suppose? You havent got another little bottle full of I dont know"
Ron: Essence of Insanity?
Dumbledore: Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!
Harry (a turning point in the whole series): Id want him finished. And Id want to do it.
Harry thought there was a rather knowing look in her eye as she told him that [Ginny and Dean had broken up], but she could not possibly know that his insides were suddenly dancing the conga.
Trelawney: I miss having you in my classes, Harry. You were never much of a Seer...but you were a wonderful Object...
Malfoy: Youre at my mercy...
Dumbledore: No, Draco. It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.
Alecto: Think your little jokesll help you on your deathbed, then?
Dumbledore: Jokes? No, no, these are manners.
...Gryffindor rubies glistened on the floor like drops of blood...
Harry: He will only be gone from the school when none here are loyal to him.
Recommended Age: 10+
If you would like to contact Robbie, you may do so here.