Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
[Pic Courtesy Amazon]Let me get the comparisons out of the way first. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a definite improvement over the previous two books but falls short of providing the magical reading experience that the first three books in the series did. But that said, there are segments in here, especially as the book races towards a conclusion, that remind us why the series captivated us in the first place.
The book is about Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts, the wizarding school. On the personal front, he learns to acknowledge his feelings for Ginny, Ron's sister, while at the same time, trying to make Ron and Hermione acknowledge their real feelings for each other. And on the wizarding front, he finally learns the secret behind Voldemort's immortality and the way to vanquish him.
The book spends a lot of time on Harry's personal life. I guess romance and hormones and members of the opposite sex do play a major part in any teenager's school-life and that's whats been reflected here. But I was bored. The first few incidents of Harry's jealousy over Ginny's boyfriend and Ron and Hermione's masking of feelings for each other were cute because we are so familiar with their history. But it tended to get irritating after a while and seemed more like a tactic to increase the number of pages. But what keeps us reading through all this is Rowling's amazing imagination as her words take us to a whole new world. The way she gives magical touches to everyday items and the fantastic places she conjures up are simply brilliant.
The first half of the book is also slow since not much happens. There are a frustratingly large number of things left hanging. And Rowling resorts to some obvious methods to prolong the suspense. For example, I lost count of the number of times Dumbledore tells Harry that he will tell him the story behind his injured hand "when the time is right".
The chapter titled 'Horcruxes' is the most important in the book and also the point from which the book really takes off. The remaining part of the book really defines the term(which I have made up!) 'un-putdownable'. Questions are answered and loose ends are tied up in this portion of the book and there are some nice surprises like the explanations for some rather ordinary happenings(like people dropping items) and Malfoy's girlfriends. The sequence in the cave is definitely the best part of this section(and hence, of the book itself). It is amazingly visualized and written and the vividness with which Rowling brings the scene before our eyes is testimony to her literary skill. And the end of the chapter, when Dumbledore says "I'm with you Harry!", literally brought goosebumps on my skin. This is the stuff classics are made of!
The book ends on a rather downbeat note but in a way that will make all Potter fans wait for the last book with tongues hanging out! Its just so frustrating that it is 3 long years away...