Friday, October 18, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Half-Blood Prince, Chapters 20-23

Last week's chapters in Half-Blood Prince were: Chapter 20 ("Lord Voldemort's Request"), Chapter 21 ("The Unknowable Room"), Chapter 22 ("After the Burial"), and Chapter 23 ("Horcruxes). This post contains many spoilers for this book and the series as a whole.

The most significant scenes in these chapters involve Harry's attempts to retrieve Slughorn's true memory of his discussion with young Voldemort about Horcruxes, his eventual success in getting Slughorn to give up the memory (using Felix Felicis), and the revelations that come about when he shares the memory with Dumbledore.

Though I think the overall idea of Horcruxes is an interesting one (especially given Tom Riddle's penchant for stealing as a child) and though I think finding the four missing ones serves as a great way to structure the plot of book 7, I am still confused about some things. Strangely, the way Voldemort uses Horcruxes is the most poorly explained bit of magic in the entire series. Dumbledore goes so far as to say that he believed the murder of Harry's parents was an attempt to make a Horcrux, but then points out right away that the effort failed. Of course, in book 7, this turns out to be false, as we learn that the last piece of Voldemort's soul resides within Harry. It seems unfair to the reader to have a trusted and beloved character make such a certain statement without sharing any details that might lead to a different conclusion. I don't like feeling that she misled me.

Similarly, it was annoying to have Dumbledore spout so much explanation about the reasons Harry is considered to be the boy the prophecy is about. So many of these details seem to contradict "facts" that had been established in book five and the early parts of this book, almost as though Rowling didn't have the details figured out and then needed to do a little back-pedaling to ensure that her anticipated ending to the series would make sense. This didn't bother me that much the first time around, but I expected things to be clearer during this re-read, and they're really not.

Despite my frustration, through, there are some hilarious lines in this section of the book. One is Dumbledore's line about his difficulty mediating the tension between Trelawney and Firenze: "Divination is turning out to be much more trouble than I could have foreseen, never having studied the subject myself." This is such a "dad joke" moment for Dumbledore  in the midst of an otherwise very serious scene and it made me laugh out loud. The other line is from Chapter 22 in which Slughorn mistakenly refers to Ron as "your poor friend Rupert." This must be a reference to Rupert Grint, who plays Ron in the films.

I only have two more segments of this book to go, and I know the inevitable sadness of the loss of Dumbledore is on its way. I've been dreading it the whole time I've been re-reading, but I know I have to get through it to be able to get to the end of the series, and I'm trying to be pleased that I'm nearly ready to begin book 7.

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