Monday, October 21, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Half-Blood Prince, Chapters 24-27

This weekend, I finally reached the climax of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as I read Chapter 24 ("Sectumsempra"), Chapter 25 ("The Seer Overheard"),  Chapter 26 ("The Cave"), and Chapter 27 ("The Lightning Struck Tower"). There are huge spoilers beyond this point. 

The writing in these chapters is great, and even though I knew they were coming, moments like Dumbledore drinking the potion in the cave, the appearance of the Dark Mark, and Snape suddenly killing Dumbledore were all every bit as shocking to me as they were the first time I read them. I was especially impressed by the way Rowling hits us with Dumbledore's death so suddenly, just after he has seemingly escaped harm by making it safely away from the cave. It's a real punch to the gut for Harry, and for the reader as well. It was difficult to tear myself away from the book just as the death occurred, but I'm glad to have my reading schedule to slow me down because I do think it adds something to the reading experience when I take the time to stop and reflect on a major event like this.

Aside from the obvious moments of action in this section of the book, I was also struck by many smaller details. I loved the line describing Dumbledore's seemingly simple approach to magic in the cave, which says, "Harry had long since learned that bangs and smoke were more often the marks of ineptitude than expertise." I'm not sure we ever appreciate Dumbledore's true power until we see how he goes about finding this horcrux. Another line I love in the cave chapter comes at the very end, when Dumbledore says he isn't worried because he's with Harry. Throughout the series, Dumbledore is that steady character that makes us all (readers and characters alike!) feel safe, and knowing that he will die within a few pages of this remark makes it all the more poignant.

All I have left in this book now is the aftermath of Dumbledore's death. As I recall, not much is explained until book 7, but I am still looking forward to the funeral scene, which is one of the few scenes omitted from the film versions that I actually wish had been included. It would have made such a great cinematic moment. I also love the way this book ends, with Harry and his friends looking ahead at what they must do in order to defeat Voldemort.

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