Oh Snape. You little devil, you.
We’re back again, with probably the most serious (not Sirius; he’s dead) installment so far. Thanks in-part to the introduction of some romantic entanglements of a more intense nature than the high school prom daliances from Goblet of Fire. It opens rather enjoyably with extra involvement from Dumbledore in Harry’s life. Less enigmatic than usual, Dumbledore is downright fatherly to Harry in this volume. He gives private lessons, takes Harry on recruiting trips, and speaks in more of a frank, direct manner than in any other book. And of course (spoiler alert) he dies.
This one’s easily the most grown-up, in terms of subject matter and the feels, than any volume in the series so far. Harry gets with Ginny (swoon) and that romance got almost no treatment in the movies, which is a shame. We start to see the ceaseless arguments between Hermione and Ron start to take on a more hormonal turn, and Rowling even delves into the world of adolescent relationships, jealousy, and heartbreak. And manages to do it all in a fairly even, un-annoying manner that had a grown-ass man buying into it.
Minus the feels, this volume was a little less…robust than some of the others. And maybe not in a bad way. It’s definitely getting dark in the wizarding world, potentially the darkest of any of the volumes since the good side wins in the next one. Outside of Dumbledore’s death, which didn’t strike me as all that tragic, we also get the revelation of the Horcruxes, and what they are. I found this particular bit of magic to be interesting, and one of the more nuanced treatments of the Dark Arts that Rowling introduces into the storyline. Apparently murdering someone allows you to split your soul into another object. Who knew. I could’ve done with some more details in this department, but I’m a nerd and always want more specifics (Why does murder let you split your soul? What does that entail? What’s it look like?). Again, hopeless nerd, and magic by definition defies description. It was dark, scary interesting, and an interesting addition to the meta-plot. Go Rowling.
Where I must take some points away is the handling of “the prophecy” in this volume. This particular point is a bit perplexing and confusing if you prod it with an intellectual stick and look beneath the surface. Madame Nostradam- I mean Trelawney apparently got her job trough a chance prophesy she made about a boy born near the end of July whose fate would be intertwined with the Dark Lord. Through a rather confounding process of explanation, apparently Voldemort chose Harry over Neville, and somehow fulfilled the prophesy. Could’ve been Harry or Neville, it was all up to Voldemort. Don’t make the mistake I did and think about it too much. Doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Getting a look at Tom Riddle’s past, and some of the motivations that made him into a monster, was a somewhat-overlooked key to this book. I thoroughly enjoyed Rowling’s handling of this key exposition through the Harry-Dumbledore interaction. From his twisted family history, his relationship with the Slytherin bloodline, and early forays into psychopathy and sociopathy. His early silver-tongue, his influence over Slughorn and the other teachers, it all makes the faceless evil Voldemort/Riddle was turn into something much more sinister. I have t hand it to Rowling, she has a knack for creating villainy and evil in a meta-plot you have to admire. Voldemort and Snape both are masterfully developed through the seven-volume series, and are quickly becoming some of my favorite villains in any book series. Snape was already there (Mostly because Alan Rickman is…the man) but Rowling’s skill with long-term character development is something she relied on in all of her works…and with good reason. It more than supplements anything she may lack in the action writing department.
And now…Snape and Dumbledore. As big of a deal as everyone made about Dumbledore dying, and how the entire nation (it seemed) was in mourning for the character. That was my impression, but I was a freshman in college when it was released. I had other concerns. I found this scene to be a bit anti-climactic. Probably because it was an action sequence involving more than two characters, which seems to be her Achilles heel as a writer. The draw-down with Draco was suspenseful enough, but when the second and third Death Eaters arrive, it all goes ploin-shaped. Perhaps everyone was so focused on the event of the death they missed the lack of drama in the lead-up. Oh well. We’ve seen before I am a nit-picker.
Overall…a good addition. I always like when the bad guys come out on top. The Swerve from Snape, after feeling a bit sorry for him in Order of the Phoenix, was delicious, if a bit sloppily executed. The relationship messes, and the thank-god-finally moment when Ginny and Harry get to the snogging. And the amusement of Ron and Hermione arguing, then not speaking when Ron begins entangling himself in Lavender.The relationship-pieces were probably my favorite part of this book…that and the Snape.
Not my favorite, but not my least favorite. I’d say #3 behind Prisoner and Order.
Time to get down with The Deathly Hallows.