This is a blog series about an American girl reading the Harry Potter British editions. It’s been a wild journey so far, re-experiencing Harry Potter and experiencing the British editions for the first time. But I’m only 6/7ths of the way there! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here’s a link back to Philosopher’s Stone. For all six reviews, click the tag: Reading the Harry Potter British editions on the sidebar!
First Line: “It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.”
British vs. American English: I’ve been overseas so there are some things I read in these versions and don’t even recognize as different. Like car park vs. parking lot or garbage vs. bin. But here are a few differences that popped out to me.
(British edition word/phrase = interpretation/definition)
fug = stuffy fog
higgledy-piggledy = jumbledknock something up = make something in a hurry
careworn = anxious, grief-strickenin high dudgeon = indignant, outraged
Laugh-Worthy Moment: When Dumbledore arrives at Number Four Privet Drive…
“’Albus Dumbledore,’ said Dumbledore, when Uncle Vernon failed to effect an introduction. ‘We have corresponded, of course.’ Harry thought this an odd way of reminding Aunt Petunia that he had once sent her an exploding letter.” (page 49).
Cry-Worthy Moment: I cried when Harry tried to tell Hagrid that Dumbledore had died by Snape’s hand. I got teary when Harry told everyone in the hospital wing, which included Lupin, Hermione, Ron, Luna and Madam Pomfrey. And my eyes welled up during Dumbledore’s funeral. Initially, I was in shock after Snape killed Dumbledore but after the former Disapparated, I needed tissues until the end.
Notable Quote: “It was, Harry thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high.” (page 479)
Last Line: “His hand closed automatically around the fake Horcrux, but in spite of everything, in spite of the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, in spite of the final meeting with Voldemort he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.”
Thoughts:At the end of my Order of the Phoenix post, I described Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as a story about a textbook, teenage love and bits of Voldemort’s soul. I have to admit I was rather accurate. The ancient, note-filled copy of Advanced Potion-Making is essential to this story, and if Harry hadn’t been given that specific edition, his year would’ve been quite different. With the note about a bezoar being an antidote to most poisons, the book is important solely because it provides the information Harry uses to save Ron’s life when he unexpectedly drinks poisoned mead in Slughorn’s office. But the textbook also wins Harry a small vial of Felix Felicis, which he uses to retrieve a vital memory of Voldemort's school years from Professor Slughorn. And if that isn't enough, Felix saves Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville and Luna when Malfoy and a few Death Eaters enter Hogwarts through the vanishing cabinet in the Room of Requirement.
Harry's curious as to who the Half-Blood Prince is from the point the textbook wins him the Felix Felicis. It's a cruel irony when Snape reveals that he’s the Half-Blood Prince at the end of the book. Snape just killed Dumbledore and Harry loathes him, yet Harry had admired him and stood up for him (to Hermione) all year long. Snape, through his note-ridden copy of Advanced Potion-Making, had made Harry the star of Slughorn’s Potions class. Snape’s assistance had won Harry the Felix Felicis and saved Ron's life. But now, the Half-Blood Prince isn’t someone to be admired. Now, Snape is the enemy.
Switching topics drastically, the theme of young love runs through HBP more than any of the previous books, and arguably more than any book in the series. There’s Romilda Vane’s love potion, Ginny’s relationship with Dean, Ron’s relationship with Lavender, Tonk’s odd behavior that Harry guesses is because she loved Sirius (he was wrong—she loves Lupin). Hormones abound in HBP, but I’m happy that Rowling uses a light hand when writing Harry-Ginny and Ron-Hermione. Neither relationship goes over the edge, neither rushes into anything, nor do they lose themselves in their respective relationship. The mission is primary, as Harry proves when he breaks things off with Ginny so she’s not in danger from Voldemort (more so than she already is) by being connected to Harry. Harry is clear that his sole focus is ridding the world of Voldemort; Ron and Hermione follow his lead.
The overarching series plot pushes forward quickly and surely in Half-Blood Prince. Dumbledore’s lessons give Harry more information than he could have ever hoped for on Tom Riddle’s parentage, childhood, school years and transformation to Voldemort. The concept of seven Horcruxes, two already destroyed and four left to hunt down before Voldemort can be killed, is laid out before Harry. In learning about Voldemort, Harry spends a lot of time with Dumbledore. The reader sees more of him than ever before. His appearance at Privet Drive is cheer-worthy, especially in the calm, honest way he treats the Dursleys. From that point on, Dumbledore’s presence (even though he is rarely at Hogwarts) is steady and reassuring. This makes his death at the end of the book that much more of a shock. And Snape’s involvement leaves the reader reeling. Luckily, Harry is more sure-footed in the immediate wake of Dumbledore’s death, as he chases Snape and Malfoy across the grounds.
Nothing manages to rile Snape when Harry confronts him except calling him a coward. Snape blocks Harry’s curses, and even stops another Death Eater’s spell. But when Harry calls him a coward, it gets a reaction. Also, it’s intriguing that Snape doesn’t condemn himself in the moments before he flees Hogwarts. However, Harry, McGonagall and Lupin all condemn Snape in the following hours. The characters' belief that Snape was never for the Order nor for Dumbledore transfers to the readers. Snape was always Voldemort’s man, in opposition to Harry, who has assured the Minister of Magic repeatedly that he his Dumbledore’s man, through and through.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a dark continuation of the series. It sees Ron and Katie Bell close to death, Malfoy becoming a Death Eater, Snape choosing Voldemort and Dumbledore’s death. Harry loses his last protector and parental figure. HBP is a low point leading to the lowest point of the series. And somehow, it’s my favorite book. Probably because it’s Harry, Ron and Hermione’s last year at Hogwarts. HBP is also tighter than OOTP but still longer than POA (another favorite of mine). It has more Dumbledore, more history and explanation, more love and relationships. It has Harry and Ginny getting together and Ron and Hermione nearly there. It has them growing up and very close to becoming fully educated wizards.
It's a bright spot heading toward a dark horizon.