Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

J.K. Rowling

Read April 2007

This is the first Harry Potter book I've read. Some of the movies were quite good, but I was always mildly suspicious of the novels (for no particularly rational reason). I was finally overcome by the recommendations of my colleague, David Laidlaw, who's not easy to please, and by my sister-in-law, Jodi Fisler. She'd asked for a British version of this book, and I figured I had a slightly greater chance of liking that version.

After a terrific opening (ideal for casual bookstore browsers, though who in a bookstore browses a Potter book at this late date?), the book turned very nearly perfunctory. Perhaps Rowling's genius lies in being able to precisely capture mid-teen angst, but enjoyable reading it does not make; it's a bit annoying, really (which of Harry, Hermione and Ron has the hots for whom, precisely?). The first half of the book proceeded in this desultory fashion, and two-thirds of the way not much of import had happened, yet.

I persisted owing to my general principle of wanting to finish every book I begin unless it becomes truly unbearable. The last third of this book was nearly adequate compensation, taking on dramatic twists just interesting enough to make it worth paying attention. You can't help periodically pausing to marvel at just how nonsensical it all is, but for a pre-teen this must be heady stuff. (To her credit, Rawling really does write, rather than write down to her audience.)

I'm not about to read another Potter book in the near future. Perhaps this wasn't the best book of the series to read, or it may be that the passage of decades hasn't altered my general inability to focus on the fantasy genre. But to have read one book in the series, this probably wasn't a terrible choice.