Odd as it may seem, that is exactly what a curiously unnamed BBC reporter has done for the just-released Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. As said book has arrived in the mail today, I figured I might as well just follow the Beeb’s lead and liveblog my reading of the book.
I’m no speedreader – the aformentioned reporter apparently read at a pace higher than 100 pages per hour – and I don’t particularly want to finish the book that quickly, so this will most likely be spread out over the next few days.
Before I started reading, I read this summary of the previous book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (thanks to Nate for the pointer). I didn’t especially enjoy that book. It seemed a distinct step down from the Goblet of Fire, and thus my hopes are not as high for the new volume (which, as I’ve noted before, could act in its favor). And so I give you, the first two chapters of the new Harry Potter book. Additional chapters will be added to this entry as I read them (new chapters will be on the bottom). I’ll attempt to keep things vague, but I must warn: Potential SPOILERS ahead. (as of now, I’m two chapters in, and no real spoilers).
- Chapter 1: The Other Minister – Unlike previous books (if I remember correctly), this one opens on a scene not featuring Harry. It contains a recap of some of the events in previous books, and it does so in a more novel way than usual (Rowling normally just kinda blurts out a recap, but this time she sneaks it into a scene, with characters informing a Muggle about certain events). It’s a clever bit of storytelling, and it illuminates some of the previously vague Wizard-Muggle interactions. I shall be interested to see if the Muggle in question will actually play a larger part in the story, or if he’s merely a plot contrivance (an excuse to recap earlier works), in which case this probably wouldn’t be as clever as I though. I guess that’s how the hermeneutic circle turns.
- Chapter 2: Spinner’s End – Things pick up a bit and Rowling unleashes the first twist of what is sure to be many. It’s an interesting notion, but several years of watching the television show 24 have addled my brain to the point where I’m naturally suspicious of such revelations so early in the story. Of course, this really doesn’t mean anything, but it does indicate a sort of diminishing returns in the series. One of the big problems with a story that you know will have a lot of surprises (though I guess I don’t know that about this book) is that you’re constantly formulating guesses as to what’s going to happen, so that when it does, it’s something less of a surprise. Of course, Rowling has deftly navigated this sort of obstacle in previous books (notably The Prisoner of Azkaban, my favorite of the books) and either kept something a surprise or executed a twist with such flare that you don’t care you guessed it earlier.
- Chapter 3: Will and Won’t – Harry Potter makes his first appearance, followed by a more typical recap of events from the previous books and events between the last book and this one. Dumbledore also makes his first appearance here, saving Harry from his horrid step-family (the Dursleys) and the end of this chapter marks the real beginning of the story. As the BBC reporter notes, the chapter ends with an appropriate quote: “And now Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
- Chapter 4: Horace Slughorn – All the Potter books follow a certain structure, but one of the big variables from book to book is the appearance of a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Dumbledore and Harry recruit this year’s teacher, who seems to have a flare for recognizing and exploiting talent. Given the way Rowling portrays him, and given certain other facts about him, you can’t help but be a little suspicious of the man. Things are getting more interesting, but we’re still cought up in the preliminaries. So far we’ve had numerous recaps of the story so far, Harry’s escape from the Dursley family, and a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Still to come are Harry’s reunion with Ron and Hermione (ostensibly to occur in Chapter 5), the trip to Hogwarts, and the start of classes, at which point the real story begins.
- Chapters 5 & 6: More Potter staples: The aformentioned reunion with Ron and Hermione (and other members of the Weasley family), a trip to Diagon Alley, and the inevitable run-in with Draco Malfoy. At this point I think I’m going to be abandoning the whole chapters thing, and just comment on something when I feel the need. I don’t want this to end up being a summary of the book, after all. Additional entries will be by page number (indicating where I am in the book – the comments won’t necessarily be about whatever appears on that page).
- Page 138: One thing that keeps getting stressed in the book is additional security, since Voldemort is loose and wreaking havoc again. I think it might be fun to analyze some of the security measures laid out by the Ministry of Magic (as the book I’d been reading before I got Potter was Bruce Schneier’s Beyond Fear). Perhaps I’ll tackle that tomorrow. All in all, after 138 pages, I’m quite enjoying the book. It’s been a while since I’ve read over 100 pages in a single day (though I suspect that also has something to do with the size of the type and the page layout). So far, I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did the previous book, but the story really hasn’t started in earnest yet (though things are set in motion).
- Page 200: About 200 pages and 11 chapters in, the kids are back at Hogwarts and the story is now starting in earnest. We’ve had a few mentions of the Half-Blood Prince, Harry get’s detention, and we learn some stuff about Voldemort’s past. Lot’s of mini-mysteries and subplots are popping up in a generally fun feeling atmosphere. None of that grumpiness that permeated the last book. It looks like The Guardian also liveblogged the book.
Update: Added thoughts on chapters 3 & 4. Added some more chapters after that, and switched to a different format.
Again Update:Added some more stuff. Will probably write the security entry soon, and will then start a “Part 2” of this post.