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My real, actual book review - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
My real, actual book review
Okay, I read all night. (Love doing that, you know? Especially when I work in the morning.)

I'm going to respond in two posts. This one will be an actual review of the book. The other one will be Fern-specific personal responses.




HPatHBP is not a perfect book, but it's a damned good one. HBP is more tightly plotted than Order of the Phoenix (and I'm not an OotP detractor!), and the characterization work has a more solid textual context.

The Good Stuff
The response of the Wizarding World to the events of OotP is believable and in character--they oust one Minister for another, and proceed to get into exactly the sorts of binds they've repeatedly gotten into over the course of the series. We finally get to see the interaction between the Minister of Magic and the Prime Minister (in keeping with Rowling's vagueness about time, the PM is not identified by name), which is interesting in itself, if not the most intriguing way to start the book.

Though not done with a great deal of emotional impact--perhaps more chilling because of this--the real rise of Voldemort and the Death Eaters is shockingly portrayed, with terrorist attacks on Muggles and a multitude of deaths and disappearances among wizards, including Order of the Phoenix members and the parents of students. The Ministry is making frantic arrests, sometimes on a very oddball basis. Parents don't want their kids out of their sight.

Rowling maintains plausible ambiguity about several characters throughout the book--who, exactly, is Snape lying to? How deep in is Draco Malfoy, and why is he looking so tired and ill? What on Earth is happening with the previously bouyant Tonks? Is Fleur Delacour actually serious about Bill, or just in an overdone infatuation? What's going on between Ron and Hermione?

My favorite part of the book, though, was Harry himself, who comes out of his year-long realistic but unpleasant snit in OotP. He's not exactly cheerful, but his good heart is back in evidence, particularly in chapter fourteen ("Felix Felicis"), when he gives Ron the best gift he could give.

Harry's response to Dumbledore's death was very well done, and unlike the Sirius death in the last book, I didn't feel like I was being emotionally manipulated by the author. The memory of Nitwit, oddment, blubber, and tweak... that did me in.

Draco's arc was very well done, considering Harry's point of view and dislike of him. It's a good example of working against your point of view character to tell a story, and a pretty compelling one at that--something I never thought I'd say about

The medium-level stuff.
The new teacher, Horace Slughorn, is a bit of a "meh." Well-positioned to give us some decent info on Lily, he ends up mostly parroting what we've heard already. His personality is very close to Gilderoy Lockhart's, but he lacks Lockhart's amusement value.

Ah, Remus. Not available through most of the story (though this time a reason is given). Then again, lately, when Harry gets close to an adult, it's usually not a sign of long years of health and good happiness.

The ships. More on this in the personal reaction post, but I'll say that Harry's love for Ginny was something that erupted very suddenly with more or less a moment of sudden realization. Which is very realistic--every crush I've ever had (granted, not that many) has appeared out of thin air while talking to someone and saying, "Hey, whoa. I like him. When'd that happen?" On the other hand, in fiction, I like things a bit more fated-feeling. I also didn't like all the public displays of affection, which annoy me in real life, mainly because the text took quite a lot of time to establish that only prudes would think this way, which is a silly position that annoys me. But without them, Harry would know nothing about any ship he's not involved in, so... Ron and Hermione are handled in an interesting way, which is nearly entirely out of Harry's view, but clear enough that there's no way to mistake it. (Well, willful ways, I guess.) Fleur and Bill, we're seeing from the sidelines, and for a pretty functional ship, it's odd to never see them both in the room and awake... on the other hand, the scene in the infirmary toward the end is an all-time favorite. More on R/T later.

Didn't like it so much.
PETER!!!!!!!! JK, you have this terrific character. Give us more more Peter. We haven't seen him in far too long, and a minor appearance in Chapter 2 was terribly intriguing, but then... where did he GO?

The strain of single viewpoint is really starting to show, as many things happen beyond Harry's perception. JKR opens with not one but two chapters in other viewpoints, but once she enters Harry's in Chapter 3, she's trapped by her structure into sticking with it. That means a very significant event--an attack--is something that has to be revealed in awkward exposition after the fact. There's no way around this problem. It would be equally jarring, 6/7 of the way through the series, to say, "Oh, forget it, I'll do these in a totally different voice." But this is where early choices start to have costs, and in this case, it was quite unfortunately a cost in the climax.

EDIT IN: One other disliked thing--Ron/Lavender as a total parody of a ship seemed like a direct flat slap in the face, JKR going, "WTF?" to a fairly common (if, to me, inexplicable) ship. There were a couple of places where she was obviously answering fan questions (age order of the Black sisters, Neville's grandmother's first name), but R/L was vaguely mean-spirited.

I'll have more specific comments on my second or third read, probably, but for now, that's my review of HBP as a book.

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Comments
katinka31 From: katinka31 Date: July 16th, 2005 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Regarding R/T, I just wanted to tell how pleasant it was, despite the other tragedies, to see your quiet, unassuming ship set sail. :)
katinka31 From: katinka31 Date: July 16th, 2005 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Er, just wanted to tell YOU how pleasant it was. Sorry, I've been up since 3:30. ;)
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: July 16th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was thrilled to see R/T, and it was all because of you! And yes, that last B/F scene in the hospital was very cool. I hated her until that moment. *g* All my favorite ships came through and none I despised!
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: July 16th, 2005 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I stayed up until 5:30am reading, until I finally made myself sleep. Waking up sometime before ten, I then proceeded to to nothing but read until I finished recently. It was good, wasn't it.

I really like Harry's character. I think he's matured a great deal. Fanon had a rather angst-ridden Harry, beating himself up over Sirius's death and not handling the prophesy very well. New canon Harry thus threw me off a bit, but I quickly and happily adapted to him.

The ships- Quillers everywhere are celebrating, sharing sugarquills and butterbeer and pats on the back for choosing the right ships. I am mad at Harry for taking his predictable noble route with Ginny at the end. I'm thrilled for Remus and Tonks- hats off to you, my friend.
danel4d From: danel4d Date: July 16th, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Personally, I loved the book, having read it through the night... I'm just waiting for great storms of rage to erupt from certain quarters, and I'm expecting it to be big. Between the H/Hers, the Snape-lovers, the anything-but-H/G types and R/S shippers... I've already seen a few R/S shoppers on the Quill getting somewhat angry, and R/S Quillers are probably some of the most reasonable out there...

I loved the Trio bit at the end of the book. Loved it. I also actually quite liked Horace Slughorn, since he's a Slytherin who is very anti-Voldemort solely for reasons of self-interest, which is nice. Also the way that he's mildly bigoted in the way that many people are, disliking muggle-borns he doesn't know whilst having no problem with those he likes.

The way the Ron/hermione was handled... I liked the way that the issues there were ones that people have been noticing for years.
And the Harry/Ginny - personally, I actually started expecting it from very early on, though it was something of a joke to me at first. I guess people notice different hints differently, and those uninterested in or violently opposed to a ship won't notice the things that its partisans, and those like me who just mildly amused by it. From on the Hogwarts Express, when he asks to find a seat with her and she turns him down to find Dean... then when something similar happened again... of course, I was also joking about the hints of Harry/Draco, since Harry seems to spend most of the book screaming about it while nobody believes him. And in the end, he's right, and everyone else is wrong, which is a turnaround.
Did Dumbledore ever actually get around to his reasons for trusting Snape? It seemed to be that he was implying it was something to do with Lily. They were both members of the Slug Club, after all...
Things to Fic about
The Remus/Tonks, obviously
The Huge Great Battle of Hogwarts which takes place offscreen
The Dobby vs. Kreacher which must surely have been taking place all year
Just what did Lupin Sr. do to enrage Fenrir Greyback so?
The thought of Snape and Wormtail as flatmates amuses me greatly
danel4d From: danel4d Date: July 16th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
And wow, is my icon inappropriate now.
its_art From: its_art Date: July 17th, 2005 04:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Just what did Lupin Sr. do to enrage Fenrir Greyback so?

Well, it MUST have been something terrible, because Greyback doesn't seem the sort to be unreasonable....
opal1159 From: opal1159 Date: July 17th, 2005 06:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I think someone mentioned that Lupin's father offended Greyback or something. Also, Greyback's victim-"specialty" is children, so I could see him jumping at the opportunity to convert a young boy Lupin.
its_art From: its_art Date: July 17th, 2005 06:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I know-- Lupin mentioned it. I was just making a joke because Greyback seemed so crazy that bumping into him on the street would be a bite-worthy offense.
ladyvorkosigan From: ladyvorkosigan Date: July 16th, 2005 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Surfed in from friendsfriends looking for book commentary (hope you don't mind).

One other disliked thing--Ron/Lavender as a total parody of a ship seemed like a direct flat slap in the face, JKR going, "WTF?" to a fairly common (if, to me, inexplicable) ship.

That was my reaction, too - mean parody. I don't object to Ron dating someone other than Hermione (and it makes sense as a means to get Hermione jealous), but. . .didn't like this way. Too blatant, too mean, and Hermione didn't work nearly hard enough to get forgiveness.

And I really liked your comments about the single character viewpoint limitations. The exposition at the end was awkward, but hard to avoid. And Spinner's End, not from Harry's POV, was possibly my favorite chapter of the book.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: July 16th, 2005 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't see R/Lv as a slap in the face, really, because I think it's lost popularity and I don't think anyone really believed in it. If it had people who were seriously into it (like *tries to think of a ship that wasn't sunk or sailed* *fails* R/S, say) and it were less of a Revenge Pair and more of a Badly Chosen Love Match, then I would have been a bit perturbed. But I think that the way she did it was just a nod to the shippers who used to pair them up as leftovers and those who would recognize it.
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: July 16th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's how I see it as well. Ron/Lavender lost a lot of popularity to Ron/Luna after OotP, and to be honest the arguments for the ship were pretty baseless to begin with.

I don't think that Jo put them together because of fanon; for the romantic subplot to work, Ron needed a girlfriend, and Lavender made sense. They're in the same year, and the same house, so the choice was really between Lavendar and Parvati, IMO.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: July 16th, 2005 10:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Where did they answer the birth order of the Black sisters? I can't find it.

And I really do think Fleur loves Bill. Even if it means my OC can't be with him.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 16th, 2005 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, Bella is given as the eldest when Dumbledore says that in the lack of a male heir, it would go to the oldest living relative, who is Bellatrix. That would confirm the order in which the sisters appear on the tapestry, with Bella as the eldest, Andromeda in the middle, and Narcissa the youngest.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: July 17th, 2005 01:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Ohh... yeah, that answer just annoys me, because the whole heir thing... why wasn't it intact when Sirius was in Azkaban, thus as good as dead? It makes no sense to me.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: July 17th, 2005 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
When I saw R/T at the end, I let out a whoop and thought of you.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: July 17th, 2005 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Me too! I saw that and said, "I know someone who'll be very happy..." and then went on reading.
beaustylo From: beaustylo Date: July 17th, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Congratulations! I was thrilled for you too when I saw Remus/Tonks at the end. Almost all of Shifts still technically works with canon and that's very impressive.
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: July 17th, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have read your journal before, have finally gotten around to friending you.

I agree with much of your assessment. One thing, though: I don't really think Ron/Lavender was a response to shippers at all; I saw it more as an obvious consequence of Ron being silly and insecure and Lavender being just... silly.
dalf From: dalf Date: July 17th, 2005 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ships:

Public displays of affection:

I don't think the text potrays them as "only something a prude would not approve of" The only part of the book that might imply that is when Ginny and Ron are arguing about it. They are siblings and so "public" between them is not public. Further Harry and others all express discomfort with Ron and Lavenders ostentatios displays. I however remember being in highschools and 16 year old's sucking eachothers faces off in view of others is not exactly uncommon even if it is distastful.

Fleur and Bill, we're seeing from the sidelines, and for a pretty functional ship, it's odd to never see them both in the room and awake... on the other hand, the scene in the infirmary toward the end is an all-time favorite. More on R/T later.

There is a part where she is feeding Bill and Ginny reacts badly. There are 2-4 parts where they are both in the same room. They just don't both have (and sometime neither of them have) dialoug.
mylla From: mylla Date: July 17th, 2005 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ships:

I don't think the text potrays them as "only something a prude would not approve of" The only part of the book that might imply that is when Ginny and Ron are arguing about it. They are siblings and so "public" between them is not public.

Yeah, I didn't think it was about PDAs either - I thought the argument was about Ginny being frustrated with Ron thinking of kissing at all as something no one should ever do.
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