I just now finished reading the new Harry Potter novel, which I enjoyed quite a lot.
Here are some scattered thoughts. Don’t read on unless you don’t mind spoilers.
Edited to add: No, really, there are serious, serious, spoilers here – some very key plot points revealed. Don’t click unless you’ve read the novel or don’t mind spoilers at all.
Professor Snape remains not only the best character in the series, but is one of the most interesting and complex characters in all of childrens’ literature.
I loved chapter two. Of course, it was clear that Snape had to be doing exactly that – telling both sides that he was their double-agent – but it was very entertaining to witness his tap-dance act. There’s also no indication at all that Snape had been let in on the secret by Voldemort; he was just bluffing to get the women to reveal Voldemort’s plan.
Even after Snape killed Dumbledore, I remain convinced that Snape is on Dumbledore’s side; Dumbledore, in his final words, was begging Snape to not sacrifice himself on foolish heroics, and to instead stay “in character” and kill Dumbledore. For that loyalty, Snape is going to be hated and hunted by all of his actual allies, but on the bright side he will now finally be trusted and applauded by his enemies.
But despite being on the side of light and good, Snape is still an evil bastard. In particular, he was (partly) responsible for James and Lily’s death, but still uses his dislike of long-dead James as an excuse to bully James’ son Harry. Although he seems motivated by hatred of bullying, his instincts are to be a bully himself. It speaks of a meanness of character, and a self-centeredness, that’s genuinely stunning.
(Ironic that Snape invented the ankle-dangling spell that James used to torment him. Odd that he seemed so helpless in the one scene we’ve seen of his teenagehood, since we now know for sure that he was brilliant and powerful as a teenager. Perhaps in other instances, instances that he wasn’t so ashamed of (and so didn’t hide in the pensieve), he did better striking back against James. I’d be sorry if that was the case, since I rather enjoy loathing James Potter, but maybe Snape wasn’t such an innocent victim.)
The books are shaping up into a tragic dance of mutual hatred between Snape and Harry, both of them so eager to find reasons to hate the other that their judgment is horribly impaired. Harry can’t see that Snape is his ally – perhaps his strongest, now that Dumbledore’s dead; and Snape, although he knows he should support Harry, is too wrapped up in hatred of James to resist acting unforgivably to Harry every chance he gets. As the adult, it’s always been up to Snape to shape the relationship between him and Harry; and he’s done everything he can to make Harry unable to view Snape with anything but hatred.
I’m sure that Snape will end up saving the day in some essential way in book seven, but I suspect he’ll get killed by Harry regardless.
1) No great surprise that Dumbledore died; vultures were flying over his head throughout the book. Occasional “Alas” poster Elkins, who knows quite a lot about thing Potter, pointed out something interesting, which is that in alchemy, the philosopher’s stone is made through a system of refinement in which the stages are black, then white, then red – a fact that has been referred to in passing in the novels. In book 5, Black died; in book six, White died (“Albus” means “white”). If so, then Hagrid (whose name means “red”) is going to die in the next novel.
2) Elkins also speculates that Snape was in love with Harry’s mother, and that accounts for his irrationality and bitterness regarding James and Harry. Seems quite plausible to me.
3) I often wondered if Harry might not be James’ biological son at all. He looks too damn much like James; I’ve often found that suspicious, perhaps the result of a spell Lily cast to hide Harry’s father’s true identity. Hell, maybe Snape is Harry’s biological father.
(However, unlike Sarah’s speculations in #1 and #2, which I’m pretty sure will be borne out in the seventh novel, I suspect that my theory will never be supported by the text.)
4) I loved Draco breaking Harry’s nose and humiliating him at the start of the novel. About damn time. Nothing against Harry, but an alleged bully character who constantly picks on powerful peers who effortlessly beat the crap out of him is a bit weird. (Although also a bit endearing as a character trait.)
5) When will the characters learn that everything Myrtle (the weeping ghost girl) says is important to the plot, and should be paid attention to? Well, presumably, never, since it seems unlikely that she’ll figure into the seventh novel.
6) I’m getting tired of Molly being foolish and wrong all the time.
7) Nice that the vanishing cabinet, which seemed like an oddly cruel throwaway element in the previous novel, turns out to be essential.
I enjoyed the biography of Tom Riddle.
9) There were complete versions of this novel available for free (albeit illegal) downloads, in .pdf, word, and txt versions, less than 24 hours after the novel was released. However, I suspect that J.K., Rowling will still somehow manage to make a profit. (In case you’re wondering, the version I read was a storebought hardcover book).
10) I wonder why Snape has such an issue with being called a coward?
Anyhow, feel free to use this thread to respond to any of my comments above, or to discuss anything else Harry Potter related.