There are Harry Potter spoilers in this post, but really, if you haven’t read it by now, you must not care a whole lot about spoilers. (Those of you who are working through the entire series in order to catch up are obviously an exception and should stop reading now!)
I was hoping I’d notice more details this time around while reading Half-Blood Prince, something that would either confirm my theories about Snape and Dumbledore or refute them, but it seems that I didn’t miss anything the first time around, and my opinions are still the same. It was interesting to read how everything went down knowing what was going to happen later, but I didn’t learn anything new from this experience. All rereading Snape’s Unbreakable Vow–and his actions at the Astronomy Tower and near the gates–did for me was reinforce the reaction I’d had during my previous reading.
I did wonder whether or not Snape actually knew what “the plan” was; it had occurred to me during my first reading that he might be pretending so he could trick Narcissa or Bellatrix into revealing it to him. However, both readings served to refute this speculation for me: the discussion was vague on all sides, too vague really for Snape to have discovered what Draco’d been ordered to do. I think it was vague purely so the reader wouldn’t know–that Snape knew already. Either way, he knew when he made the Vow, and that’s why he paused, why his hand shook.
(He did not want to kill Dumbledore, period, the end! That’s why he had such a horrible look on his face when he did it, that’s why Dumbledore begged him. I mean, come on…Dumbledore doesn’t beg, certainly not for his own life. He was keeping up the act…if anything, he was begging Snape to do it, so Snape wouldn’t die, so he could remain a Death Eater and work for the Order from the inside. Remember, when Harry asked Dumbledore the last time why he trusted Snape, Dumbledore almost told him something, and didn’t. The reason Dumbledore trusts Snape is still unknown, and apparently if it becomes known to any in the Order, there’s a chance that Snape’s cover will be blown. Snape’s position as double agent is–obviously–vital. And that is why it is so infuriating for Snape to be told by Harry Potter, a boy who has been protected like crazy all his life, that he is a coward. Snape’s resentment of Harry is, of course, very real.)
Harry’s little Peter Parker moment at the end didn’t bother me as much this time as it did the first time, I suppose because I was ready for it. It makes sense, really; it’s just been done better. I still don’t like the last paragraph; I don’t like the appearance of the word “wonderful”, it’s too soon for anything to be wonderful, and I found the last sentence to be too simple, too conclusory.
This book in general suffers from Rowling’s apparent attempts to lighten the blow of the horror. Most of the book, to me, is funny. I have no sense of impending doom; the comments about people dying or disappearing are few and far between and quickly hurried past, such that, as I remarked before, they feel as if they are happening far away and aren’t really relevant. I spend the majority of the book with a smile on my face, grinning at everyone’s antics, enjoying the wry humor–Rowling really is clever, and some of her stuff is just hysterical. It’s not until the Sectumsempra incident that things start to feel a little off, and even after that I wind up following Harry and Dumbledore to the cave with an odd sort of detachment, as though the serious tone of the prose doesn’t quite fit what I’ve been used to. (Maybe I read too fast?)
In any case, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, and I still think it’s a good book. As I mentioned over on Kelly’s blog, Goblet of Fire is still my favorite, though…and I’d probably rank Azkaban right after that (I mean, it’s so darc and mistrious). I’m not really sure yet where Prince falls in the ranking. It might tie with Chamber of Secrets for last place–not that that means the two books are bad, by any means, it’s just that they aren’t quite as brilliant as the others–and of course, this is only my opinion :> (Plot-wise, I’d say Prince is better than Chamber, but the execution falters enough that the effect on me is the same.)