Harry Potter returns for another year in Hogwarts. Things got heated during the summer since everybody now knows that Voldemort is back and as dangerous as ever. Cornelius Fudge got booted from his job as Minister for Magic, and his successor Rufus Scrimgeour seems a rather more stern fellow but not anymore able as it turns out. While the ministry shuffles around in the dark, Harry gets the suspicion that Malfoy is now a Death Eater and has evil on his mind – but nobody agrees. Dumbledore does shady business and leaves the school for days. And then there are a lot of feelings who get hurt when Ron starts snogging Lavender, Ginny Dean, and Remus not Tonks.
I chose “romance” as a tag for this Potter-book because there is a lot of falling in love going around. The most unexpected revelation is probably the one of Harry falling in love with Ginny, Ron’s sister. A lot of fans were never happy about this, and as a romance writer I can see why: Rowling does not give this romance enough room to grow. All of a sudden, Harry is in love with Ginny and fans look at this page and say: what? why? I am not saying that Rowling did not write some lovely scenes from during the summer where Harry and Ginny had some lovely times, yet they did not make the editing process and the reader is lost in a daze as to what happened when and why (this could be a hole for fanfiction writers to fill, and there may be some of that out there – then again, as I understand it, Harry and Ginny are not really a favorite with fanfiction writers).
It is no wonder that the relationship between Ron and Hermione is much better, it grows over several books, is never front and center but always palpable. And there is a lot of jealousy in this installation of the series when Ron freaks because he is the only kissing-virgin of the foursome and starts wildly snogging Lavender Brown who is a willing participant but never gets over the fact that Hermione knows her “Won-Won” a lot better than she does. The love theme gets a lot of attention in this book with Bill and Fleur engaged and Tonks heart-broken because Remus shuts himself off from her. As a natural phase of the coming-of-age-process, these scenes certainly make sense but they seem to crowd the plot which is already multi-layered.
And it is not coming along as smoothly as in the other books. There are a lot of references to things that have already happened – not surprising considering how long this story has been going on. But Rowling adds flashback into Voldemort/Tom Riddle’s life to the mix and it gets a little confusing and I think there may be some continuity mistakes somewhere in there though I could not put my finger on any particular spot.
The main weakness of the book, in my opinion, are the inconsistencies in some of the characters for plot’s sake. Especially pronounced in Dumbledore in this book. Sometimes he is overly stern, then kind and playful as ever. The demand he makes of Harry to retrieve the memory he himself was not able to retrieve seems out of character. Why would Harry have more power than the one wizard Voldemort fears and all the Ministers for Magic want to be best friends with? For someone who surrounds himself with the most powerful, Slughorn seems wholly unaware that Dumbledore himself is probably the most powerful person of his acquaintance. The more annoying plot-device, however, is everybody’s blind eye when it comes to Malfoy’s shenanigans. It makes sense that Dumbledore does not want to draw attention to Malfoy so as not to endanger him but Hermione and Ron were always willing to give Harry credit on any far-fetched suspicion he had but the idea that Malfoy was a Death Eater suddenly raises disbelief? As I said, for plot’s sake but still highly unlikely.
As a declared Hermione-fan, I am not happy with the representation of my favorite in this book. While I get her jealousy where Ron and Lavender are concerned, and even her suspicion toward the potion-book, her character is decided by these instances. Her character does not develop during this story.
Reading this over, one could get the idea that I did not like it at all. I did, though. There are a lot of good ideas, the plot how Malfoy is getting the Death Eaters into the school is very good, the small detail of how Ron failed his Apparition-test is glorious, and the idea of the potion book is excellent. On the whole, though, I must say that I enjoyed the first four books more than either book five or six. But I know that the whole story is more valuable and fantastic than its parts – Harry Potter is a phenomenon of a whole generation (maybe even of future generations), and I cherish it as such and as a good story.