*Arresto Momentum, which is wizard code for “stop a moment”, there’ll be spoilers*
So I’m going to do this review slightly differently, because while I have some significant philosophical differences with this book, I did actually enjoy it. That’s why, before I start, I’m giving it:
Rating: 4/5 bananas
I found it so much more gripping than the last one and whizzed through it. I actually loved opening, both the part with Snape and with the muggle PM, because they were both good for context. I also liked a number of the subplots, including the Slug Club and I have to admit reading this without exam stress was much more relaxing.
I can also forgive it for not being as dark as I wanted it to be when I was a teen. I wasn’t particularly sated by a few bridges collapsing, because it didn’t feel all that scary to me. I mentioned in my complicated relationship with Harry Potter post that I had wanted it to be darker back when I was a child, yet now as an adult I feel freer to like it for what it is. I simultaneously like the lighter touch and, with the theme of death and presence of inferi, I do see it as somewhat more grim.
I also liked that Harry is less of an idiot in this one- since he’s bang on the money when it comes to Malfoy. It would be infuriating that no one listens to him… except that he’s cried Death Eater so many times, so it makes complete sense.
Speaking of people I didn’t expect to feel sympathy for, I think it’s rather remarkable what Rowling does with Malfoy’s storyline. I do like how the mystery of what he’s up to is built up and it feels more “classic Potter” in comparison to Order of the Phoenix. I can even grudgingly admit that I could see where Dumbledore is coming from when he holds back specific information– especially as he no longer feels the need to keep Harry in the dark about everything and there are particular points he doesn’t have permission to tell. Also with regards to the mysteries posed, I very much liked cracking the RAB code in between books when I was younger.
But what were those aforementioned philosophical differences I had with it? Well, this is the book that explores Voldy’s backstory. And while I did like getting this part of the story, I had some issues with it. Particularly in that it makes villainy here a question of nurture vs nature- coming down heavily on the nurture side and forgoing choices altogether. While Tom Riddle Jr doesn’t like to be seen as ordinary, hinting and pride and resentment, a combination of in text clues and Rowling’s view that him being conceived with love potion made him incapable of love, implies that Voldemort is bad natured from the start. I’m especially perturbed that this is a result of who his parents are (ie Harry has nice parents and therefore even though he’s brought up in an abusive household is inherently good; meanwhile Tom Riddle Jr comes from bad stock and is effectively the product of date rape, therefore is bad). It’s also worrying that Dumbledore, seeing the disturbing behaviour of Tom as a child, never acted on that knowledge, merely acted prejudicially and never gave him an opportunity to redeem himself- if nothing else, this is irresponsible. It seems that he too believes that someone can simply be born wicked. This is the crux of my issue with the depiction of Voldemort and I have to admit, I have always been disappointed that a series that started out as being about choices (as clearly defined in book 2) became so definitive in its characterisation of evil.
The reason I did not on balance dock loads of bananas for this was because, while I’m not pleased with this choice, it could be viewed as a somewhat accurate portrayal of a psychopath, particularly in regard to his torture of animals and inability to love. Of course, rather obvious disclaimer here: not every psychopath is a killer and this still does not line up with the reality that “Ordinary Men” are capable of doing terrible things (as described in my review yesterday).
Regardless, I did not find Voldemort the most psychologically interesting baddie in the series. I would have preferred far more complexity or, barring that, for it to have been left ambiguous, because for me the answer to this particular mystery was unsatisfying. Villains, in my view, should provide an insight into humanity and this did not work for me on that front. However, ignoring the notion of Harry’s noble lineage, I think the line “Voldemort himself created his own worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do” provided an excellent link to the hero’s journey. Also, this nice little hint at Voldy’s hubris is a part of his characterisation I can get behind.
One last thing I had trouble with in this book, which will probably get me in more trouble than my view of Voldy, was that I did not buy Hermione and Ron’s relationship. And while I did think it was cute when Ginny and Harry got together, lines like the “monster in his chest purred” were… well I’d rather hang out with a Blast Ended Skrewt than Harry in a romantic mood. And since we’re on the topic, I may as well go in for a sickle in for a galleon, I was meh about Tonks and Lupin. For some reason, the sweetest relationship that I saw was Fleur/Bill.
So what do you think of Harry Potter 6? Are you a fan of Voldy’s characterisation? Let me know in the comments!