Harry Potter: Children's Noir?
If you haven't read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yet, you might want to skip this blog entry.
If you saw any of the pre-publication hype at all, you know that a significant character dies in the new Harry Potter novel. (I'm not going to give it away here.) The best review I've read of the book, from The Globe and Mail, begins with the line, "Call out the grief counsellors." The interfaith website Beliefnet is offering "pastoral counsel for heartsick muggles" who are traumatized by the novel's ending. Warning: The Beliefnet column gives away the surprise ending in its first paragraph.
What makes this novel darker, more disturbing than the first five is not only its murder of a main character at the end but also the way in which the character is murdered: in a deadly act of betrayal, at the hand of a trusted "friend." There are no neat resolutions in this one, no "life lessons" for the kiddies, no comforting reassurances that all will be well. Murder, vengeance, betrayal -- is this a children's book, or a Hard Case Crime novel?
Still, I agree with fellow blogger Jon Zuck (The Wild Things of God) that this one is "the best of the Potter series so far, and leads to the possibility that the final book might have a markedly different format from these first six." Amid all the intrigue and betrayal, there is still room for character development, even teenage romance. We see the relationship deepen between Dumbledore and Harry, and we learn a lot about how young Tom Riddle grew up to become (or to be destroyed by) Lord Voldemort. Unlike the last novel, Harry isn't so damn angry all the time in this one. J. K. Rowling is maturing as a writer, and I think Book Seven will be better than ever.