When this book came out there were a large number of people going around claiming it was the ‘best Potter book yet’, these people worried me, it seems this group had either lost their critical faculties or are just happy to hoover up any average novel. Each to their own of course, I’m sure a small minority still name this as their favourite of the series…possibly, but there can’t be to many people left who still rate this, can there?
After finishing the story, I remember feeling utterly underwhelmed and quite relieved that it was over. It took a few days for the enormity of what the book had done to the series to kick in.
There was so much wrong with the content (I liked the cover, a bit), it was clear fairly early on that it wasn’t particularly well-edited, one wonders if this was a case of ‘well it will sell and the gullible public will be happy with it no matter what’.
If that’s the reason then they were more right than wrong, clicking on a few well know book reviewing sites, there seems to be the usual huge number four and five-star reviews. So is it a question of lax publishing standards or did Rowling not want it edited, or were the publishers to weak to demand a good editor? Speculation like this will never be answered so time to move on.
The biggest problem I had, was the lack of mystery. What surprised me about the first book, H P and the Philosopher’s Stone, was that it wasn’t just a simple story but had those cunning clues hidden within the text that I missed but enjoyed looking for in the next three books. This one however seemed devoid of anything clever like that, in fact the twist this time was the death of a well-known character which didn’t particularly convince and seemed a clunky plot device in any case. Still it kept everyone reading until the bitter end, perhaps that was the point…
The structure of the book is perhaps one more suited to the penultimate book, setting things up for the final encounters to be played out and tied up, this could have been negated if the plot wasn’t so short compared to the size of the book. By all means mix up the structure to keep us readers off-balance but keep the charm in at least. Without the clever text play the book just becomes a standard action book.
It all seems very loose and contains plenty of padding and great swathes of prose to wade through that doesn’t add anything to the plot or even the character development…Harry comes across as a dull cliché teenager who refuses to get any help from the adults…again, presumably he isn’t worried by Voldemort who seems less sinister by the book. The much vaunted love interest wasn’t particularly interesting either, Cho Chang had the capacity to become a major and interesting character but ends up lacking depth and coming across as weak and shallow.
There are good points of course, it’s nice to be back in that world and the story does progress the series as it starts to wind up for the last two books. The best thing about the book is ironically it’s size, yes it does go on and on but it also encouraged children to read bigger books and feel more confident with more imposing books. That at least is laudable sadly there is just more wrong than right with this book.
It’s clear that the predictable overhyped media coverage helped to put pressure on Rowling and subsequently contributed to the ruined book, another year would probably have done wonders for it, coupled with a good editor. Book three was the high point of the series for me and although this put a severe dent in my enjoyment of the series, I still bought the next two books, just with a lot less enthusiasm. it never again captures the heights of books one and three and by the end I was just happy it was all over.