Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eat Slugs, Malfoy!

(Screw this! I've been drafting this blog since last week with the intention of posting one entry per day starting Thursday last week! Please excuse the lack of structure and coherency. :p)

I’m going to use Harry Potter again as an excuse to blog. Ahem.

So. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is finally, FINALLY here. I’ve already made the reservations and will be watching with Mark and Jen on Thursday. In the meantime, I will post my personal ranking of the seven HP books.

I’ve always wanted to do this ranking, but don't know how to start. I don’t want to sound like a trying hard critic judging the literary merits of the books, because I’m not. I don’t want to give the impression that I like one book better than the other, because I love all the books that make up the HP series, warts and all. Also, by ranking them, I feel that I’d be looking at the books as separate and stand-alone novels instead of parts of an over-arcing storyline.

Anyway, my basis for ranking the books are as follows:

  • The actual physical condition of the book – I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read each book so I can’t honestly say which book I’ve read more. While the books' wear and tear look may not be an accurate basis (the older books are more battered than the newer ones, plus the paperback editions will definitely show more cracks than the hardbound editions), I feel I can safely rely on this indicator;
  • Quotes – I tend to quote HP a lot. Of course, I tend to quote the lines that are most memorable to me.
  • Emotional Impact – each book affected me in various ways. Two of the books in my top three were the books that I had the insane urge to chuck the first time I read it.

This is not the most scientific nor unbiased ranking ever, I'm telling you. I’m pretty sure anyone who've read this blog can guess which book is my top one. I’d be happy to hear what you think my top three will be! This is my personal ranking and you’re free to comment/react on my reasons. As usual spoiler alert to those who have been living under the rock not yet read the books.

"Fame's a fickle friend, Harry. Celebrity is as celebrity does, remember that."
- Professor Gilderoy Lockhart

"This is what Dumbledore sends his defender! A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?"
- Tom Marvolo Riddle

"Oh Potter, you rotter, oh what have you done,
You're killing off students, you think it's good fun - "
- Peeves the Poltergeist


My paperback CoS is, relatively, in pristine condition – but only because it was my second copy already! I lost my original paperback in heaven knows where, which is too bad because it was a gift. Nevertheless, I’m still quite sure I’ve not read CoS as much as the others. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy CoS as much.

The book's plot structure is very similar to the first book: we follow Harry through his second year at Hogwarts, while trying to solve a few mysteries. In this case, there's a creature roaming around school targeting Muggleborns and Squibs; a creature, legend has it, that came from the Chamber of Secrets. Harry is somehow connected, especially upon learning he has a magical ability considered to be a form of dark magic.

CoS introduced us to one Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. I think it was briefly implied in the Sorcerer’s Stone that the DADA post might be cursed, but in Lockhart’s case, I guess it’s not so much as the post being cursed as much as Lockhart being such an awful teacher. I love how they established Lockhart as this vain, famous, celebrity-like wizard who’s trying to give advice to Harry on how to handle his popularity (while at the same time resenting how Harry, despite not wanting the attention, is still loads more popular than he is). On the surface, Lockhart seemed like a good wizard with above average magic skills, or so the books he wrote stated. Then we get to the misadventures with the pixies (“Peskipiksi Pesternomi!”), the dueling club and the manner by which he conducts class - and you know something is amiss. Sure enough, Lockhart's more than a self-absorbed prick. What he lacked in magical skills, he made up for his cunning. JKR is good at writing morally gray characters, and Lockhart, though more of a comic relief than an actual villain, was just as gray.

Then there’s Lucius Malfoy, the magnificent bastard that he was. There’s also Dobby, who I pitied but who also annoyed me with his plans to keep Harry from Hogwarts. Not only did his plans failed, but his plans also produced disastrous results. Dobby took a level in badass later on in the book and in the series, and of course, his death in DH was one of the most heart-wrenching scenes written.

I only realize this recently, but it was in CoS that Harry learned the Disarming spell, Expelliarmus, which became his sort of signature move. And guess who taught him that, albeit unwittingly? Severus Snape, is who!

The main plot of CoS had little to do with the series’ overall story arc. Yet I love the foreshadowings in the book that played a major part later in the series. I love how the book retained the storytelling elements of Sorcerer's Stone that made me an HP fan: mysteries to be solved, tricky red herrings, plot twists that I never saw coming. I love how Harry became more confident the more he learns and yet still felt in awe to be in the presence of magic. I love that so much because I know it’s the same sort of reaction I’d have if I’m in Harry’s place!

I ranked CoS at number 7 because of the acromantulas. God, I hate spiders, especially GIANT spiders! Okay, I’m half kidding. As I said, CoS didn’t add much to the story arc as the other books did. While Riddle’s diary is important in terms of it being a Horcrux, Harry could have found out about it in other ways without the need to set up the whole opening of the Chamber of Secrets plot. That’s not to say that CoS is unimportant. The series would have been less without all the foreshadowings. The book is full of dry wit, and the twists were wonderfully maneuvered and revealed.

(Work in progress! Might revise later as I see fit! Damn unmotivated blogger.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Breaking Free

I refuse to feel guilty about my decision, but I can understand why others feel as though I’ve let them down. It’s not the best moment to leave, but I’ve been saying that same thing before. If I won’t do it now, I’m scared I won’t get the courage to do it anymore.

I’m scared. I’m sad. Most of all, I feel free. Maybe things will not work out the way I wanted, but I’ll remember this feeling and know I made the best choice.