Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince is kind of tricky to write about. On the one hand I really like the book for pretty much the same reason as most of the other books. But on the other it kind of feels like just a bridge between OOTP and the last book and I have very few topics to pick from it. And that's one of the two official reasons why I'm late with this post, the other being that I've been busy and away.
So I tried to come up with some other topic besides the once that stood out the most to me since they're very fanboy biased topics to me personally, even if they are very prominent in this book. When that didn't work I said screw it and just decided to rant about Severus Snape and shipping.
Let's start with the less... serious and plot significant of the two topics, shipping. More specifically the Harry/Ginny shipping. Now for those of you that don't know what the term "shipping" it's basically a term derived from the word relationship and refers to when a fan of a work of fiction is rooting for a specific couple to get together. This is a topic that is actually more diverse than one might think and can get silly serious on internet forums, devolving common debates into full out flame wars. It can be applied to basically any fictional work, yes even your favourite book whatever it is, and Harry Potter is no exception. In fact, the Harry Potter series is an excellent breeding ground for all manner of shippings. And Harry/Ginny is one of the main ones.
That this shipping actually graduated to canon in HBP is kind of controversial amongst the fans with the majority of people that are against it saying that it basically came out of nowhere. As a person who is a pretty big Harry/Ginny shipper I find this argument to be perfectly valid. Up until this book Harry hasn't shown any interest in Ginny as anything but a friend and in the previous book Ginny had apparently gotten over her crush for Harry, with that being explained away as her simply giving him space and relax so that she could show him what she was really like. I can totally see how people would find this rather weak and would prefer to pair Harry with Hermione, Draco Malfoy or Luna Lovegood, of course for the first of those three to work you'd have to completely ignore all the incredibly obvious signs that pointed towards Ron and Hermione getting together.
Now, despite the lead-up to the relationship being flawed I don't think that it came out of nowhere. Rowling, by her own words, created Ginny to have the traits that would be Harry's perfect match in a woman and I think that this is shown rather well through out the books. First of all Ginny is actually tough enough to handle being Harry Potter's girlfriend which I think is tougher than one might think. Dude goes on dangerous adventures on a regular basis and constantly has to put up with the less enjoyable aspects of being a celebrity. It's kind of like dating a superhero whose secret identity is that of rock star. In fact, Ginny is Harry's equal in a lot of ways.
First of all, she's the only one that's still around after being possessed by Voldemort, an experience she recalls in order to help Harry deal with tough times. Her magical ability and quidditch skills are on par with Harry's so there wouldn't ever be any reason for her to feel inferior in either of those departments. She's also kind and stands up for those that are bullied. She's even defended Neville against Harry and Ron's taunts, one of the first signs that she was relaxing around Harry. Overall, Ginny is confident in her abilities, with good reason, and refuses to be underestimated or shove aside, by anyone other than her mother that is, when danger is afoot. A trait that'll make sure she doesn't get pushed to the sidelines by Harry's fame like others would be. All these traits makes her a rather fitting match for the superhero-rockstar that is Harry Potter and they're all displayed throughout books three to six, though in certain moderation. So they were always made for each other but I guess that it's easier to see through the slightly biased eyes of a Harry/Ginny fan like myself.
And that's my take on the whole Harry/Ginny thing. Yeah, it wasn't exactly well-executed but there was set-up if you kind of squinted. I think that Rowling tried to make up a little for lost time in HBP which sort of made the whole thing feel rushed. At the end of the day I think that it worked out fine but I can get why some people don't share this opinion. Either way it's a victroy for us Harry/Ginny shippers and there are so very few times when a shipper can actually say that their pairing won out so please indulge me and other Harry/Ginny shippers to it.
And now for a little talk about Severus Snape, whom I remind you is my favourite character in the entire series. This is the book where he kills Dumbledore... yeah. It was difficult being a Snape fan for a while there. And a bit embarrassing since I always told people that they should never suspect Snape of being evil ever since Rowling pulled that spectacular red herring on everybody in the first book. Of course she might've anticipated lots of people to feel that way and thus successfully screwed over our expectations by having Snape kill the biggest force for good in the series. Dick move Rowling, dick move.
First time I read the scene in question it was just incredibly jarring since it had Dumbledore seemingly pleading for Snape not to kill him and other stuff that a paragon of awesome goodness like Dumbledore isn't supposed to do. The fact that I had no idea what to think of Snape at that point didn't exactly help either. Re-reading the scene with the knowledge I have now makes it less jarring but no less tragic. Now, instead of an old man fearfully pleading for his life it's one friend asking another to do something horrible for the greater good. Dumbledore was pretty much the only person that saw Snape for what he truly is and actually appreciated him by this point, even Draco Malfoy has sort of turned his back on him at this point. So now Snape is more or less despised by his own side and has to hang out with people that will kill him if they ever find out what he's really up to. With Dumbledore gone Snape's all on his own, more or less, and that's just the latest in a lifetime of personal tragedies that weights down on Snape's shoulders. And yet he carries it with a solemn determination and grac... ok he doesn't do it gracefully. Spite is not a very becoming trait for anybody.
But that's one of the things I love about Snape's character. We're allowed to understand his motivations for acting like a jerk but it's never used as an excuse for him acting like a jerk. We make up our opinion about him as the story goes on and that alone is certainly a special kind of litterary journey. The puzzle that is Severus Snape and his story is slowly and expertly revealed to the readers over the course of all seven books. The revelation that he is the titular half-blood prince isn't really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, beyond it being a similarity between Snape and Voldemort, but it reveals so much about the mind of the young Snape who wanted to be something grander or at least part of something. A desire that made him join the evil side and only further the tragedy in his life.
This book is a great treat for Snape fans. Already in the second chapter he gets to demonstrate his wit, snarkyness and, subtly, skill in deception when dealing with Bellatric Lestrange. Then he's a vital part of the mystery regarding the half-blood prince. And his confrontation with Harry after he's killed Dumbledore is far from any kind of epic duel. It's just Snape restraining himself from venting out on Harry while still beating the young vizard back effortlessly. Neither of them gets any satisfaction and it's just a nice departure from the way these kinds of books usually end.
Snape's story doesn't end here, naturally since it's only the penultimate book. But it takes a massive twist and in doing so it twists the rest of the story and plot along with it. That's the level of impact that Snape has on the series. I'm really looking forward to reading the conclusion to Snape's story again. Also, I personally never doubted Snape being a hero in the end... well... maybe a little.
And that's about it for this time. Snape and shipping. Two subjects that stand out for me in this book and that can cause long discussions in the fandom itself. Before I leave I'll mention that I appreciate how Harry starts manning up into a real hero in this book rather than a scarred young man. It'll serve him well in the search for The Deathly Hallows.