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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Potter review: Rob Winder
Rob Winder

The BBC's Robert Winder hated Harry Potter, but accepted the challenge to read the latest novel, The Half-Blood Prince. Here is his verdict.

In my first piece I argued that Harry Potter was over-hyped, presented an out-dated image of Britain and was strangely popular amongst adults despite being for children.

Having read the Half-Blood Prince I can smugly announce I have been proved right on all counts, and that it sadly contained no surprises for me.

Who could escape the marketing juggernaut that rolled into action on the weekend of publication?

Walking down the street, watching TV - the bespectacled magician even appeared alongside the dog biscuits and spam in my local supermarket. Or was that my imagination?

Mystery and laughs

I was also flabbergasted to learn that Harry Potter is supposed to be 16-years-old in this latest book.

The dialogue is clunky and there are no surprises in the narrative

Rob Winder

Those of us who accurately remember the confusion, joy and pain of being 16 will probably look back on our then definition of "overdoing it" as being something slightly stronger than an extra portion of Mrs Weasley's sausages.

But as many BBC News website readers pointed out after my last piece, the books are about magic, not cheap liquor.

So what did I think? Well as a children's book the Half-Blood Prince definitely works.

It contains enough mystery and laughs to keep your average 10-year-old off the streets without scaling the heights reached by other children's authors.

It lacks the surreal fun of Roald Dahl, the epic fantasy of JRR Tolkien or the seething tension of Susan Cooper.

Having said that, the plot is engaging and races along at a fair old pace.

I enjoyed the opening scene involving a bumbling, incompetent prime minister seemingly reminiscent of Yes, Minister (was this a tribute to Potter look-a-like John Major?) And JK Rowling's decision to humiliate Harry's ignorant step-family shows a deft understanding of children's minds.

Clunky dialogue

But the appeal to readers older than 14 is still a mystery to me.

I felt Rowling's work to be a pale imitation of that of the aforementioned Tolkien, Dahl and Cooper. And to be blunt, it seems unoriginal and poorly written in comparison.

The dialogue is clunky and there are no surprises in the narrative.

Harry Potter is a bit like a fast food French fry: he is a triumph of hype and marketing over genuine content.

But French fries are enjoyed by millions of people all over the world. And they can't all be wrong - can they?


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