HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
J.K. Rowling

 


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Sixth in the Harry Potter Series
Scholastic, July 2005
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Fantasy

Harry is flattered when Dumbledore asks him to go along to talk retired professor Horace Slughorn into returning to Hogwarts. Hogwarts is once again without a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry is dismayed when their success doesn’t work out the way he had expected – yet it works to his advantage. Dumbledore, obviously, is still planning benevolently for Harry’s future.

Coincidence or not, Harry now has possession of a book with many useful notes to improve his magic, and spells the textbooks don’t teach. Suddenly Harry is a classroom star. But is this a good thing? Who was the previous owner, this self-titled Half-Blood Prince? Some of his tips are questionable, and so are some of their side-effects.

In the meantime, Harry is taking special lessons with Dumbledore, and has been named captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Ron and Hermione are both staunchly behind him on these things; in spite of frictions, they are still his best friends. Harry’s job at the end of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX was to rebuild his support team, and he has done so. But there are moments of independence now, areas where Harry is certain he understands what is happening no matter what his friends think. We get glimpses of leadership approaching.

The big question in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is, who will be betrayed? Malfoy, working for Voldemort, is smugly up to no good. How many more people inside Hogwarts are working for Voldemort? Debate already rages on the internet: is Snape on the side of Dark or Light?

There has been a rumor that someone important to Harry dies in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. It is true; make sure you have your kleenex. Yet there are ways in which a dead friend can live on, and Harry intends to see that it happens. It was an immense relief to me that Harry’s responsibilities have forced him beyond adolescence. There isn’t time for tantrums when you are being groomed to kill the biggest villain of your time, class work presses all around, and you are being stalked by an obnoxious bruiser demanding a place on the Quidditch team.

HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is back to the elements that have made the series a publishing phenomenon: engaging, realistic characters with whom we share “believable” schooldays and adventurous nights; dependable teachers and despicable ones; crazy new gadgets, spells, and creatures we would like to see more of; and author J.K. Rowling’s peerless imagination. Her humor is still with us, but a character-driven plot has taken over as the dominant attraction of the series.

The Harry Potter series is not static in between releases. It is an ongoing event – regardless of the reader’s age, let me point out. Fans urge it on new readers. The movies draw big box office, attracting more attention. Points of suspense and character development spark internet brouhahas. A hint about the next book touches off a media flare. This started as a mother’s story to her son, and now look at it.

You want my opinion? I say Snape has gone to the Dark, and the next book will prove it!

July 2005 Review

 

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