Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 2005 by Scholastic. For all things Harry Potter, check out the Lexicon. Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.
Will contain major spoilers for the series.
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic
“The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.
As in all wars, life goes on. The Weasley twins expand their business. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate—and lose a few eyebrows in the process. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.
So it’s the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort—and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.”
“Sir—I got a Ministry of Magic leaflet by owl, about security measures we should all take against the Death Eaters….”
“Yes, I received one myself,” said Dumbledore, still smiling. “Did you find it useful?”
“No, I thought no. You have not asked me, for instance, what is my favorite flavor of jam, to check that I am indeed Professor Dumbledore and not an imposter.”
“I didn’t…” Harry began, not entirely sure whether he was being reprimanded or not.
“For future reference, Harry, it is raspberry…although of course, if I were a Death Eater, I would have been sure to research my own jam preferences before impersonating myself.”
He got to his feet, smiling, brimming with confidence.
“Excellent,” he said. “Really excellent. Right…I’m going down to Hagrid’s.”
“What?” said Ron and Hermione together, looking aghast.
“No, Harry—you’ve got to go and see Slughorn, remember?” said Hermione.
“No,” said Harry confidently. “I’m going to Hagrid’s, I’ve got a good feeling about going to Hagrid’s.”
“You’ve got a good feeling about burying a giant spider?” asked Ron, looking stunned.
“Yeah,” said Harry, pulling his Invisibility Cloak out of his bag. “I feel like it’s the place to be tonight, you know what I mean?”
“This is your copy of Advanced Potion-Making, is it, Potter?”
“Yes,” said Harry, still breathing hard.
“You’re quite sure of that, are you, Potter?”
“Yes,” said Harry, with a touch more defiance.
“This is the copy of Advanced Potion-Making that you purchased from Flourish and Blotts?”
“Yes,” said Harry firmly.
“Then why,” asked Snape, “does it have the name ‘Roonil Wazlib’ written inside the front cover?”
Harry’s heart missed a beat. “That’s my nickname,” he said.
“Your nickname,” repeated Snape.
“Yeah…that’s what my friends call me,” said Harry.
“I understand what a nickname is,” said Snape.
Warnings: Violence, death.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
This book is hilarious. Rowling really pulls out all the snappy one-liners in this book that just make you laugh out loud while you’re reading. I’ve quoted a few of my favorites above. There’s always been humor present in the Harry Potter books, but Half-Blood Prince is easily the one where it shows the most (or perhaps the one where Rowling delivers the humor the best). It almost took over Prisoner of Azkaban as my favorite, but PoA has a bit more of a mindtwister plot. Granted, HBP and PoA have very similar general plots, in that Voldemort is not really the front-and-center antagonist/villain, but PoA has an extra sort of twist that’s completely unexpected, whereas HBP has an added twist with the expected (I’m talking about how in PoA, Voldemort is not the villain, and neither is the suspected Sirius Black—it’s Peter Pettigrew, something completely unexpected and not even explored by the characters. In HBP, Draco is indeed the villain, as Harry suspects, but the extra twist is that Snape is an apparent villain, too). Perhaps that’s why I like both of them so much, because the plots aren’t as cut-and-dry as the others.
I love the fact that we get to know more of Voldemort’s background. It makes him much more nuanced and takes him away from the typical villain that’s just there to give the protagonist someone to fight against. Learning more about Voldy’s background gives more meaning and purpose to Harry’s fight, and gives more reasons for us to consider Voldemort as a chilling, formidable opponent.
I talked about Order of the Phoenix being a sort of transition novel, both in terms of plot and in character. HBP is where Harry’s “coming-of-age” finally finishes. It started in OotP, with Sirius’ death, and now it finishes in HBP, with Dumbledore’s (his Wise Old Mentor). I think the best way to illustrate this is by two quotes from the book:
“…He simply knew that the task of discovering the truth about the real Horcrux had to be completed before he could move a little farther along the dark and winding path stretching ahead of him, the path that he and Dumbledore had set out upon together, and which he now knew he would have to journey alone” (635-636)
“And Harry saw very clearly as he sat there under the hot sun how people who cared about him had stood in front of him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him; but now that was over. He could not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort; he must abandon forever the illusion he ought to have lost at the age of one, that the shelter of a parent’s arms meant that nothing could hurt him” (645)
In HBP, Harry’s coming-of-age journey is finally complete, and his hero’s journey must now finish, as well.
Some other things I liked:
1.) Rowling’s (and Dumbledore’s) emphasis on love winning out over evil and that love is more powerful than evil (that it is, in fact, something that evil does not understand).
2.) Harry’s consistent self-sacrifice and selflessness and his continuous aversion to placing anyone he loves in danger
3.) Harry’s horror at what he did to Draco with the Sectumsempra spell, once again illustrating Harry’s strength of character and how his goodness is appalled at the wrong he commits
4.) This book leads to the all-important question: Whose side is Snape on? I fondly remember the debates I had over this. More on that when I review the last book.
5.) I haven’t talked about the movie adaptations at all (probably because I don’t remember the first five at all well), but I thought that the last three Harry Potter films were fabulous. I especially liked, in the movie HBP, how they added the little interaction between Snape and Harry right before Snape goes up to the Tower where Dumbledore and Draco are. Fantastic.
(Around the 1:00 mark)
What I Didn’t Like:
A monster in his chest? Really? The love plotlines in this book get awfully soap-opera-y. Also, Harry’s attraction of Ginny really comes out of nowhere.
Ron makes a reference to Draco’s Hand of Glory as if it was something we have seen before, but there has been no mention of it in previous books. Maybe this was just to remind us that Draco has one, so Rowling could slip it in later for plot reasons, but it’s very clunky nevertheless.
–Keep in mind the Gaunt ring
–Keep in mind Ollivander’s disappearance
–Keep in mind Lily’s talent at Potions
–Keep in mind Mundungus’ theft of Black items
–Keep in mind Snape and Dumbledore’s argument in the forest
–Keep in mind the six Horcruxes and the fact that Voldemort only had five when he went to kill Harry
–Keep in mind the place Harry stashes the Prince’s book, and how he marks the spot where he hid it (and with what)
–Keep in mind Dumbledore’s insistence on Snape’s loyalty and what the ‘greatest regret of Snape’s life’ is
–Keep in mind that Draco disarmed Dumbledore on the tower
–Keep in mind Dumbledore pleading with Snape
–Keep in mind Snape’s insistence that the Death Eaters leave Harry for Voldemort
–Keep in mind Snape’s anger at being called a coward
The Half-Blood Prince is a breath of fresh air after the long, trudging path of Order of the Phoenix. I loved the humor and the fact that we got to know more about Voldemort’s background, expanding his character as a villain. Harry’s character shines through and remains steadfast, and the revelations we find out in this book promise a thrilling finish in the last.
You can buy the book here: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
And the movie here (it’s $4! If I didn’t already have it, I would buy it!): Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Widescreen Edition)
Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows