Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Harry Potter Books

Published: 2005
Author: J.K. Rowling


Penultimate adventure sets up a cracking finale


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince begins in a scary time in the wizarding world.  Voldemort’s return is now widely accepted and his desire to regain his position of power is causing panic throughout the land.  Witches and wizards are being murdered or disappearing without a trace, dark creatures including the Dementors of Azkaban have sided with Voldemort, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge has been sacked and the muggle world has been drawn into the conflict with unexplained accidents and freak weather conditions creating a rising death toll.

Harry, Ron and Hermione return to a more subdued Hogwarts than ever before where they attempt to carry on with life as normal – studying for exams, playing Quidditch and indulging in teenage romances.  Of course life isn’t normal.  The school is protected by Aurors (dark wizard catchers), Harry is excelling at potions thanks to a helpful new text book previously owned by the mysterious Half-Blood Prince and unexplained events which Harry believes are caused by Draco Malfoy are causing life threatening situations for Hogwarts students.  Add to this Harry’s private lessons with Dumbledore which tell us some more about Voldemort’s history and it’s clear this isn’t a normal school year.

I criticised Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for being a developmental piece and Half-Blood Prince suffers from many of the same flaws.  This book doesn’t feel like a stand-alone novel – which of course it isn’t – instead it feels like a prelude to more important action.  We know that this is the penultimate book in the series so to a large extent Half-Blood Prince is setting up the action that will take place in the finale.  Back-story is explained and characters are further developed, especially Draco Malfoy who becomes more complex than in previous books.  Snape’s loyalty, always ambiguous, appears to be finally revealed and we find out how Voldemort can be defeated.

While Half-Blood Prince shares many characteristics with Chamber of Secrets it doesn’t have the same weaknesses.  I’m now totally invested in the story and want to know if Snape is a good guy or a bad guy, how Voldemort became the dark wizard he is and how Harry can win the battle ahead and so I’m more likely to gloss over any problems with the text.

I know it can be said of each of the books since Prisoner of Azkaban but this is definitely the darkest of the series.  That isn’t to say there aren’t light, fun moments in the novel.  JK Rowling wouldn’t let us suffer unremitting bleakness without adding a couple of laughs along the way.  Ron’s romance with Lavender is as nauseating as only teenagers in love can be while Luna’s dreamy commentary of a Quidditch match offers stark contrast to the pervading gloom.

The joy and pain of being in love is a major theme of this book.  Sickening teen love, unrequited love as Hermione realises her true feelings for Ron and love found then lost as Harry and Ginny finally get together only to be torn apart.  But there’s other kinds of love – familial love, love between friends and most significantly the love of a mother for her son and the sacrifices she will make and ask others to make.  All manner of relationships are here.

There’s also a shocking death scene, Rowling has no problems killing off key characters if it helps to advance the plot.  Ruthlessly she leaves Harry more in control of his own destiny and the fight against Voldemort than ever before.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince isn’t the strongest book in the series, I don’t think it is meant to be, but it does its job perfectly.  It leaves us begging for more and millions of us desperate for the final installment to come along.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows >>
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