Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Well, it’s that time again. Another installment in the Harry Potter series was released last week and, of course, I went out and bought a copy. Another book, another step closer toward the eventual end of a long running and much loved series, and another winner for author J.K. Rowling.
A bit of history here: Harry Potter is a young boy, raised by Muggles with no knowledge of his magical heritage until, on his eleventh birthday, he was visited by a half-giant named Hagrid who revealed to Harry that he was a wizard. Harry went on to attend Hogwarts, a sort of wizard high school, and inside the walls of the school, he learned more than just magical spells, charms and hexes. He learned about the evil wizard who killed his parents, Lord Voldemort, the circumstances surrounding the mysterious scar on his forehead, and host of other things taken for granted by the wizard community.
As the years pass and Harry grows up before our eyes, he encounters Voldemort on many occasions, always surviving, but just barely, and forging strong bonds of friendship with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, who share in most of his adventures.
This latest installment, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, takes us on a slightly different tour through the life of one, Harry Potter than the previous books. For one, Rowling temporarily breaks from her usual third person limited point of view and moves into a third person omniscient point of view, allowing the reader to see things that the main character has no knowledge of.
In this story, Harry returns to Hogwarts for his sixth year. He’s passed his O.W.L.S. and has moved on to advance classes in pursuit of his career goal of becoming an Auror (a kind of police officer against dark wizards). Voldemort has taken the offensive, declaring out and out war with everyone and casting a morbid shadow over the entire wizard community.
The main focus of the story is, among other things, is Harry’s attempt to thwart his rival Draco Malfoy, whom Harry believes is now in league with the dark lord. That no one else, including his friends, seems willing to believe Harry’s theory about Malfoy, is a constant hindrance to his efforts. Add to that, Professor Dumbledore’s secret lessons with Harry to discover the origins and motives of Lord Voldemort, captaining the Quidditch team, studying for tests, and trying to mend the rift that has suddenly formed between his two best friends, and Harry’s sixth year is filled with problems, trials and mysteries.
The story takes a dramatic turn, when Dumbledore, having discovered something new about Voldemort’s past, embarks on a journey to find a piece of what he believed to be the key to the dark lord’s immortality. In the aftermath of that, alliances are shattered, conspiracies are revealed, and lives are ruined and lost. Needless to say, the world of Harry Potter will never be the same again.
Harry finally matures in this book, shedding the shyness he’d exhibited in the previous books and taking on a slightly bolder attitude. Harry also learns not to keep his mouth shut as he had done in the past when dealing with problems that are obviously bigger than him. Also, this book tackles relationships, as Harry finally gets a girlfriend, though I doubt many people will be able to guess who it is. And for all those who’ve been wondering when it would happen, it happens here: All questions as to Professor Snape’s loyalties are finally put to rest.
My only real issue with the book is the title. In the past books, from the Sorcerer’s Stone to the Order of the Phoenix, the titles were directly or at least closely tied into the main plot and mystery of the story. This title is, unfortunately, misleading. The mystery of the half-blood prince is, at best, a minor one; even the characters don’t seem too concerned with uncovering his identity. The plot has nothing to do with the ‘prince,’ nor does it in any way impact the story. And when the ‘prince,’ is finally revealed, I found it to be a grand disappointment, both as plotline and in the way the secret was discovered.
On the whole, however, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, is a must read for any Harry Potter fan. And if you’re not, read the first five books and then pick this one up when you’re done. It’s well worth it. Rowling delivers a far more emotional story than the previous books, pulling the reader in just enough to make them pity the characters when the inevitable finally occurs. It left me wanting more, and anxious for the next and final installment. It’ll do the same for you. Trust me.