Thursday, November 11, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling

Title:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author:  J. K. Rowling
Pages:  652
Genre:  Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction
Source:  As with the rest of this series... my bookshelf!
What you'll love:  Lots of information given, clearer picture of the Harry and Voldemort 7-book story, huge character development.
What will bug you:  There are actually moments where you find yourself feeling sorry for - gasp - Malfoy.

Harry returns to Hogwarts for his sixth year of studies.  The war against Voldemort is not going well - there is a new minister of Magic, the Muggle governments are beginning to notice that something is amiss, Ron and Hermione scan The Daily Prophet looking for news on the latest people who've gone missing or been killed, and Dumbledore is absent from the castle for long unexplained periods of time.

The students have a full year of new and challenging studies ahead of them, made a little more interesting because Harry finds a potions book bearing the name of the "Half-Blood Prince".  The book is full of notes; including spells and tips on potion making.  Harry is to receive private lessons with Dumbledore, where he will wade through Voldemort's past, hoping to understand him and his weaknesses.

Once again, here's my little disclaimer - this post will be spoiler city.  Be warned!

I'm not going to speak to soon, because I have not revisited book 7 yet... but the Half-Blood Prince is my favorite so far.  There's so much to talk about.

Let's begin at the beginning, I suppose.  

Snape.  

What an opener to this story.  Snape, Narcissa, and Bellatrix and the Unbreakable Vow.  This is such a chilling way to begin the story, and of course it makes me very sad because I love Snape so much.  I remember reading this for the first time, trying to ignore this foreshadowing that Snape will disappoint me.  You begin the story feeling like things are hopeless already - and it's only the first chapter!

Arriving at Hogwarts and finding out that Snape is now the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor does little to ease your mind.

Slughorn.

I kind of like him.  I know he's a little pompous, arrogant, self-important... all that.  But I can't help myself.  I think it's the idea of the walrus mustache.  

The love stories.

Of course Harry needs to end up with Ginny.  I'd like to have Ginny as a friend.  She's funny, confident, and not prissy in any way.  There has been so much foreshadowing of a relationship between Ron and Hermione.  If you are surprised by this in book 7 you're pretty thick.  I kind of wish they had come out with it at the end of book 6, although to be honest, I forget how it all comes about in book 7 - so I may decide I like Rowling's way of doing it (which shouldn't be a surprise because she seems to know her stuff...).

The best part of HBP is all the backstory on Voldemort.  The reader finds out so much information, and that is a big part of why I love this book so much.  Seeing Voldemort's grandfather and uncle - paired with their treatment of his mother - makes a lot click into place.  

One of my favorite scenes Harry and Dumbledore visit in the Pensieve is when Dumbledore finds Tom Riddle at the orphanage.  It is so clear that this child is going to grow up into a disturbing adult.  The fact that he was aware of his magical abilities, and using them to hurt and bully - at such a young age! - is very telling.  

The idea of a Horcrux is great - very imaginative.  Understanding what they are, how many there were, and how many are left brings a real sense of purpose to the end of book 6 into book 7.  It's the first ending that outlines clearly what will be happening in the next year.  Knowing Harry, Ron, and Hermione will not be returning to Hogwarts has the reader expecting a very different kind of book to end the series.  Of course, it kind of makes sense that they will not be returning - with Dumbledore gone the school is not the same.

Dumbledore.

I know many people have said they cried when Dumbledore dies.  I can report that I am not one of those people, although it was very painful to read.  For me, my brain is constantly working - why is Snape doing this?  He can't really be on the wrong side, can he?  Clues are there - he does not harm Harry when Harry goes after him in front of Hagrid's hut.  Losing Dumbledore is tough to read.  I'm also struck by how hard this was for Malfoy.  Throughout the story, the reader has moments when you feel bad for him - even if it's just a little bit.  I think in the end he knows he has gotten in way over his head.  

As always - I'll leave you with my list of things that pop into my head when someone says Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
  1.  Seeing Snape's house - the unbreakable vow.
  2. Dumbledore sitting with the Dursley's - humming to himself - as Harry gets his trunk packed.  Dumbledore saying "Shall we assume you have invited me into your parlor?"
  3. Slughorn trying to rub elbows with the up-and-coming young wizards.  
  4. Harry having such success with his Half-Blood Prince potions book - and Hermione's anger at it.
  5. Seeing Voldemort's life story unfold.
  6. Harry retrieving the memory from Slughorn.
  7. Harry using the sectumsempra curse on Malfoy.  It is graphic!
  8. Dumbledore explaining what a Horcrux is after seeing Slughorn's true memory.
  9. Harry and Dumbledore in the cave.  Dumbledore drinking that horrible potion.
  10. The final scene between Dumbledore, Malfoy and finally Snape.
  11. Dumbledore's funeral.
I'm almost there... see you at the end of the series.  Don't forget to vote for your favorite Harry Potter book (in the upper right corner of the sidebar!).




Oh an aside... wow it's hard to run spell check on a Harry Potter review... 

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