Book Review: “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” by J.K Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5 Water Towers

Book 6 (Half Blood Prince) starts off in the Prime Minister of England’s office as he is awaiting a call from the “wretched” President of a far distant land. But, that call is cancelled when the “Ministry of Magic” summoned an emergency meeting with the Prime Minister. Bad things are happening and the Muggles are feeling the effects of the escalating Wizard War. Innocent people are dying, hurricanes are blowing across the land, and a strange mist covers England resulting in a despair that cannot be broken.

The dark days have arrived.

Spoiler warning: If you have note yet read Books 1 through 5 do not read further

Harry, in the meantime, is again at 4 Privet Drive when he is summoned by Dumbledore to prepare to leave. This time, instead of going directly to the Weasley’s, Dumbledore takes Harry to help enlist the services of a retired Hogwarts teacher, Horace Slughorn, knowing Slughorn will be enamored by Harry Potter. The tactic works and “Professor” Slughorn agrees to come back to Hogwarts.

Dumbledore then takes Harry to the “Burrow” where Ron, Hermione, and Ginny are reunited. Once there, Harry finds out that, much to his happiness, that Fleur Delacour is there and that she and Bill Weasley are engaged to be married.

When the O.W.L.S. grades arrive, Hermione had all outstanding grades except one (naturally), and Ron and Harry were pretty equal. Neither of them, however, qualified for Snape’s Potions class which requires an outstanding to move on to N.E.W.T.S. (they only received Exceeds Expectations). This puts an end to Harry’s quest to become an Auror.

A day at Diagon Alley to purchase books, supplies, and a trip to Fred and George’s Joke Shop (that is thriving!) turns out to be even more productive than planned as Harry, Ron, and Hermione spot Draco Malfoy up to no good, and, after following him (under the invisibility cloak) and listening in, with extendable ears, on his conversation, Harry begins to suspect Draco may have become a Death Eater.

Once at Hogwarts….life was more or less normal except for Malfoy disappearing regularly from the building and otherwise acting differently. Harry has been named Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and realizes that he has attracted the attention of many young girls, most notably, fellow Gryffindor Romilda Vane. And all 6th years are to learn how to apparate.

In their meeting with Professor McGonagall to decide what classes they will be attending this year, Harry and Ron are both surprised to find out that they can indeed attend Potions class since Professor Slughorn is now the teacher and he accepts an O.W.L.S. grade of Exceeds Expectations (Snape, as you may have guessed, has finally gotten his wish and is now the new DADA teacher).

But their first Potions class is before Harry and Ron can purchase books and supplies. So they borrow two old books. With luck, Harry gets one that once belonged to the “Half Blood Prince”. It turns out that the Half Blood Prince was tremendously accomplished at Potions and had scribbled instructions inside the book that put Harry at the head of his class (much to the chagrin of Hermione). The HBP also scribbled in hexes which Harry tried a few times, much to his chagrin.

As the story unfolds, Dumbledore and Harry use the Pensieve to learn more about Tom Riddle starting from his birth until the time he left Hogwarts as Lord Voldemort. According to Dumbledore, the more Harry understands about Tom (and his weaknesses) the more likely he will be able to defeat him when the final battle occurs.

During this learning process, Harry learns about the darkest of dark magic….Horcruxes. A horcrux is a way for a dark wizard to take part of his soul (by killing someone) and placing it in an object (living or inanimate). This renders the dark wizard immortal (as long as that part of his soul lives within, and can be recovered from, the horcrux). We learn that Tom Riddle is no ordinary dark wizard; he is extraordinary (“I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality”). He has managed, Dumbledore surmises, to split his soul into seven pieces, leaving Harry and Dumbledore the onerous task of finding these seven horcruxes.

But the path is a bit easier than expected.

As Dumbledore explains… the diary that almost killed Ginny was one horcrux, and Harry had already destroyed that. Then Dumbledore found and destroyed Riddle’s (actually Marvolo’s) ring which makes two horcruxes down. That means there are five more to go. With one part of his soul being Voldemort himself (and not really a horcrux), there are now four unknown horcruxes out and about that Harry must find in Book 7. The best guesses for these are: Nagini the snake, something from Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, the Slytherin locket, and the Hufflepuff cup.

Nearing the end of the school year, Malfoy finally succeeds in his assigned task which leads to a battle within Hogwarts between some members of the DA (Hermione, Ron, Neville, and Luna), Order of the Phoenix, and Death Eaters. In this battle one of our most beloved characters dies at the hand of a not so beloved character who’s mother happened to have the surname….Prince. Sorry, you will have to read the book to find out more.

The very sad ending of Book 6 (bring tissue) leaves the fate of Hogwarts up in the air but also clears the path for Harry (and eventually Ron and Hermione) to find and destroy the remaining four horcruxes and then meet, and once and for all, destroy Voldemort in the final FINAL battle, which only Harry can do.

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