Published September 1st 2014 by Bloomsbury (first published July 16th 2005)
Author: J. K. Rowling
Genre: Fantasy, fiction, YA/Children’s
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.”
When Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive one summer night to collect Harry Potter, his wand hand is blackened and shrivelled, but he does not reveal why. Secrets and suspicion are spreading through the wizarding world, and Hogwarts itself is not safe. Harry is convinced that Malfoy bears the Dark Mark: there is a Death Eater amongst them. Harry will need powerful magic and true friends as he explores Voldemort’s darkest secrets, and Dumbledore prepares him to face his destiny…
At the time of writing these words, I’ve actually finished the entire series! But I’ve found it difficult to review these books straight away because they are the kind of books that are so popular and well-known anyway that they don’t really need reviews. I can’t imagine I or anyone else would decide to read the series but put it off in favour of reading up on reviews first. These are the kind of books you just leap headfirst into and find out for yourself.
So, although my posts on this series are under the review umbrella, I like to think of them more as reflections on the books, thoughts on them as a first-time reader coming to them in adulthood. I read somewhere recently that before reviewing books like these (with high popularity) take a moment and review something that needs boosting instead. I’m all for that, and I love to shout about the independent authors, or local writers that I know, and to get more attention on them. But anyone reading this now, I imagine you’re here because you’ve read the book and are just wondering what someone like me thinks. So let’s not do anymore rambling, and just get straight back into the wizarding world.
It’s getting really dark now…
I thought things were getting serious and dark in The Order of the Phoenix, but this book for me is the beginning of the end (forgive the cliche phrase). We’re still at Hogwarts and still in lessons, which for me is a safety net, and brings me the most reading pleasure.
There’s a new teacher: Horace Slughorn. He’s taking over Potions, while Snape finally gets the cursed job of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Alarm bells should have been ringing in my head at this point, but instead I just accepted it. In fact, I felt relief for the Potions class. I know what it’s like to dread a certain class, and I always felt secondhand dread whenever Harry, Ron and Hermione had Potions with Snape. I was glad to have Potions being taught by someone else, and I kind of wish Horace had always been there, but I understand why he was asked back now specifically.
It is in this Potions lesson that Harry discovers a book previously owned by the Half-Blood Prince. I went through this whole book pretty much getting it wrong about who the Half-Blood Prince is, and the focus on Wizard blood and lineage made me question what Harry’s blood status is. It’s like I was suddenly doubting everything, and questioning all that I’d read. A lot happens in this book and the next, and everything that you’ve read so far will start to throw itself up again, so I was grasping at my Harry Potter knowledge when reading this to make sure I could make sense of it all and understand.
In this book, Dumbledore has a rotted wand hand, and this was a source of wonder for me throughout, and although I really wanted to know what was behind it, I’m glad of the mystery surrounding it, and the general mystery in this entire book.
Before embarking on this series, I was scared that the films would have ruined my experience, but I couldn’t have been more wrong, and this is most evident in this book and the last one. I hated Snape with a passion in this book, and throughout all the others. But there’s another character who is still a mystery to me: Draco.
In this book he finally gets a meaningful storyline, and isn’t just the ‘bully/enemy’ character for Harry. All along I’ve thought that Draco deserved more than to be that character. He’s someone who I really want to say is a favourite character, but I’ve not been able to connect with him at all. I want to know more about him, but I feel that he is overlooked a lot of the time. I know the books are pretty much written from Harry’s perspective without being first person, but I’d have liked more scenes from Draco’s point of view. Dare I say it, but I liked Draco more in the films.
Spoilers ahead, read at your own peril…
So, I didn’t see it coming that Snape would be the Half-Blood Prince, and I’m looking forward to watching the film of this book again and trying to figure out why on earth I thought it was Tom Riddle. Anyway, I loved that Harry was getting help from this Prince. The real shock of this book was Dumbledore. Of course, I knew he would die, but it didn’t make it any easier when it happened. I still didn’t believe it, and again I think I have the films to thank for this. The books have been so much better than the films, that the entire film plots that I knew previously have been replaced by the book plots instead.
One of the best bits in this book is the role that the pensieve plays in revealing information about Tom Riddle’s past. I really connected with it and found myself really looking forward to Harry’s sessions with Dumbledore. Riddle’s story was pretty important to the wider plot and the piecing together of information, and it seems odd that I never knew about this past before, but I get why the films had to skip some elements included in the book. In a way, it’s a perk of having seen the films first: I’m ending up very pleasantly surprised and leaving each book with lots of plot satisfaction.
A love story
Even though it’s been creeping in gradually, the feelings between Hermione and Ron, and Harry and Ginny get their own plotline at this point. I find Hermione and Ron an unlikely couple, but it works, weirdly. Sometimes I wanted to bang their heads together, but that’s what made it a good love story. It was there all along, it was just a matter of time.
Harry’s feelings for Ginny made me smile. It was almost as if he didn’t believe he had feelings for her, but in the end couldn’t deny them, and I’m just glad Ginny felt the same way, despite apparently having dated everyone except for Harry up to this point. They’re a good couple, but it was hard for me to imagine Harry as being partnered with anyone. The ending was sad for this reason, but it made me like Ginny more for her respect for Harry.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I didn’t even hesitate for a moment before starting the next one.
Link to the book on Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince