Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

by J. K. Rowling


For five years, Harry Potter has come to see Hogwarts as a second home. In spite of all his adventures, its walls have always represented safety and security for Harry. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince war has broken out, and nowhere is safe any more.

This is a book that works hard to knock our cosy assumptions on the head. It opens with the muggle prime minister meeting with Fudge and the new minister for magic, Scrimgeour. They tell the prime minister exactly what he doesn't want to hear.

Just as the muggle leader has some unpleasant truths to get used to, Rowling drops a bombshell about Professor Snape. Whose side is he really on?

Some things never change in the Potter universe, and one of these things is that a new teacher is needed for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Dumbledore takes Harry with him to sweet-talk Horace Slughorn into returning to teach at the school. Slughorn is not keen to take sides against the Death Eaters, fearing that this will put him in harm's way. He was the old head of Slytherin, and he's a compulsive networker. He is keen to bring people together, so long as they are important or famous people in whose glory he can bask.

A lot of ground has been covered during the previous books, and if you haven't read them recently you may find yourself in need of a few reminders. More recapping of the plot would have been useful, because there is so much to remember. Harry is lonely and grieving following the events of The Order of the Phoenix, and the tone is far more serious than before. With one major character down, it's clear that anybody could be fair game for the Death Eaters.

This is a school year filled with rites of passage: the results of OWLs, NEWTs choices, apparition tests and career decisions. Harry's sheltered life at Hogwarts is coming to an end. Teenage hormones are raging, as you might expect, and the young wizards find plenty of time for snogging and falling out due to jealousy. There is even a wedding on the cards, much to Mrs Weasley's chagrin. But these everyday matters are overshadowed by Voldemort's growing power.

Malfoy is up to something, as always, but this time it's without letting Crabbe, Goyle, or any of his fellow Slytherins know what he is planning. Whilst Harry tries to uncover Malfoy's plot he is also occupied with learning much more about Voldemort's past. The Dark Lord was once just an ordinary wizard. Dumbledore and Harry work together to uncover Voldemort's secrets in the hope of finding a way to defeat him.

The plot is intricate, and in book 6 the smallest details of the previous books start to come together to make sense at last. But clever plotting isn't the only thing that gives this book its impact. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is truly shocking, not because its events are entirely unexpected, but because it jolts us out of our complacency. The affair with Severus Snape is deftly handled, so that right until the end we have our doubts about the truth. J K Rowling is playing with our faith in the characters, as well as with our expectations of this sort of book. By the end of the story Harry is no longer a boy, and his whole world has changed irrevocably.

This is an intense book, even a little melodramatic in places, and one that introduces new facets to the Harry Potter series. Rowling really knows how to pull the rug out from under her readers.

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
    Male Protagonist  

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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More reviews of J K Rowling books


Mark Smartt     7th October, 2005 13:02pm

The book is SUPERERB

Philip Chalmers     22nd November, 2005 01:01am

Did J K Rowling try too hard to keep down the length of "Half-blood Prince"? Dumbledore seems too easily misled and too easily vanquished at the end - especially by comparison with the climax of "Order of the Phoenix", where he seems too powerful. Such a big change needs a big explanation.

Perhaps JKR cut some scenes which would have explained Dumbledore's vulnerability. On her web site she admits that Flitwick has some back-story that doesn't get into the books (, and describes quite a few other cuts ( There's been a bit of pruning in all the books.

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