Science fiction and fantasy
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
by J. K. Rowling
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.
If you like this, try:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 by David Yates
Will Harry survive his confrontation against Voldemort in the final part of his magical adventures?
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by David Yates
Harry faces his fifth year at Hogwarts and the terror of exams, Death Eaters, and a sadistic teacher obsessed with kittens.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by Alfonso Cuaron
Will Harry's third year at Hogwarts see his worst fears realised?
Review © Ros Jackson
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