BOOK: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
AUTHOR(S): J.K. Rowling.
SERIES: Harry Potter, book six of seven.
GENRE: Fiction. Young Adult. Fantasy.
DATE READ: 01/02/2017-01/19/2017.
LENGTH: 652 pages.
PERSONAL RATING: 4/5
It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys’ house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can’t quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys’ of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time? Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine…
THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I know, I know, I’m super behind in getting on the Harry Potter bandwagon. I am painfully aware that this book series came out 10 or so year ago. I am aware that by not reading it or watching the movies that I was missing out on a huge part of modern-day culture. BUT I’M FINALLY WORKING ON IT, SO CUT ME A BREAK. That said, I had actually managed to either A) avoid B) forget or C) ignore most spoilers for this series before I started reading it a couple years ago (it’s a slow process because the books are huge and while good, they don’t hold my attention for hours on end). Going into the last two books, however, I had one major thing spoiled for me: that Snape killed Dumbledore. I didn’t know what book it happened in or when it happened, or how it happened for that matter, but I knew it did. So when I got to the second to last chapter of this book and the scene with Dumbledore facing off with Malfoy on the astronomy tower, I knew what was going to happen. I knew that Snape would find his way up there and finish off Dumbledore and I dreaded it.
That didn’t make the death scene any easier to deal with, however. I very nearly started sobbing while reading it and, honestly, if I wasn’t one book away from finishing the series, I’d probably stop now. I was already upset with Rowling for killing of Sirius, one of my favorite characters, but to then kill off Dumbledore at the hands of Snape, the man he trusted without any doubt? Ugh. So pissed. Although I probably would’ve been more upset had Malfoy actually done it; for Dumbledore to be finished off by a jackass of a student… That wouldn’t been more than I could stand.
Moving on from that, however…
Overall, I did enjoy the book. Like all (except Prisoner of Azkaban) of the other books in the series, it was mostly good but had some parts that left me wishing Rowling would’ve just cut out about 100 pages. I personally don’t care at all about Quidditch and would prefer those sections to be shorter, even if something relatively important happens. In this book, I felt that the Quidditch match where Harry got hit in the head really wasn’t all that important, it was just a good excuse for him to end up in the medical wing with Ron. But whatever; I can deal with that pretty easily since Quidditch is so important to Harry. Other parts dragged on a bit too much for my liking as well, though not enough for me to give up on the book. Generally speaking, Rowling is pretty good about keeping the pace up and giving readers good hooks to keep them reading. (Just like she’s good at killing important characters in the last three or so chapters to keep people hooked/more inclined to preorder the next book, back when they were first coming out.)
I felt that the opening was super solid. Introducing the war in such a way that didn’t directly involve any of the normal characters was great. I generally enjoyed the way that Voldemort’s history was revealed and how Dumbledore, smart as he was, guessed – and admitted he was guessing – at most of the details after a certain point.
The thing that bothered me the absolute most about this book, however, was the seemingly random and out-of-nowhere romances, which it was absolutely full of! (Perhaps they’d’ve seemed less random if I read the books back-to-back; it’s possible I just missed some of the “warning signs” in earlier books/forgot about them because it’s been so long since I read the first five.) I felt like Rowling sat down to write this and went, “Hey, there haven’t been any important romances in the first five, not really! I’d best add some in there to make sure people stay interested!” Bill and Fleur came out of nowhere, and I cannot stand Fleur as a character; Harry and Ginny felt completely spur of the moment (on Harry’s side) and out of nowhere, not to mention was essentially pointless since they got together for a chapter and then Harry broke up with her; Ron and Lavender… that was just a gross, “boy is pissed at someone and needs to make them jealous but doesn’t understand why he cares so much and is going to use someone else who has genuine feelings for him without care for how they feel” sort of relationship; Remus and Tonks literally makes no sense at all to me… Basically, I feel like the story wouldn’t have lost anything at all had none of these relationships been a part of the book.
I did, however, wonder if maybe Tonks was actually Malfoy using a Polyjuice Potion. Obviously Malfoy was up to something big and since both he and Tonks were looking rather thin and undernourished, as Harry pointed out when Tonks came to visit Dumbledore, it would’ve made a lot of sense. Especially since Malfoy obviously needed to get close to Dumbledore. But no, Tonks was just so literally lovesick over Remus that she was a miserable, unhealthy person who couldn’t be bothered to put effort into how she looked (which was a very big character trait up until this point). It would’ve been better to have Malfoy masquerading as her than to just have her be in love with a werewolf that didn’t want to get involved with her. (Honestly, I don’t much care for Tonks in general, so her sudden change in character this book really irked me.)
As I said, though, I did enjoy the book overall. Rowling writes characters that are easy to hate (Snape, Malfoy, Umbridge) and characters that are pretty easy to love (Sirius, Dumbledore) and characters that I go back and forth on, depending on the circumstances. And although I am super upset with her about killing off important people, I also applaud her for not being afraid to do so. I just hope that Sirius’s and Dumbledore’s deaths serve more of a purpose in the last book. Although death in real life hardly has purpose, and maybe that’s what she’s getting at…
Oh, and regarding Snape being the half-blood prince? I expected it was either him or Voldemort, especially with that Sectumsempra hex; obviously it was going to end up being someone Harry despised and would never want to be like, not someone he could look up to.
And, since Rowling is obviously not letting go of this series for a long time, can we petition her to write a book or five about Dumbledore’s life pre-Harry Potter? I really want to know more about his backstory.