Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Friday, June 24, 2011

**If you haven’t read this book, just skip this review. I tried to avoid spoilers, but there is just too much to talk about.**

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
by J.K. Rowling

I’d forgotten how much I adore this book. It’s one of my favorites of the whole series. The stakes are high as Voldemort begins his full-force attack. People are disappearing or dying and all of the main characters realize that they will probably lose some loved ones before it’s all said and done.

I love the way Rowling beings the book in the office of the British prime minister as he receives a visit from Fudge. It was the perfect way to catch readers up on all the mayhem that happened over the summer. It also helps us understand how the two ministries (magical and non) work together or at least touch base on occasion.

Harry’s trip to Slughorn’s with Dumbledore is incredibly awkward because they’ve never had a private conversation outside of Hogwarts. Also, their relationship changed forever at the end of Book 5, when Harry was broken-hearted and screamed and railed at Dumbledore. Throughout this book we watch their relationship deepen as they spend more time one-on-one and Dumbledore treats Harry more like an equal, instead of as a student. He is training Harry, like an apprentice, in what he’ll need to know to fight Voldemort.

I love the scenes where Dumbledore and Harry explore the memories that shed light on Tom Riddle’s transformation into Voldemort. We see his parents and horrible grandfather. We learn about his time at the orphanage and tendency towards violence before he even knew he was a wizard. We see him as a loveable, manipulative student and a charming young shop clerk. These scenes are what make Voldemort such a great villain. We see behind the curtain of pure evil into the roots of his desire for power and control.

Dumbledore was incredibly observant during his first meeting with Riddle. When he looks back on that memory he realizes just how much information he gathered. Tom liked to collect treasures from his victims; he had no friends and didn’t want help from anyone; he used magic to control and dominant others; he desperately wanted to be different and “special.” All of those elements are very much a part of Voldemort and help Dumbledore find his weaknesses.

During Christmas break Harry stands up to the new Minister, Scrimgeour, and sides with Dumbledore instead of the ministry. He shows such bravery and loyalty. I love the scene later when he tells Dumbledore about the exchange …

“He accused me of being ‘Dumbledore’s man through and through.’”
“How very rude of him.”
“I told him I was.”
Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again.

It always broke my heart the Dumbledore died at the end, but now on my fourth re-read, I think I finally understand why it was crucial for it to happen that way. Harry has to fight the final battle on his own. Dumbledore was the only other person who truly could have helped him, so he had to die for Harry’s path to become inevitable.

A few things I'd forgotten about the sixth book:

1) Harry’s the Quidditch captain this year. I honestly think I they could have cut out half of the Quidditch scenes in the series and I wouldn’t have noticed. I like the fact that they’re used to demonstrate things like Ron finding self-confidence, but I’m just not a big fan of those parts.

2) At Dumbledore’s funeral Harry has a strange urge to laugh. That’s such a relatable moment for me. When you’re grieving your emotions are so raw and laughter is nestled right to crying.

3) Ginny is so sassy in this book. She and Ron fight, she dates other guys and she stands up for her friends. I love how her relationship with Harry develops as he gets to know her better.

4) In one scene Mrs. Weasley says, “It was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwart’s Express, Harry.”
I feel like it was lucky for Harry as well, because Ron, with all his bumbling faults, is such a wonderful friend for Harry. He keeps him grounded in the normalcy of being a teen.

5) Dumbledore tells Harry he should tell Ron and Hermione exactly what the prophecy said, because he needs his friends. He’s so wise.

"But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there is little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew - and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents - that there was all the difference in the world."

Read for the Harry Potter Challenge hosted here.


Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

One of the reasons why this is one of my favorite books is the series as well is the insight into Snape's past and with him, Harry's parents.

It's an amazing feat of characterization, for a "children's book"

Sandy Nawrot said...

Oh yeah, this one was just incredible. Such a range of emotions, and during the last hundred pages or so, I have heart palpitations! When I first read it, the 7th book wasn't out yet and I felt into a malaise. I was incensed at the movie. It was made to appeal to tweens, with all that angst and stuff, when the theme was so much heavier.

Jillian said...

My 3rd favorite!! I found a new appreciation for Ginny's character here, and of course, I thought Snape was just amazing here. Also, introducing the horcruxes... gahhh! Need I say more??

Mumsy said...

You didn't mention (probably because there was so much other aweseomeness to talk about) one of my favorite scenes - the scene near the beginning where Dumbledore tells off the Dursleys. I really wanted there to be some redemption for Petunia in the seventh book! Oh well - can't have everything.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Alexandra - Snape is one of those amazing characters that you can't fully appreciate until you read the entire series, then read it again with the full knowledge of why he does what he does.

Sandy - The tween angst is the only part that gets old, but I have to remind myself that it's suppose to be annoying.

Jillian - The horcruxes are such a brilliant idea!

Mumsy - I love that scene! There really is so much to talk about in this book. Dumbledore's disappointment and anger at the Dursleys is so control, but so powerful.

BookQuoter said...

I love that Snape finally becomes the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Finally!!! (as you know, he is my favorite character)

Jenny said...

I just love this book so, so, so much. It's my second favorite after Prisoner of Azkaban. The scenes where Harry stands up to Scrimgeour and then tells Dumbledore about it are two of my favorite scenes in the entire series. And one of my most vivid memories from reading it for the first time (at one in the morning, in an ugly flat in Croyden) is of waking up everyone by shrieking out loud in fury that Snape got the Dark Arts job. Dumbledore! What? NO.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

BookQuoter - That job must be cursed though, because even he only had it for a year!

Jenny - I love your memory of reading this. That's hilarious. When the final book came out I was a reporter at a small daily newspaper and it was 4H fair week. So I carried the giant hardback around with me and read it in between covering goat competitions and tractor races. I definitely won't forget that experience.

Peggy Tryton said...

The thing I loved about Quidditch in this book is Luna's commentary! Loser's lurgy....

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Peggy - That's true, I do love her commentary!