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

SPOILER WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK, STOP READING THIS BLOG.

I wanted to start out my blogging experience with this book because I’m a huge Potter fan and it seemed like a good occasion to begin. I knew I would have lots of thoughts about the book after reading it, and questions that I wanted to mull over in writing.

What’s not to like?
First off, I really enjoyed the book. Admittedly it’s hard for me not to enjoy a Potter book. However, I enjoyed Half-Blood Prince because it has a good balance between Harry’s school/social life and the extraordinary, saving-the-world adventures that he’s always involved in. After being a public pariah in Goblet of Fire, and the victim of Umbridge’s abuse in Order of the Phoenix, it was nice to see Harry dealing with relatively ordinary issues such as girl trouble, and the responsibilities of being quidditch team captain for a change.
Some readers have commented on similarity between headlines that might appear in the Daily Prophet and those that might appear in the Washington Post or London Times: terrorism among the civilian populace, kids bringing weapons to school, etc. While there are clear echoes of contemporary issues throughout the backdrop of the novel, I like that Rowling has kept the focus on Harry: what he’s going through, and the people that are important in his life. I’ve always had a very strong sense of empathy with him as the hero of the story because of this.Though Voldemort himself doesn’t really appear, through Harry’s suspicions of Draco Malfoy and Prof. Snape being involved with Voldemort, Rowling is able to scale down that large-scale good vs. evil battle going on outside the school walls to a more Hogwarts-sized problem for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to deal with between class assignments and quidditch matches.

Teen life a la Rowling
One of the things that Rowling clearly continues to have fun with is taking elements of our normal, Muggle teenage life and adding her magical spin to them. Where there are crushes and love triangles, there are also love potions that completely take over the victim’s mind. Instead of drivers’ ed, there’s apparition lessons and exams. The kids that we’ve come to know and love get to grow up Rowling-style (the moment when Harry kissed Ginny was priceless!). After Harry lost Sirius, I was delighted that Harry was able to spend some more time with Dumbledore and that their bond was strengthened… alas (no, not again with the tears!).
As this is the second last book, it was about time that Rowling started to fill in the blanks about Voldemort. In each of the previous books she has added a bit to the mythology of his origins, but this time around it’s exciting to learn so much of his backstory. It’s also great to hear from Dumbledore how fallible Voldemort seems to be.What next?
Though I have already included a spoiler warning, I don’t want to get too much into the ending except to say that it would be odd if Harry didn’t return to Hogwarts next year, or if the last book was not set at Hogwarts. However, given that there are so many things that need to happen before the anticipated showdown between Harry and Voldemort, if Rowling tried to fit it all in between NEWT exams and other school-based activities, the last book just might become too long even for ardent fans.

Some puzzling questions
Finally, I know that I miss things when reading, and I’ve only read the novel through once, so maybe someone else can help me out with some puzzling bits. Again there are more spoilers here in my questions, so if you haven’t read the book and have nevertheless decided to read my blog, please please don’t read these questions:

  1. In the tower, at the climactic point of the novel, why does Dumbledore freeze Harry? Wasn’t Harry going to get Snape? Isn’t that what Dumbledore asked him to do? Did Dumbledore pull an Obi-Wan and intentionally allow himself to be killed?
  2. Does Dumbledore really not know any magic that he can use to defend himself without his wand? Surely such an advanced wizard is not defenseless just because some blonde teenager has Expelliarmus’d him.
  3. What was Dumbledore using to detect the horcrux and find the location of the cave? If it was fake, why did Dumbledore detect it and think it was real? For that matter, why would R.A.B. bother to put a fake locket back in and refill the potion? All the booby traps set by Voldemort seemed to have been reset. So either they reset automatically, or R.A.B. reset them, or Voldemort reset them and left the fake behind. None of those options really makes much sense. Logically it should have been obvious that someone had already taken the real locket.
  4. How is it that Rosmerta was able to catch Dumbledore and Harry when they returned to the Hog’s Head after their mission? She thought that they were only going to be gone briefly, so she must have been waiting a long time. Who was tending her tavern? What exactly was she instructed by Malfoy to do? If Malfoy only knew that Dumbledore had gone because Rosmerta informed him when she saw them arrive, how did he have time to come up with the whole Dark Mark plan so quickly?

Things left to ponder
I’m glad that Rowling left us with some questions to debate until the next (last… sniff!) novel comes out.

  • Is Snape really evil or good? Would Malfoy have killed Dumbledore?
  • Is Dumbledore truly dead? How will the Order of the Phoenix fight on?
  • Who is R.A.B. and what are his/her motives?
  • What’s going to happen between Hermione and Ron?
  • Will they return to Hogwarts? Will Hogwarts stay in business?

Anyway, thanks for reading my blog. I hope I will have many more adventures in pop culture to share with you.

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One thought on “Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling”

  1. Yeah, i agree, an exellent book ^W^. I guess there are a couple of gaps in the story i hadn’t thought about, especially the thing about Dumbledore not being able to defend himself. I guess he was really weak from the potion he had to drink. There are alot of gaps about the magical world in general, like, do they just presume all the hogwarts first year students can read and write? What if they have never been to school, like Ron, and can’t do simple maths? The more you think about it, the more questions you ask. I suppose your not meant to think about it that carefully are you… ;-). Anyway, thanks for an interesting read!

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