Apokripos's Reviews > Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
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's review
Jun 12, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: action, adventure, award-winning-books, dark-chest-of-wonders, fantasy, fiction-contemporary, from-book-to-film, young-adult
Recommended to Apokripos by: the "Voice"
Recommended for: Potter Fans, who else?!

** spoiler alert **
Dark Times Ahead
(A Book Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling)

**Read at your own risk**

All is not going pretty well in the wizarding world.

As dark forces gather, no one and no place is safe. Wizards and witches are being kidnapped, attacked at every turn and some murdered in cold blood. The obituary pages of the Daily Prophet are browsed with as much frequency as the headlines. Nasty turns of events are also felt by the Muggle government as Lord Voldemort and his cohorts wreak havoc on the non magical population. The Ministry of Magic, on the contrary, is doing one hell of a bad job from preventing these and doing all it can to cover up their inadequacies — much to the chagrin of the wizarding community.

However, for Harry, Ron and Hermione, life must go on. In their sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on the prospect of choosing a future career path, they will learn how to Apparate; will have their (yet again) new Defense Against the Dark Arts, as well as, Potions teacher; and like any regular teens undergoing adolescence will learn to fall in and out of love — flirtations and stalkers included. Still, there are far more that Harry is preoccupied with. For one, there’s Dumbledore’s badly injured hand which he declines to explain and his frequent absences from Hogwarts. Moreover, Harry receives helpful advices from a battered Potions book annotated by someone enigmatically named as the Half-Blood Prince.

The beauty of the Harry Potter series is in its structure: with every succeeding volume as we follow Harry through his schooling with his bunch of friends, devoted fans and readers grows along with them. Its genius lies in its utterly captivating magical alternate world of wands and flying broomsticks and as the book’s pages and plot alike thickens, it expands our wonder and amazement at J.K. Rowling’s wicked inventiveness. Constantly present in all the six books I’ve read so far is Rowling’s deftness in creating a character-driven story that engagingly melds a coming-of-age narrative with a dash of action-thrilling scenes interwoven with elements of a quest tale and intriguing mystery to boot. To read her books is like tumbling down a rabbit hole of half-remembered childhood delight, of being under a spell akin to discovering the joys of reading such a good book for the first time.

Taking center stage in the sixth volume is Lord Voldemort’s back story from his infamous predecessors; the circumstances surrounding his birth; how he came about his prodigious capacities; his schooling at Hogwarts; his continuing interest and gravitation toward the dark arts; up to how he ultimately reinvented himself as the Dark Lord, whom everyone fears, that Harry discovers via the magical device called the Pensieve, a repository for people’s memories, with Dumbledore as his guide. Right now I’m still marveling how cleverly Rowling used this enchanted tool, fusing it as a narrative contrivance to tell us these flashbacks, which I think was employed rather too much, but with the way she teases our minds with tidbits of clues makes me forgive her at that.

Prince is definitely treading on darker grounds and, being one with others who noticed earlier, the occurrences depicted in the book do strike some resemblances to our paranoid times besieged with constant threats of terrorism. Students pass through a sensor (which Rowling called a “Probity Probe”) upon entering or leaving school grounds. Stan Shunpike, a character introduced in the third book as the Knight Bus’s conductor, was arrested in a Guantanamo-style preventive detention on the basis of being a Death Eater without even substantial evidence. Then there’s the Horcruxes which can be made by splitting one’s soul through the act of murder that rendered Lord Voldemort near-immortal and one of the reasons why he’s still alive after the curse trying to kill baby Harry backfired. Well, how more evil can you get than that?

Of course one of the memorable and saddest parts of the book is Prof. Dumbledore’s untimely demise which makes this installment the most unsettling and emotionally-charged thus far. At first there’s denial, but as the sudden realization sinks in, you really can’t do anything but accept it. It’s such an emotional blow to Harry and the readers that such a noble character, being the most powerful wizard of the age and the only one feared by the Dark Lord, is also susceptible, all too mortal like us.

Harry is tougher now, in complete control of his temper and emotions and unafraid to challenge authority figures. One of the scenes that I really liked is when he nonchalantly and frankly declines the offer of the new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, to be the Ministry’s poster boy. All too well aware of loss and death, no one can endure such hardships without being altered, and Harry is no exception. His responsibility of being the “Chosen One” coupled with his growing reputation as the symbol of hope tasked to vanquish Lord Voldemort makes him increasingly isolated; causing him to sacrifice his romantic involvement with Ginny Weasley given the dangers he would have to face and the burden of playing the role of a lone hero. More than asserting himself of being a “Dumbledore’s man through and through” he must learn to be his own. Only by seeking his own identity armed and protected by his ability to love, might be his only slim chance to overcome the looming dark tide of war. It’s such a shame that he sees his capacity to show human tenderness as both a distraction and a weakness, though this attribute, in reality, distinguishes him from his evil adversary as Dumbledore pointed out.

Watching the movie first took most of the fun I could have had derived from reading the book. Actually, this one has become a perfunctory reading for me just to be reminded of the plot points (that the screen adaptation brazenly dispense with) as I prepare myself for the highly-anticipated final book in the series. Yet when I started to speculate, think of what might happen to Harry, of what’s in store for him in his quest to destroy the Hocruxes amd his eventual battle with Lord Voldemort in the seventh book is where, I think, the real fun starts. If, in reading this book review bored you enough, then let me tickle your brains with enough questions that remain and begs to be answered:

· Where does Snape’s loyalty lie? Is he really a Death Eater or in fact acting as a double agent for the Order of the Phoenix? For Snape haters they maybe resigned to the former but as I’ve come to learn from reading this series, nothing and no one is what it seemed to be. I’m hoping that he’ll redeem his character and may have some credible explanation why he did what he has to do in this novel.

· Is the locket referred to in passing in the fifth book the same as the fake one Harry and Dumbledore found in the cave? If so, then who got it now? Does Kreacher have it since he’s the caretaker of 12 Grimmauld Place or was it stolen by Mundungus Fletcher?

· And who is this person with the mysterious initials R. A. B. that switched the real locket with a fake one? What is his agenda for doing this? Will Harry be able to speak with him or has he taken his story to the grave?

· How will Harry proceed now without Dumbledore to guide him and as clueless as it was in the beginning to the whereabouts of the remaining Horcruxes? What were James and Lily Potter were like when tragedy hadn’t befallen them yet? Furthermore, what are the similarities and circumstances that connect Harry to Lord Voldemort that’s left to be uncovered?

More than being an exciting denouement and the penultimate in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a good introduction to the last and final book. Like previous books we still hunger to know more about these characters that we’ve grown so much to love, following their fate that’s inextricably tied to the two wizards that will shape wizarding history to come. I’m still clueless how the series will be heading.

As the story grips us spellbound, I’m sure we’ll still be gaping, enchanted and bracing for more…

Published by Scholastic Inc. (Hardcover First American Edition, July 2005)
652 pages
Started: June 14, 2010
Finished: June 21, 2010
My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
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Reading Progress

June 12, 2010 – Shelved
June 14, 2010 – Started Reading
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: action
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: adventure
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: award-winning-books
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: dark-chest-of-wonders
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: fantasy
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: fiction-contemporary
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: from-book-to-film
June 14, 2010 – Shelved as: young-adult
June 14, 2010 –
page 78
11.61% "Finally I can now read this! I pretty much knew what's going to happen since I watched the movie first, but there are some plot points I miss that I need to know before reading the 7th and final book."
June 15, 2010 –
page 217
32.29% "Ohh my! I missed reading Harry Potter so much I breeze through a 100 pages or so of the book. For a long time I've been a Voldemort fan, just curious what's his background; what he was like when he's not yet the Dark Lord and all. Now's the time to find out. And I'm stunned."
June 17, 2010 –
page 303
45.09% "Harry's lessons with Dumbledore are the parts of this book I always look forward to. They bring me a glimpse of what Lord Voldemort's like growing up. You might be offended by this but with those glimpses I cam to sympathize the Dark Lord. Pure evil do sometimes emanate from goodness."
June 18, 2010 –
page 349
51.93% "The conversation between Harry and the Minister of Magic on Chap. 16 is one exciting part that tells us how Harry had truly matured. I like his biting logic at how he saw the Wizarding comminity's state and howhe refused to be used as a mascot by Scrimgeour. Brilliant!"
June 20, 2010 –
page 579
86.16% "I could've finished book yesterday but I slowed down a bit. I know when I close this book that I'll be missing Harry, Hogwatrs and Dumbledore."
June 21, 2010 –
page 652
97.02% "Reading Dumbledore's sudden death is much more painful than watching it onscreen. The genius of Rowling as we close the book is that arresting feeling melancholy and to facing the challenge head on..."
June 21, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely Another nice review, Jzhun! You should have a weekly article in one of the broadsheets as book reviewer!

message 2: by Aldrin (last edited Jun 27, 2010 07:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Aldrin Brilliant writing, as usual, sir. I'm curious, though, as to how your review would have turned out had you been the least impelled to do away with spoilers, which your review, as it stands, is replete with; hence the preambulatory warning. Were I one who hadn't read the book or one who had long ago written Rowling off as an author who went by "on sheer dumb luck," as Prof. McGonagall was wont to say, I would have been loath to read your review. Believe it or not, there are non-Harry Potter fans out there, and they'll certainly do well to read your well-wrought opinion on the series and be converted to the fold in the process.

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