Written by J. K. Rowling
Shocking. That's the one word that came to mind as I finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Things happen that you won't believe and if you're a fan of the series, I dare you not to shed a few tears. A little later on I'll go into more details on the book, but overall, I thought the book wasn't as good action-wise as the previous two, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but story-wise the book gives you a lot of background information that we've all been wanting to know. It was a very quick read, as its a few hundred pages shorter than the last two books, coming in at 652 pages. But, like all of the books, it's the kind of story you can't put down till you're done.
It's year six at Hogwarts for Harry, Ron and Hermione. Things are looking bad, now that Lord Voldemort has come back into power and the entire wizarding community knows he's back. Headmaster Dumbledore however, knows something that most do not; how Voldemort can be destroyed. But to do so, he'll need some help from Harry. Harry has his own problem, as always. He's been made Quidditch captain this year and has to put together a winning team. He also has feelings for someone that is a bit unexpected. Ron and Hermione continue their dance as well. A new teacher joins the school, but not as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And we learn a lot about Voldemort and how he turned into the creature he is now. As I said before, there isn't a lot of action in the book. It's mostly about the past and learning more about the characters we've come to love over the past few years. And love is a very important theme in this book as well, more so than in the past. The action picks up towards the end and when it does, be prepared. It's an ending you won't expect.
OK you've been warned. If you don't want to know what happens in the book, don't keep reading. Otherwise, let's carry on. I like the fact that the book starts with the Ministry of Magic getting in contact with the Muggle Prime Minister. It gives the entire book more of a realistic feel, knowing that what's happening isn't just confined to the Wizarding community. And the book itself is much, much darker than past books. In the first two books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, we were still dealing with kids, so really bad things never happened. It was more of a two-book introduction to all the major characters. Things started taking a turn to the dark side during Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where we're introduced to Sirius Black and the possibilty that he's a mass murderer. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire we get the first major death in the series, with Cedric Diggory going down at the hands of a reborn Voldemort. And in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we of course lose Sirius Black to the hands of a Death Eater. Each books has become darker and darker, with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince taking the cake as being the darkest of them all. In a little bit I'll talk about who died and why I think he died, or maybe he never really died at all.
Love plays a big role in this book. You of course have Ron and Hermione continuing to dance around the fact that they like each other, with Ron going so far as to start 'snogging' Lavender Brown. Snog is a word that comes up often in the book and it's basically just making out. Unless these people are really having sex in the hallways, which I would like to think they aren't. Hermione tries to make Ron jealous but instead just gets herself into trouble. Ginny Weasley is going out with Dean Thomas, which makes Harry extremely jealous, although he can't understand why. And neither could I, since nothing had ever been written about Harry liking Ginny until now, so that story came from out of nowhere. We also learn, in a story line that had no importance, at least in this book, that Tonks likes Lupin and Bill Weasley is about to marry Fleur Delacour. And there is a lot of talk about Voldemort's upbringing and the lack of love in his life. Dumbledore has said in just about every book that the one thing Harry has that Voldemort doesn't, is the power to love, and in the Half-Blood Prince, we're shown over and over how important that is. It is expected since everyone is getting older. Witches and Wizards become 'of age' at 17, and in this book, they all start off as 16 year olds, with Ron and Hermione turning 17 during the course of events. And they all act a lot older, with Dumbledore finally seeing Harry as an equal, and even the Minister of Magic going to Harry for help.
OK so let's get to the juicy stuff. First, the identity of the Half-Blood Prince is none other than the man you love to hate, Severus Snape. Harry gets an old book in his Potions class that is filled with helpful notes from someone calling himself the Half-Blood Prince. At the time, no one is sure who that is, but the notes come in very handy and Harry becomes the best in the class. It is only at the end we find out who the Prince is, but the real question is, why was he helping Harry? I've read these books often enough to know that nothing happens without a reason, so even if it wasn't fully explained here, there is a reason Snape was helping Harry. Which leads to the real shocker of the book, and that is the death of Albus Dumbledore. Or, is he really dead? I've got a couple of theories. First, back to the idea that nothing happens in these books without a reason. J. K. Rowling made a big deal over these new 'rules' everyone was supposed to follow to make sure the people they were dealing with were the good guys. One of the rules was, make sure you ask them a question only they would know the answer to. But after the initial mention, it never came back. So when Harry and Dumbledore went on their journey into the caves, I kept thinking, did Harry ask Dumbledore any questions? Why would that be such a big deal early in the book but never come back? Is it possible that wasn't the real Dumbledore?
My other thought, assuming that Dumbledore is in fact dead, is that he had to die in order for Harry to accomplish the bigger task of killing Voldemort. We still have not heard why Dumbledore trusts Snape so much. All evidence, especially in this book, is that Snape still works for Voldemort, yet Dumbledore, as smart as he is, still trusts Snape. So maybe, in an Obi-Wan Kenobi way, Dumbledore knew that the only way Harry could ever reach his full potential and fulfill his destiny, was for Dumbledore to die. And what better person to have kill him than Snape, the one person Harry hates maybe even more than Voldemort. Why else would Dumbledore stun Harry to keep him quiet? And Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of all time, couldn't conjure up a spell to get his wand back and defeat Malfoy and everyone else? Even if he was injured? There is much more to this story than was revealed in the book and I fully believe that this was all a big plan of Dumbledore. He knew his life was less important than getting rid of Voldemort and so he sacrificed himself to reach that goal.
What is left for the final chapter in the Harry Potter saga? We know that Harry and Voldemort have to have a final showdown. We will finally have to hear why Dumbledore trusted Snape so much even though no one else did. Harry, Ron and Hermione have to track down the other four Horcruxes in order to get to that final battle. Ron and Hermione will finally have to 'snog' and we'll find out what happens with Harry and Ginny. We'll also find out why Dumbledore had to die (or if he's really even dead!) There is a lot that needs to be explained and I have a feeling, and rather hope, that the final book hits 1000 pages because really, who wants the series to end?
It'll be at least three years, if my thinking is correct, before book seven comes out. The movies follow this path: Movie four comes out November 2005, Movie five comes out June 2007, Movie six comes out November 2008 and Movie seven comes out Summer 2010. The books tend to get released in the summer, you don't want to release a book and a movie at the same time, and you still need a couple of years to take a book, turn it into a screenplay and have it released in time, so therefore, it would have to be Summer 2008 when book seven comes out. Three more years! In some ways, I can't wait to see how it all ends, but at the same time, I don't want it to end. I'm older than the target audience, but even I have started to read again like I did when I was a kid, all due to the Harry Potter books.