Monday, December 13, 2010

Canon Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Continuing on with the reviews of each book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter saga, today I review the sixth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. At 652 pages, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince isn't as long as the previous two books, but it's lengthy enough to cover what needs to be covered. In this book, Harry is back for his sixth year at Hogwarts, along with Ron and Hermoine and Seamus and all his Hogwarts friends. More personnel changes take place, as Hogwarts has a new potions teacher in Horace Slughorn, who replaces Severus Snape. But don't fret about Snape, as he finally realizes his lifelong dream of becoming the new defense against the dark arts teacher. But not all is well as Hogwarts, as Harry's arch rival Voldemort and his Death Eaters have risen to power, causing chaos in their wake, and Harry, along with Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore, spend much of the year preparing for the eventual showdown with Voldemort which, as has been prophesied, will leave one of the two dead. A few notes about Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and I'm going to try to not spoil too much in the story, but there are due to be some SPOILERS, so be careful.

- In the last book, I felt that Harry and others, including Hermoine, had become a bunch of self-important cranks. Well, a year seems to have made a difference with Harry, as although he still has a few moments of immaturity, he seems a lot more focused and less likely to snap at everybody in sight this time around. However, it seems as if Ron and Hermoine once again spend most of the book angry at each other about all sorts of things. Then Ron gets a girlfriend, which makes things much much worse, and Hermoine's various dates with others doesn't help matters, so basically you have Harry's two best friends feuding with each other for half of the book, which is probably not the thing Harry needs to deal with, what with his upcoming battle with the most powerful dark wizard of all time and all. Harry is not spared by Hermoine's wrath either, as Harry uses an old potions book written in by the mysterious Half-Blood Prince to become the top student in potions class, much to Hermoine's chagrin. Although, I must say, I do kind of see her point, as Harry just happened to find the right book while Hermoine does all her work the old-fashioned way.

- In the previous years at Hogwarts, a certain pattern developed. Something traumatic happens, Harry gets involved, and everybody starts to pile on Harry. Well, not this time, as the events of the previous book have made Harry a modern day folk hero. The same newspapers that sought to destroy his reputation now call him 'the chosen one', the same Ministry of Magic that tried to get Harry expelled now ask for his help, the same group of students that once mocked and ridiculed Harry now treat him as if he's up on a pedestal (well, except for the Slytherins). To Harry's credit, he doesn't rub it in everybody's faces by telling them 'I told you so' or some other nonsense, although he also is rather skeptical of his newfound acceptance, and wants little or nothing to do with the same people that nearly destroyed him in the last book.

- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, it seems as if half the book is spent with Harry and Dumbledore learning about Voldemort's past through memories stored in Dumbledore's pensive. That's all well and good, as it gives both Voldemort and Dumbledore's characters more depth, the scenes also make the rest of the book's events seems boring in comparison. It's as if the Voldemort-Dumblerdore chapters are the ones that end up being of importance, while most of everything else that happens in the book (excluding Harry's scene with Slughorn at Hagrid's, and the ending sequence) kind of filler. Even when Ron Weasley, one of the main characters in the book, was in grave danger after being poisoned, it didn't seem to have the same impact as it should have, because the telling of the story gave more weight to Dumbledore's time with Harry than anything else, if that makes any sense.

- There aren't too many new characters introduced in this book. Yes, Slughorn is new, and plays a big role in the story after all. Slughorn isn't a particularly bad guy, however, he tends to favor those students who he feels would exceed in the future, and therefore, Slughorn can leech off of their fame in the future. It'd probably be mildly annoying for those that weren't the chosen few of Slughorn, I would imagine. Heck, I've had a couple of teachers like that before, and it's not too fun being on the other side of that equation. We also get acquainted with Voldemort's family, and considering what type of people they are, it's not hard to see how Voldemort could become so evil with people such as that being his blood.

- Once again, Draco Malfoy is back as Harry's foil at Hogwarts. But this time, Draco seems to have taken a turn. Not only is he more competent in his battles with Potter, breaking his nose at one point, but his smug self-nature seems to have been deflated some, as his pop's in prison and Voldemort has given Draco a seemingly impossible task. Somehow, even though it takes him all year, Draco puts together a plan that leads to this task being done, although you'll have to read the book to see what it is.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is better than the previous book, but still falls slightly short of the previous four books in the saga. Other than the demise of a major character at the end, it seems as if the sole purpose of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is to build up to the final book in the series, where everything will come to a head. Even the title plot with the Half Blood Prince gets lost in the shuffle, and the revelation of said Prince doesn't have as much impact as other events towards the end do. Also, characters such as Neville and Hagrid kind of get shuffled to the background, as the book mainly focuses on Harry and Dumbledore. Still, it's not a terrible book by any stretch of the imagination, and it does build up a lot of suspense to the conclusion. Overall, I'd give Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince a 6.5 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading. Remember, if you have any ideas for future reviews, or comments about this or previous reviews, then send them to me either by e-mail at or by leaving a comment on the blog.

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