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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – By J.K Rowling

By / March 3, 2012 / no comments

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The sixth and penultimate book in the Harry Potter series signals the end of things as we have known them in the Harry Potter world for good, the book sees Harry, Ron and Hermione in their final year of attending Hogwarts and the first year that Lord Voldermort is acting openly in the magical world.

In this book Harry becomes more involved in the myth and legend of the story, which was opened up in the previous book when a secret prophecy is revealed to Harry. The prophecy, made by Harry’s Divination teacher to Albus Dumbledore, the Head teacher of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, asserts that Harry and Voldermort must face one another in a final battle and that one must die for the other to survive.

This ominous prediction now plagues Harry, and he realizes that he must ensure his own survival by discovering how to bring about Voldermort’s demise. However this is not a simple mystery to unravel and it begins early on in the novel when Harry accompanies Dumbledore to the home of Horace Slughorn, a retired teacher from Hogwarts.

Elsewhere in England as the summer holidays come to an end Severus Snape and Narcissa Malfoy, a Hogwarts parent, meet and Snape makes a magically binding promise to Narcissa, “the Unbreakable Vow” which forces Snape to fulfil an unknown task in the place of Narcissa’s son, Draco.

Term begins and Harry and the other students discover that Slughorn has returned to school to teach Potions, whilst Severus Snape, Harry’s most hated teacher, will be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts. Harry has always been suspicious of Snape as he knows he was one of Voldermort’s followers, known as Death Eaters. It was revealed in the last book however that Snape is part of a secret coalition whose soul aim is to bring about Voldermort’s demise. Additionally, recently Harry has also becomes more suspicious fellow Hogwarts student, Draco Malfoy, who he also believes to be a Death Eater.

The summer holidays have been quite eventful for Malfoy, who is a vile and prejudiced bully in Sytherin House at Hogwarts. As his interest in the dark arts has grown he has become eager to impress Lord Voldermort and the other Death Eaters; as the pressure from his master increases Harry notices that Malfoy has begun to behave strangely, becoming more of a reclusive and often disappearing into the mysterious Room of Requirement.

Whilst in one of Slughorn’s potions lessons Harry finds an old textbook that he discovers is filled with helpful notes and recipe alterations that cause Harry to shoot to the head of the class. According to a note scrawled in the book it was the property of the Half Blood Prince a previous Hogwarts student who had a knack for potions and penchant for creating violent and dangerous spells of his own. By excelling in potions Harry finds himself further endeared to Slughorn, who has taken a keen interest in many of the most talented Hogwarts students over the years.

Meanwhile, Harry and Dumbledore begin to meet, in order to prepare Harry for his up coming battle with Voldermort. Dumbledore believes that it is imperative that Harry fully understand Voldermort’s past – including his life as the orphan muggle Tom Riddle – as he believes that the secret to defeating Voldermort lies in his past.

Dumbledore encourages Harry to use his burgeoning relationship with Slughorn to question him about an encounter he had with Riddle when he was a student at Hogwarts. Harry uses a potion he won in a contest in a potions class, known as “Liquid Luck”, to ensure that he gets the information he needs from his tutor. Thanks to the potion Harry is successful and discovers that as a teenager Voldermort began experimenting with a dark and dangerous form of magic that tears the soul apart and confines the pieces into objects of importance, known as Hawcruxes. Harry learns that Voldermort divided his soul into seven pieces in the hopes it would mean he could never die as each piece would have to be destroyed before the piece that remains within him can perish.

This discovery leads to Dumbledore and Harry leaving Hogwarts in search of one of Voldermort’s Hawcruxes that Dumbledore believes is hidden in an underground cave on a beach in England where Voldermort had tortured one of the other orphans as a child.

This part of the book is quite possibly the scariest and most chilling section in all of the Harry Potter books. A fearfully tense influx of what are essentially zombies, whilst Dumbledore slowly goes mad on an island in the middle of a corpse filled lake stands out as some of Rowling’s strongest writing yet. This section of a book that otherwise is a little indistinguishable from its predecessor absolutely shines, and it is an unpleasant ghostly light.

This is not the worst of part of the evenings outing however as, upon returning to Hogwarts, Harry and Dumbledore find that Malfoy has managed to smuggle several Death Eaters into the castle and that between them they intend to murder Dumbledore.

It is here that we discover that the Vow made by Snape to Narcissa Malfoy was a promise that he would be the one to murder Albus Dumbledore, rather than her son. Harry is utterly horror struck when he witnesses his beloved head teacher and mentor falling from a castle turret to his death and realises that he was right and that Snape was betraying the Order all along.

Strangely I felt a little under whelmed by the death of Albus Dumbledore, who has been a wonderful character, who I greatly admired, throughout the series; his death seemed somewhat inevitable and the book doesn’t really give you the chance to grieve for him whilst the shock of the incident is still fresh. Also, the revelation surrouningd Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape is so much larger and astonishing that it distracts a little from the other events that take place on that fateful night.

The previous couple of chapters discussed in this book are very intense and incredibly emotionally draining, it is not a surprise that some of the events loose their impact after a while.

Hogwarts, on the other hand, is devastated by the loss of Albus Dumbledore, who had been a unifying icon within the school. A heartfelt memorial service is held for him by the lake on the school grounds and Harry finds himself vowing revenge.

The penultimate book in the seven book series is far darker and more complex than any of the books that came before it, and by the book’s close many of the questions asked within its pages remain unanswered. This is part of the book’s hypnotic power however, this book is impossible to put down, as the mystical and mythical aspect of the Potter story slowly unfolds before you.

This book has grown with the children who began reading it and is therefore not meant for the younger generations, not yet anyway. It brings up quite disturbing issues about death and morals and deals with them in a series of rather dark and tragic incidents – very much following in the footsteps of the previous couple of books that both included deaths,

But it is not over yet; Harry decides not to return to Hogwarts the following year and instead will continue the quest he began at Dumbledore’s side. The knowledge then that there are more magical and beguiling hawcruxes left to be discovered, and more of the mystery around Lord Voldermort remains hidden will make you struggle not to immediately open the next book as soon as you’ve closed this one.

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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