I would like to start this review with a song.
I will admit that when this book had a strong start, I got worried. The Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix both proved that if a Harry Potter book starts strong, it doesn’t stay that way. The Half-Blood Prince, to my joyous surprise did though. This was the only consistently enjoyable book in the series so far apart from the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Harry Potter is taken to the Burrow by Dumbledore, although they stop so that Harry Potter can help recruit Slughorn as the new teacher.
Upon reaching the Burrow, which is Ron’s house, things go fairly normal. If anything really happened there apart from finding out the Fleur was marrying Bill, I don’t remember it.
We find out that Mrs. Weasley has yet another negative trait. Mr. Weasley even admits that his dream is to figure out how airplanes work, but it seems that Mrs. Weasley doesn’t support his dreams at all. She hates that he’s into non-wizard technology, and is very happy that he’s no longer working in the Muggle Artefacts department.
Ginny also stands up to her mother, reminding me of the twins. She tries to pull her away from talking with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and she just calls back, “I’m talking with this lot!” I thought it was brilliant. So much, that I wrote the quote down!
The Word of the Day
Before I forget, the word of the day is “prat.” It was used at least six times, but I didn’t bother to count. Seemed to be the prime insult for most of the characters.
This appears to be wish-fulfilment the book, and we all know how much J.K. loves wish-fulfilment. *Sneers like Snape.*
Speaking of Snape, he finally got the Defence Against the Dark Arts job. And even better, Hermione finally found a teacher that enjoys her hand being up all the time! Slughorn is very impressed.
Lessons with Dumbledore
The lessons with Dumbledore were, as I said, a tool for lazy exposition. Now that isn’t entirely true, it was used for some very good exposition, but I still feel like it could have been executed a bit better. No big deal though.
What did bug me what we actually learned in the pensive’s memories. See, before I had thought that maybe Tom Riddle was a good student who fell to the Dark Arts and turned into the evil Voldimortimer.
Tomathy “Volditort” Riddler
Nope, he was always evil, ever since childhood. Before we meet him, he was a mysterious brooding presence, always at the root of Harry’s adventures in strange or disturbing ways. But, now that the spotlight is shining on him, I’ve noticed… he’s a really cartoon villain deep down.
Let’s play count the tropes! Voldemort is:
- Evil Genius
- Evil because Evil
- After Immortality
- Craves Power
- Has an honorific name (Lord)
- Prophecy (Complete with chosen one)
- Arch Enemy (of Dumbledore)
- Disliked by All (Most follow him from fear. Notice how many left when he “died”)
- Kills allies
- Turned ugly by evil
- Child Prodigy
- Discriminates (Not pure-blood?)
- Don’t Call me Tom!
- No concept of love
- Literally a psychopath
Whew! I wasn’t expecting that much. And you’re right, it’s sociopath, not psychopath. I wonder if Rowling knew that Voldemort was so damaged? Or worse, that we was so… generic?
See, I know that the “fallen from grace” thing is also a trope, but it’s far more interesting. They could have set up for an epic moral argument at the end, like Tales of Symphonia. (By the way, Symphonia’s plot is far better constructed than this)
The Middle Part There
Tell the Truth, Boy!
Harry Potter has developed a habit of telling the truth. Basically the complete opposite of every other book up to this point. Why? We never find out, ever. There is no explanation. However, I’m very happy about it. (Not the lack of explanation, that’s stupid. But Harry not being a liar really cleans up the narrative.)
The Epic Return of Ron Weasley
Not much to say really. Ron’s back to normal, and I’m very happy about it. (For those of you who missed the previous review, I noted that Ron had become a side character. He really faded into the background, and I like Ron, so that was sad.)
This Book was Written on Valentine’s Day
I know that there were relationships in previous books, but nothing like this. Everyone paired up in this book, almost suddenly, and sometimes twice! It was as if Rowling was like, “Oh no, I’ve hit the second last book and there’s been no movement in the destined relationships since book two! Better do it all now!”
Hermione and Ron made sense, it worked. Harry and Ginny though… I don’t know, it just seemed like it was always one sided, and then Ginny lost interest, and then Rowling decided to stick them together anyway. The result was flat, and emotionless. I got excited every time Ron would make a move, and Hermione would get flustered. I felt nothing when anything happened between Harry and Ginny.
Here’s my theory as to why:
Ginny x Harry was originally a one sided infatuation. Then, Ginny gave up on Harry and moved on. Then, suddenly out of nowhere, Harry (or Rowling) decided he was in love Ginny.
They never really have a decent interaction, or even a conversation! There’s nothing between them, they haven’t had any conversations in which to grow closer, they just made out. Don’t relationships based in making out generally… not do so well?
Once again, Harry proves he’s a Slytherin with the Quiddich game. Clever, he tricked Ron into thinking that he took the luck potion. Ron played amazing, but he hadn’t taken the potion at all!
On a side note, I can’t be the only one who’s seen Harry’s Slytherin side completely disappear since book two, when it was a plot point, right? I really wish Rowling was more attentive writer…
I’d Love to go with You as Friends!
Luna Lovegood is the woman (well, girl, but I prefer to imagine her as a woman.) that Harry brought to Slughorn’s party. Wonderful! As you might have noticed, I’m a huge fan of Luna.
Also, RIP the friendzone. Why Harry, why!!!!!
Slughorn himself is a very well constructed character. He’s very Slytherin in his motives, quite despicable, but he’s also still just a man. And quite a friendly one too. I’m pretty happy about him actually.
The party though, I burst out laughing at this part,
To Harry’s horror, Slughorn threw out an arm and seemed to scoop Snape out of thin air towards them.
This is my kind of humor.
Harry Potter’s Character
Has improved once more. I knew, I knew that he had potential! Harry isn’t perma-angry, and his comebacks are getting strong.
The plot was strung along with Dumbledore keeping secrets to conveniently give Harry and his friends time to date each other. Otherwise, like Prisoner of Azkaban, this book had great pacing.
Wouldn’t it be Neat if the Half-Blooded Prince wasn’t Voldemort?
I wrote that as a note, and then was quite satisfied when Voldimort turned out not to be the prince after all.
The Last Chapters
On getting the Horcrux, if the goblet filled with the potion… why not just dump it out? Why feed it to Dumbledore?
Malfoy seems not to be evil enough to kill Dumbledore. Will he get a chance for redemption? I hope so. You know it’s actually quite easy to turn a foe into a friend, since you have such a deep relationship with them already.
I’m not going to spoil it, although I know I’ve spoiled a lot already.
I am very very picky about deaths. The deaths in Harry Potter so far were not poorly done, and yet they still weren’t all that well done. Sirius died for no reason, and his death made no sense. It didn’t even end up becoming a motivator for Potter! What was the point!? As for this death, I don’t know what to thing. It was unexpected. It was weird. And worse, it could have been faked.
We don’t know where Snape’s allegiances lie at the moment, but consider the following fan theory. (If you could call me a fan, I keep giving the books 6/10s)
What if Snape had simply knocked Dumbledore away? What if he did a silent incantation while saying, perhaps a slurred or mispronounced avada kedavra? Dumbledore gets blasted away, magics up a decoy body, and goes into hiding in the room of requirement.
It’s not even that intricate. It make sense. It’s easy. It works. It’s too good to be true.
So, the Half Blood Prince might actually be the best book so far. I don’t know how to compare it to Azkaban, because that was so long ago. For now, I’ll give it a 78/100. Good job J.K. Rowling, let’s see if you can keep it up!
A Personal Note
When I first started this series, I talked to a friend about it. The thing he had mentioned he hadn’t liked about Harry Potter was that after a certain point, the tone changed completely. I think I’ve hit that point, the point where all the whimsy and all the magic left the series and it devolved into a bunch of teenagers killing each other.
I’m entering the Deathly Hallows tentatively.
I didn’t really sign up for this. I wasn’t really seeking for an entire final book full of depression and violence. I really hope it doesn’t turn out that way, but it seems as if that’s the direction that the series has taken. The tone has shifted.
The comparison that my friend gave was Lord of the Rings. There was always this evil force brooding in the background, and then it slowly came to the foreground, just like Harry Potter. But unlike Harry Potter, that lightheartedness stayed until the end. The example he gave was during the final movie, there was a scene where the cast let loose and Gimli and Legolas had a drinking competition.
Will that be the case in Harry Potter? Will that wonder that came with the first book return? I hope so.
You can find all the reviews at the Harry Potter Table of Contents.
One more book, eh? Let’s see how it goes.
Interested in getting the book yourself? You can buy it here, Half Blooded Prince (Amazon Affiliate Link)