Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter Book 6 of 7)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré

I thought this book was as hard to put down as the previous book in the series. I’m glad I was able to start it on a Friday night so that I could spend lots of time reading it over the weekend. This next week is probably going to be frustrating, though. I’ll be anxious to read the last book but I won’t have nearly as much reading time as I would like during the work week.

 

I’m giving this book 5 stars for the same reason I gave the previous book 5 stars – because of how much it gripped me and took over my life, causing me to spend every spare moment possible reading it. But that doesn’t mean I like everything that happened in the book.

 

I really can’t write anything else that wouldn’t risk spoiling the fun (and in some cases torture) for anybody who still hasn’t read this series, so the rest is in spoiler tags.

 

 

Ok, I know I said in my last review that I wanted to see more of Dumbledore, and I was really happy that this book had so much of him in it. There were some really great moments between him and Harry. But I hated that he died! Of all of the characters Rowling could have killed off, he was the one that I least wanted to see die. It might be odd, but his death had more emotional impact on me than I think either Ron’s or Hermione’s would have if one of them got killed.

 

On the other hand, Dumbledore’s death didn’t take me completely by surprise. I’ve had this niggling worry since the very early books that he was doomed to die by the end. I can’t even really explain why. Maybe it’s just that the character type – kindly, wise, elderly mentors – don’t often seem to fare very well in fictional stories. I just kept hoping that I was wrong. I had thought it would happen in the last book if it happened at all, though. I can kind of see the point of doing it in this book, for the sake of Harry’s character growth since he is the main character after all. This forces him to be the one making the big decisions now. Harry won’t have Dumbledore’s wisdom to fall back on (even if he did ignore it way too often) or the safety and rescues he often provided.

 

There were some things that didn’t add up, though. I was always waffling about where Snape’s loyalties were. It’s hard to consider somebody to be one of the “good guys” when he holds onto his anger so steadfastly and when he treats people with such prejudice. Blaming Harry for his father’s behavior was unfair and irrational and, if he was really working against Voldemort, it seemed like he often put his own petty interests ahead of the good of the cause. So I was never 100% sure – was he as evil as he acted? Or was he a misguided and hateful person who was still genuinely working against Voldemort? Or was most of his behavior a big act to make certain Voldemort would believe he was still working for him even when he wasn’t?

 

I usually swung toward one of the last two explanations because Dumbledore trusted him and I couldn’t imagine Dumbledore being wrong. I know he wasn’t infallible, but I figured he had a really, really good reason for trusting Snape. Harry believed that Dumbledore was bamboozled by Snape’s apparent regret about leading to the death of Harry’s parents when Snape hated them to begin with. That doesn’t make sense to me because Dumbledore was definitely not a fool. He was wise enough to be cautious about Tom Riddle, so why would he be any less cautious with Snape who had undeniably been serving Voldemort? It just seems like there had to be more to Dumbledore’s belief that Snape could be trusted.

 

I also thought it was weird that Dumbledore said “Please” to Snape right at the end, as if he was asking him not to kill him. That’s how Harry interpreted it, anyway. If Dumbledore really had realized at that point that Snape wasn’t really on his side, I still don’t think he would have done anything remotely like beg for his life. It seemed wrong and completely out of character.

 

So I can’t help but hope there’s some sort of trick going on – that this was some sort of an elaborate ruse and things aren’t really as they appear. I know that’s really unlikely, though. We know that Harry apparently became unfrozen from his paralysis the moment Dumbledore died, and his phoenix Fawkes began mourning shortly after his death also. The characters all saw his dead body. And we saw Snape agree to the unbreakable promise that he would help Malfoy accomplish his objective which Malfoy made pretty clear was to kill Dumbledore. On the other hand, if Snape wasn’t really on Voldemort’s side, then he surely would have told Dumbledore about the plot and they would have had time to come up with something… but I’m probably overthinking it just because I didn’t want Dumbledore to die.

 

Ok, moving on! There was quite a bit of teenage romance angst in this book. More than I wanted, although at least the Harry/Cho thing seems to be well over with. I didn’t like Cho at all. Ginny is at least likeable. The Hermione/Ron thing got a little annoying, though. I don’t mind a relationship developing between the two of them, and it’s been obvious that was coming from early on, but the immature way they handled it got tiresome. I know, they’re teenagers and their behavior wasn’t abnormal, but I still didn’t really want to read about it. And I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room every time I read “Won-Won”. Yech.

 

Given the conversation some of us had about the Time-Turners after I wrote my review for book 3, I thought it was worth pointing out that they were referred to again in this book. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are talking to Hagrid about why they didn’t sign up for his course this year and Hagrid suggests they could have “applied for Time-Turners” and Hermione tells Hagrid that they “smashed the entire stock of Ministry Time-Turners” when they were there. This seems to imply that there’s an application process by which people can request to use Time-Turners and that there are several of them. In book 3, it had seemed to me like Hermione was given a bizarrely unique experience by being allowed to use one, but this seems to indicate that it wasn’t unprecedented. There was also the tiniest hint of them in the previous book, but it wasn’t clear if Time-Turners were actually being referred to so I didn’t mention it in my last review.

 

I loved the first chapter in this book where we get to see the muggle Prime Minister learn about magic and interact with the “other minister”. That was a very funny chapter and I enjoyed it even though I was anxious to get back to the main characters. Dumbledore’s interactions with Harry’s family a couple chapters later were hilarious too.

(show spoiler)

 

 

One more book to go! Sorry for all the rambling… every time I get to the end of one of these books I feel like I won’t have much to say in the review, but then somebody puts some sort of typing curse on my fingers and I can’t stop typing. It’s been really great having so many people to discuss the book with and I greatly appreciate how much restraint everybody has shown in not spoiling anything for me! :)