Friday, December 17, 2010

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

Summary:  The War against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing.  Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names.  Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on.  Sixth-year students learn to Apparate--and lose a few eyebrows in the process.  The Weasley twins expand their business.  Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love.  Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter.  Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort--and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability. (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  If you’ve read this far in the Harry Potter series, you are either a fan, or a seriously devoted hater. Regardless of which stance you take, I’m not fool enough to think anything I say will change your mind. That’s okay though, because I’m too deeply in love with this series to review this book with any kind of objectivity.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince has both a light and dark side. It is in this book that Harry finally discovers what he must do to kill Lord Voldemort and the task is anything but easy. In between private lessons with Dumbledore, classes with a new professor, and a special assignment of the utmost importance, Harry shadows Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape, desperate to prove they are working for Voldemort. One of my favorite parts of this book – surprise, surprise – was all the teenage drama. Harry struggles to hide his increasing attraction to Ginny from his best-friend, Ron. Meanwhile, Ron is busy being thoroughly snogged by Lavendar Brown, to the dismay of a distraught Hermione. The ensuing dialogue is inexpressibly hysterical and, much to my listening husband’s amusement, I dissolved into gasping giggles on more than one occasion and was unable to read out loud.

This book stirred up loads of persnickety parental complaints about a well-known character dying. I do not intend to name the character, but will defend the author by saying that this particular death, while heart wrenching, is unquestionably necessary for the story. It isn’t graphic, but it is intensely emotional, and I couldn’t read it the first or second time without crying at the loss.

Book after book, JK Rowling makes me re-evaluate my expectations of YA novels. Many teen reads overflow with characters that lay listlessly on the page, while her creations are animated without being overly dramatic. They are flawed. They are funny. They can even be annoying. In short, they are real—except, you know, with magical abilities. It’s really not fair to all the other books in the young adult department.

Each chapter added a new dimension to Harry’s story and all I could do was turn the page and enjoy the ride. As in most of her later books, Rowling gathered seemingly insignificant details from previous books and used them to turn out amazing twists. When past plot threads collided with this one, and more fully illuminated the story, I couldn’t help but stop and marvel at the author’s foresight. (To give a vague example without spoiling the book, something that is very important to this book, first came into play in book two, though you would never know it.)

This book is by no means the end of an exceptional series. If it was, I’d be writing JK Rowling some serious hate mail. While some things begin to come together, far more questions are left unanswered than in previous books. Brace yourself for a rip-your-heart-out ending and make sure you have Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows handy.

My Rating: 5 Stars.   For the sensitive reader: This book is significantly darker (in spots) than the first five books, as Harry comes to realize just how far Voldemort has gone to obtain immortality. There are a few instances of cursing, though I think there was less in this book, than in the fifth book.

Sum it up: Another amazing book in the Harry Potter Series. It’s getting to the end and things are starting to come together, for better or for worse. Deathly Hallows, here I come!

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