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HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE - 2005
by J. K. Rowling
Hardcover - $26.95
Here at last is the second-to-last book in J.K. Rowling's story about a young
boy named Harry Potter, and the trials and tribulations of growing up
in a magical yet troubled world not so different than our own.
What began as the writings of a single unemployed mother, has created a phenomena
across the world, for readers young and old alike. Some would dismiss
this as nothing more than "the latest fad," like small collectible
stuffed animals or electronic toy creatures that talk to each other and
annoy everyone within earshot with their incessant, nonsensical chatter.
But there is, I think, a major difference - we're talking books here.
And books mean reading. And getting the kids to read is a good thing.
And the books are pretty good reading, too. Unlike most (if not
all) other children's books, these stories "grow" with
the intended audience. As the story progresses and the main character
grows towards adulthood, the tone and timbre of the books themselves change
as well. And considering the timing of each book's initial release, these
changes also mirror the growing maturity of the younger readers.
In HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, Harry turns 16 years old. The tale begins with a brief scene, which juxtaposes
the magical world of Hogwarts with the ordinary world. We witness a meeting
between the Prime Minister (presumably of England)
and his magical counterpart, the Minister of Magic. This quick scene not
only helps us to understand the precarious balance between the two worlds,
it also provides a clever way to recap some of the key points of the previous
book. We find out soon after that Voldemort and his followers have not
been idle - people have disappeared. Threats have been made, and carried
out. People, wizarding and mundane alike, have died. And the entire Wizarding
world is in a state of war.
We immediately get the feeling of tension, uncertainty, and fear, as well as a sense
of urgency and impending doom, which persists through the book. The focus
this time around is a little sharper as a result (which
is only natural, as this is the sixth book out a seven-book series.)
This is Harry's world now - but he seems ready for it. Harry is no longer a trusting young
boy full of wonder at the magical world. Nor is he filled with the anger
and angst of the previous book. He's growing up now. He's a young man
who tries to meet his obligations and his destiny with courage and determination,
and is fully aware of the price of failure. As anyone would be, he is
very much affected by the mood and tone of the world around him, and as
a result is often very suspicious, if not bordering on paranoid. As always,
he is very suspicious of his arch-nemesis, Draco Malfoy. He is suspicious
also of Professor Severus Snape, despite the assurances of Dumbledore.
But the book isn't all doom and gloom - as always there's also a lot of light, hope,
and yes love. There is the fatherly affection of Dumbledore for Harry,
as the two work together at unraveling the mysterious past of the man
called Lord Voldemort. There is the enduring friendship of Harry, Hermione,
and Ron. There's the impending wedding of one of Ron's brothers, to an
extremely attractive young woman. There are other romances blooming as
well, with all the joys and troubles such things bring. We watch as the
story unfolds, and as Harry works through yet another year at Hogwarts,
growing up and dealing not only with the task destiny has given him, but
with the simple, mundane task of becoming an adult.
Throughout the series, Rowling likes to drop little tantalizing clues here and there,
which make you feel certain that, if you only read the previous books
very closely, you can figure out the answer before the next book comes
out. Just little things which make an avid reader want to pull out that
copy of book 5 and check this or that fact. For me, this makes the series
all the more enjoyable.
Overall, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is much more mature in content and tone from the earliest Harry Potter
books. Despite the appellation of being a book for "young adults,"
it is still a good read, and I'm definitely looking forward to the final
This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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