Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Book Review

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Kristi Loi

Harry Potter. The acclaimed series that I’m pretty sure you’ve read, or at the very least heard of. Especially what with its author being featured in recent times. (For being a TERF and also being transphobic, but that’s not the focus of this review.) There are seven books in total for the Harry Potter series, all of them with varying reviews and degrees of love/hate. I’m going to be taking a look at the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. A bit of background info: I remember reading this for the first time when I was around 9 years old. Since then I’ve reread it quite a few times; however, this reread I’m doing is the first time I’ve read the book in ages. Will it hold up? Well, that’s kind of what I’m going to tell you, isn’t it?

Disclaimer: Even though this book has come out 15 years ago, I would still like to warn for spoilers. If you plan on reading this book. I would also like to say that I’m reviewing the book, not the movie, so any scene from the movie won’t be talked about here. (Looking at you, Burrow-burning scene that was added for some reason.)

Anyways, spoilers begin from here on out.

A quick summary of HBP: It’s Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s sixth year, and Voldemort is back and everyone knows about it. Everyone’s freaking out, but Hogwarts is still open, which means anyone still in school is going back. Harry himself is taken along with Dumbledore to find a new professor, and then he’s taken to the Burrow. Before they enter, Dumbledore says he will be teaching Harry something during the school year, though he doesn’t specify. Harry then spends the remainder of his summer at the Weasleys’ (along with Hermione and Fleur Delacour).

The trio, plus their friends, go back to Hogwarts and find out Snape is teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. (And presumably let out a collective groan at this.) There’s also a new Potions teacher: Horace Slughorn. Harry decides he will be taking Potions, but has to borrow a textbook since he didn’t buy one. This textbook has very useful instructions, written by someone who calls themselves “The Half-Blood Prince.” Harry likes using the textbook to succeed in class, but Hermione herself is annoyed by him using it.

Dumbledore’s private lessons with Harry turn out to be them figuring out who Voldemort was before he became Voldemort. They do this by accessing memories that have been given to Dumbledore by various people. (One of the memories is actually Dumbledore’s!) Using these memories, they figure out that Voldemort is actually a half-blood, born of a Muggle and a witch. His mom dies, he kills his dad, and life goes on for him as usual. He also murders several other people to get their hands on their goods, such as his uncle Morfin and a woman named Hepzibah Smith.

Harry (and the readers) also learn that Voldemort has been creating Horcruxes, basically vessels to store his soul in. He and Dumbledore go on a trip to find one of them, a locket. While there, Dumbledore is severely weakened while trying to retrieve it. When they get back, they are lured to the top of the Astronomy Tower, where Dumbledore is killed by Snape. (It’s worth mentioning that Draco Malfoy was supposed to kill him via Voldemort’s orders.) The book ends with Dumbledore’s funeral and Ron and Hermione promising to go along with Harry to find the other Horcruxes. At the end, Snape is also revealed to be the Half-Blood Prince.

It was very nice to see Voldemort’s backstory, and how he rose to be Lord Voldemort. Seeing how his mother’s past impacted him was very nice too. The Pensive memories were probably some of the more interesting scenes in Half Blood Prince. I thought it was quite nice that Voldemort’s penchant for collecting trophies as a kid translated over as an adult to making his collections Horcruxes, and how he wanted his Horcruxes to be symbols. I think it was quite interesting how Voldemort was conceived, even if it seems incredibly messed up right now. Voldemort was the product of a loveless couple between Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle, and Merope used a love potion in order for Tom to be infatuated with her, even though he was never in love with her. Like I said, messed up.

Even though you sort of feel some sympathy for Voldemort as he was an orphan with no one who loved him, it doesn’t mean you don’t want him to go down. Rowling, for all her recent faults, did a good job establishing the fact that in no way will Voldemort be redeemed, simply because he is a terrible person and someone that needs to go down, despite his tragic backstory. I like it when villains aren’t always redeemed because there are just some things that cannot be redeemed, and it annoys me to no end if there’s a villain they attempt a bad redemption arc on that doesn’t deserve it.

Seeing more of Hogwarts life in general was nice, as was getting to see some more Quidditch. I personally liked that Harry became captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and that he was capable of leading a formidable team. Provided, of course, that the team members aren’t arrogant jerks who try to micromanage the team. (Looking at you, McLaggen.) The dialogue and the moments in between plot points are fairly nice as well, especially the times where Ron and Hermione weren’t at each other’s’ throats.

It was also nice to see how the title of the book tied in with the story. Of course, all the titles of the Harry Potter series relate to the plot, but I think it’s a nice touch, even if it wasn’t technically the point of the story. The title Half-Blood Prince was also kind of clever, since Snape was a half-blood and his mother’s maiden name was Prince.

I didn’t care for the romance subplot with Ron, Hermione, and Lavender Brown. Though I do like romance if done correctly, something about the relationship between the three annoyed me. Firstly, Ron’s seemingly possessiveness of his sister Ginny, and his implied feelings for Hermione. The root of this probably started when Ron wanted to go to Slughorn’s party with Hermione but was a bit tactless about it. Then there’s the part where he seems to think that his sister can’t kiss/make out in public, and although the text is definitely showing that Ron’s the jerk here, it still sits so wrong with me that he’d say that in the first place. I know he kind of has Ginny’s best interests at heart (and this was 2005, where this might be frowned upon), but there’s something about him that makes me feel uncomfortable.

Then there’s Hermione. I thought she was behaving somewhat irrationally, especially weeks after the initial fight. It couldn’t do any harm to clear up miscommunications between her and Ron, especially since what she did was a bit vicious. I’m not even entirely sure why she did that. Jealousy? Anger at his hypocrisy? Why did she do it? It seems very irrational, or maybe even possessive, if she was acting out of jealousy or spite. There’s also the fact that it took Ron being poisoned for her to even start trying to mend their relationship. Why prolong the animosity between them, if only for conflict? That really annoyed me.

I also thought Harry was kind of creepy when he was obsessing over Malfoy. I know he thought Malfoy was a Death Eater, and wanted to confirm, but to be obsessing over it? Harry, please, get a hobby. Probably also didn’t need to read about him thinking about Ginny all of a sudden while she’s with Dean Thomas, but maybe that’s just typical teenage boy behavior.

Bonus points just for dissing Snape as I really don’t like how people think Snape is a saint who can do no wrong. A lot of my criticism probably ties in more with The Deathly Hallows, so I won’t say too much, but suffice it to say that I really don’t like him.

Overall this book is neither my favorite nor my least favorite. I felt as though it was a sort of mundane book that, while it had its interesting points, did not have enough to captivate me like Prisoner of Azkaban or Deathly Hallows. It’s necessary to read, as it sets up the next book, but to me I didn’t really get the biggest kick out of reading it. Most of the tension felt within other books isn’t felt as much, unless you count the fact that an evil Dark wizard is at large, but that wasn’t discussed as much. What tension we did get (Harry and Draco, Ron and Hermione) bored and exasperated me to no end.

Would I recommend you read it? Of course, it’s sort of essential. But it’s not something I’d reread too much. All in all, it’s a decent book, but there are a lot of things I don’t like and not enough captivating things to really make me like it.