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on 19 July 2005
Like the last book, The order of the phoneix, a central part of this one is concerned with addressing plot exposition for the overall story arc of Harry's duel with Voldemort. Consequently it is perhaps not as self-contained a novel as, say, The Prisoner of Azkhaban, and is a little slow to get going.
Having said that it once it gets going it is not only terrifically exciting and entertaining but touches upon some important issues: the nature of war, how fear can lead even the well intentioned to act unjustly, loss, and perhaps the dominant theme in the series, how our choices define us as human beings. Like Joss Wheldon's work, JK Rowling understands that putting believable and likeable characters in fantastical situations heightens the universiality and impact of what it is like to face the mundane and terrifying dilemmas that life brings to us all.
Very sad, very exciting, some lovely moments of humour and a fine evocation of the sense of loss that becoming an adult brings.
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on 19 July 2005
After the disappointment of the Order of the Phoenix, the Half-Blood Prince is a welcome return to form by Rowling. The whole book is much tighter, with very much less aimless "stuff-happening-just-for-the-sake-of-it". The story is well paced, and the darker tone of previous books is even stronger. Of course, there is no getting away from the usual touchstones of Harry's life - summer holidays at the Dursleys, going to the Weasleys', Diagon Ally, missing the sorting, Quiddich etc, etc.
Of course, for those who have found themselves helplessly immersed in the Potter-verse, waiting on tenterhooks for each new instalment, any review is pointless - we're going to buy it anyway. But it's nice that it looks like we're building for an excellent finale, rather than drifting towards a damp squib ending.
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on 3 August 2005
Well I finished the Half Blood Prince last night and was again blown away by both the imagination and the quality of JK Rowling's writing, it was truly fantastic. I have been a huge fan of the series ever since I first picked up the Philosophers Stone, completely drawn into this fantastical world that she had created. I felt empathy with the characters, the environment, their strives and their joys. A story that is set in mythical place but with real feelings and real problems. Well maybe metaphors for real problems...
The Half Blood Price picks up directly where the Order of the Phoenix picks up and now, more than ever, feels like a piece of a bigger story rather than a stand-alone tale. The first 4 Harry Potter books did provide some direction as to where the overall story was going but were far more self contained. OOTP really stepped away from this and was much more in the style of a Lord of the Rings book, definitely a part of a whole. This is why I believe it was not as well received but will only be truly be judged when all 7 books have been completed. HBP is very much in the same vein but really points you more clearly than ever to the tasks that Harry most overcome to finally rid himself of the loathsome burdens that he must bear.
For the first time I felt I picked up upon a major twist in the story, after about 250 - 300 pages I had figured out who the Half Blood Prince was, although I didn't really believe it until it was written. This I feel I was deliberately allowed to figure out as once I began thinking this way I was really thrown off the scent of what was actually going to happen at the climax of the book, a really skilful piece of writing.
Speaking of the quality of the writing I do read of a lot of people detracting from it, saying it will never be a literary classic, or that it lacks the quality to ever really go down in history. What rubbish. The books people often benchmark this against (Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia) where written for the time period they served, just as HP is now written for people (not just children) of our time. History will make this a classic, too many people love it not to be.
I digress...
The story is definitely a slow burner, leading the reader to the inevitable finale but really taking its time getting there. This is no bad thing and I feel really adds weight to the book. I do believe JK Rowling is now struggling with the number of characters she has introduced and the many complex relationships that they undertake but I feel the saving grace here is the time we have had with each of them before. This allows us to create our own background and our own ideas on how they will act, with gentle nudging in the right direction...
The book is a real success, lengthy but not unnecessarily so. Be warned, the end is by no means expected and will catch you off guard. Those of nervous disposition be ready for some water works! Read this book in the context it was written and you will truly have finished what is one of the best books of its age.
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on 30 November 2011
The adults in this series are much more intriguing and multi-layered than the children. Their stories remain tantalizingly sketchy while the children's teen romance and angst is played out in rather predictable fashion as a sop to young readers. (Speaking of which, with all those adolescent hormones pullulating, how did they avoid a big teen pregnancy problem at Hogwarts? I can't see Snape teaching sex-ed courses or as potions master handing out birth control pills.)
The Voldemort story was interesting but I would have like to see more on how the young Tom Riddle managed to charm people into joining his cause. The re-risen Voldemont is more like a latter-day crazy Caligula completely devoid of charm who holds his power mainly thru force and fear. Perhaps when Fudge, the minister of magic, went to visit the muggle PM he should should have asked for a drone missle. That would have probably tanked Voldemort and his death eaters.
One wonders why Snape got involved in the whole Voldemort/death eater thing in his youth. He never seemed to care about wealth or fame. Except for the occasional bop on a student's head, he did not enjoy sadism as did Bellatrix. Perhaps it was loyalty to Malfoy and his thugs who befriended him or the attraction of his romantic nature to the allure of the black arts. Since he was a pretty powerful wizard even as a youth, why did he let James Potter and Sirius Black run rough-shod over him? Snape always seemed to rein himself in and just quietly cleaned up other people's mess. When Harry zaps Malfoy in the john, its Snape who kneels in the dirty bathroom water trying to heal Draco.
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on 16 July 2009
Having been a huge Harry Potter fan since the 4th book, I have eagerly awaited the release of each subsequent novel, read the next installment in less than 24 hours, then spent the next week moaning about what a dissapointment it was, how it just didn't live up to the previous novels and how I expected so much more. Now that the last book has been released and there are no more mysteries to be revealed however I can read these books in a totally different light - not racing through trying to find clues to the answers of the massive questions building up from the first book, but as entertainement, to get lost in JK's magical world for a while where wizards live amongst muggles, where all the things you dreamed of as a kid do exist in these pages - as well as stuff you could never have dreamed of.

The Half-Blood Prince is so named after a potions book Harry borrows from the cupboard as he had not purchased his own, but that is full of annotations and scribbles which not only turn Harry into the best potion's pupil of the year, but contains a variety of new spells Harry is sure the 'Prince' created himself, and that he uses throughout the year often unknowing of what will happen. This is the novel where Dumbledore finally tells Harry about Voldemorts childhood, about what steps the Dark Lord took to become what he has become, and how it is that he didn't die that fateful night all those years ago when the aveda kedavra curse rebounded on himself and stripped him of his body.

A dark book, I love the new focus on Malfroy's character (who was always secretly my favourite), the bigger roles of Snape and Dumbledore in the story, and the revelations of Voldemort's past - and trust me, these do not dissapoint. The book is dark, but interspersed through the melancholic moments are many laughs, and of course the never ending wit and charm of JK's writing.

It amazes me that there are still so many people out there who refuse to read these novels - they do not know what they are missing. These books are not masterpieces, I admit this freely, they do not have the same literary value of novels such as Birdsong, Emma, Great Expectations etc, but they still remain among my favourite books ever because they are little treasures that not only take me back to the hours of my childhood I spent pouring over Rowling's words, but because JK truly creates a world you can lose yourself in and care about. In short, these books are magic.
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on 3 February 2009
I was disappointed at a first reading of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Mainly because not a lot seemed to happen: the magical number of seven books had to be filled, but you got the feeling that this one had little raison d'etre. At the end of Phoenix everything seemed to be in place for a final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, but pretexts are found for putting it off, and too many of the pages (mercifully fewer than in Phoenix) are filled with unnecessary back story which JKR could have written in her sleep - or fans could have written for her - while key characters like Ron, Hermione and Hagrid are left with almost nothing to do and nowhere to go.
Perhaps most infuriating of all, a key character for whom we had felt more and more interest and sympathy in books 1-5, wondering which way he would eventually jump, turned out to be unequivocally a bad guy. How boring is that? I trust and hope that this isn't Rowling's final word on Professor ... (supply name), but for the moment, things don't look good.

Still, with the tremendous pressure on her to deliver, I feel nothing but sympathy for JK Rowling, and would defend her to the last against the snide army of reviewers (some of whom can't even spell) who are keen to lump her together with cynical purveyors of dumbed-down mass culture, just because her books have made her a lot of money. May I remind everyone who calls the Harry Potter books production-line bestsellers that the first book in the series almost didn't find a publisher and became a success by word of mouth, not hype. The Harry Potter books fall into the same category as The Lord of the Rings and Watership Down as the work of true individuals who have reached deep down inside themselves to produce their visions, not just glanced around at what the crowd seems to want. It is for this very reason, I like to think, that they have struck such a tremendous chord - and it is for this reason, too, that the intellectual establishment hates them so much; it has staked its credibility on cheering on the end of western civilisation, and can't stomach popular art that is neither superficial nor despairing - that takes a moral line and carries a message of hope.

Look at how Rowling constantly deepens and toughens her moral outlook - even mighty Dumbledore's strength fails him, he meets disaster because he trusts too much, but the fact that he fails doesn't make him wrong.

And the sheer exhilaration of the way she plays with her material, so that points raised in the earlier books find new explanations or are seen in a new light, and you can never be sure whether it's pre-planned or she's having second thoughts and improvising, like a supremely talented jazz musician - this is something that emerges more clearly with repeated readings.

If horror is your thing, if all-action story-board-like adventure is your thing, even if perfection is your thing, go elsewhere. But if you want true, unique, individual creativity that doesn't mind wearing its flaws on its sleeve, stick with Harry Potter.

POSTSCRIPT AFTER READING HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: Well, what do you know, she fooled me completely!! Not that I'm hard to fool. This highly satisfactory last episode upholds everything good I've said about J.K. Rowling here and negates the bad: going through book 6 again, especially the opening chapter, after reading book 7 leaves you awed at the author's sheer cleverness. Professor ***** is the hero!
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on 9 August 2005
I've been a huge fan of the Harry Potter novels since by parents first thrust The Philosopher's Stone into my hands on a family holiday as a young child. Admittadly I was slightly skeptical, especially considering the front cover. That was the first and last time I judged a book by its cover.
With that in mind, I was looking forward to book 6 with high expectations, Goblet of Fire had already made the first leap from a bloody good kid's book to a cracking adult's novel. With the stage firmly set for darker things in Order of the Pheonix, The Half Blood Price had a lot to live up to.
Simply, it does.
The Half Blood Prince, begins with a chapter that captured my interest immidiatly, a meeting between The Minister of Magic and our own "beloved" Prime Minister. It has to be said, this book has disposed of or recycled the traditional HP formula of "Harry goes to school, something happens to make him suspicious, he works all year to find out about it then fights it"
In Book 6 Harry is in a new, uncertain time in the Magical Community. The Wizarding World is at war! Ministry of Magic security posters cover the walls of Diagon Ally... And for once, nothing in Hogwarts is black and white.
In this book, Hogwarts reflects the wizarding world that houses it, enemies and allies are in the most unexpected places, and Harry may well be beyond the help of his friends as he has to come to terms with his destiny.
This revolutionary edition in the Harry Potter saga will never let you put it down until you finish the last page, and even then, you will hold it in your hands for the next few days, glancing at its cover every so often, and whispering the word... "wow"
JK Rowling has excelled herself and the scene has been wonderfully set for book 7, the nerve wrecking finale that with any luck will bring Harry and his Nemesis, Lord Voldemort into close combat, for it is true that
Neither can live while the other survives...
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on 21 July 2005
I really thought this book was fantastic - well worth the wait... It is perhaps not as structured as the previous books but as I see it, this is only because, with the world being at war, the structured timetables of the school (which structured the previous books) do not matter quite so much... It is not a world based solely in Hogwarts and I think this serves the purpose of making us realise that what Harry is facing is a global problem (It shows us just how important his fate is). I felt that the book created many loose ends that were only tied up in the last 100 pages of the book, perhaps adding to the suspense. The death at the end... I agree with some of the other reviewers in that it was not the way he/she should die - I believe that this cannot be the end for him/her at all (someone like that cannot be killed so easily!). I have to say, I believe this book to be more of a "part 1" of the last two books, as many characters, such as Scrimgeour and Slughorn are created and we see no real plot endings for them (yet!). Also, the book is preparing Harry for his fate. Finally, this book is most certainly darker and more graphic than any of the previous installments - many of the scenes are incredibly cinematic (although, I dread the film version - if released it should be a '15' age rating but, no doubt, they will remove any graphic bits so that they can sell it to 8 year olds... damn shame... This is the point of this book!). I was around 11 when I read the first book and so I feel that I am growing up with Harry, just as the nation is (the story in this book and the emotions experienced can only be deeply understood by people older than 13-14... young children will be frightened by it or will not understand it - it is not written for young children readers... it is for those people who have been on the journey with Harry since it started and have grown up with him!!!) A deeply involving book (you will feel everything that the characters feel) and something that you will truly want to spend a couple of days in solitary confinement for... JK Rowling, you are marvellous!!! May the seventh bring even more fantastic revelations! (Oh, and dont let the person who dies just be dead and cut him out of the story... that would be lame...)... BUY THIS BOOK!!!
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on 20 July 2005
I have read so many bad reports of this book: why?!
My mother recommended the Harry Potter books to me. At first I refused, thinking that it was just a ridiculous kiddie money spinner. However, once I picked up the first book I didnt stop reading!
Book 6 is definately the best one by far, it ties up so many loose ends yet opens up so much more for book 7. I think that it is good that Rowling has made the last three books a lot darker - it has created a better story and helps us to understand who Voldemort is and why Harry's parents were killed in the first place rather than just giving a vague reason. I think that originally she designed these books for children, but as they have progressed they have become a lot more adult orientated.
I was so shocked by the ending, but that just leaves me wanting more!
I think that all the characters have progressed so much, and don't forget that Harry, Ron and Hermione are now teenagers, so there are bound to be teenage subjects brought up.
If you haven't read this book, please don't be affected by the few bad reviews that it has got. Harry fans seem to think that they own the series and can dictate what happens to the characters - none of us can, this is all down to Rowling's imagination! You will not be disappointed by this great read.
I don't think that Rowling has lost sight of her original storyline at all, yet again she has managed to impress me and confirmed that this really is my favourite set of books ever!
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on 20 July 2005
I absolutely loved this book, and I cannot really understand why any other Harry Potter fan wouldn't! There are so many reasons why I enjoyed this book so much. Firstly, exactly like the other books in the series it carries the reader at an amazing pace. I only stopped for a short break when it was physically, a necessity for me to sleep.
Secondly, similar to the other books in the series, despite its darkness, it is funny! Harry, along with the Weasleys provides a great deal of humour, as well as a few funny moments from newer characters such as Luna Lovegood, and McClaggen, and also with the reappearance of Fleur.
Thirdly, the book is so enjoyable for it's realism, despite being about magic. The characters seem incredibly real, Harry particularly, along with Dumbledore have faults, make mistakes, and show true emotions, which other children's books I feel often fail to do. The social climbing of Slughorn is interesting, as is the quite surprising sympathy you feel for the usually repulsive Draco. The teenage romances are realistic, as they are often awkward, and confused.

Lastly, although I don't want to reveal any parts of the plot, the book ties up some of the loose ends in the other books. The background info about Voldemort is particularly interesting. However, unlike some of the other reviewers, im really glad JKR didn't reveal all the mysteries of the other books, as many of the fanatics, (me included) enjoy theorising about what could happen.
In comparison to the others in the series, I thought this was undoubtedly had the best ending of all the books, with the breath taking twist, and the little mystery for the reader to solve. I also thought, unlike many reviewers, that the switch in narrative focus for the first two chapters was fantastic. I thought that using the Prime Minister was a very effective way of providing a summary of the other books, whilst giving more information about deaths and destruction, and explaining the link to the muggle world without beginning the books in the usual repetitive way of revealing Harry's thoughts and having to include these bits of information. The second chapter I thought was absolutely fantastic, giving the reader information that Harry and the rest of the characters didn't have created so much tension, and anxiety for the reader. However, like some other reviewers I do agree that it sagged ever so slightly in the middle, which the others certainly do not, evident with the exciting tasks in "Goblet of Fire", for example. I only had a small break at this point, completely determined to continue.
So overall... it was fantastic.
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