Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: J. K. Rowling
Page Count/Review Word Count: 768
Wow – I reported in my review of Order of the Phoenix that it was the longest Harry Potter book by page count, but Half-Blood Prince is only two pages shorter. Considering that each of my reviews takes the page count of the book that I’m reviewing and turns it into a word count for the article, I have my work cut out for me.
I didn’t think much of Half-Blood Prince, which is why I only gave it a 7/10 – it was professional and proficient, but it just wasn’t as magical as the other books in the series. Oh, sure – it was necessary. If anything, the story line itself is developed just as much (if not more) in this book than it is anywhere else. It’s just that it doesn’t feel like much fun whist it’s all happening, and a high-profile character gets killed off, too.
Broadly speaking, the plot introduces the concept of horcruxes, which are fragments of Lord Voldemort’s soul which were introduced to a number of different objects to preserve the Dark Lord’s immortality. One such horcrux was Tom Riddle’s diary, which you might remember from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what each of those horcruxes are, but I will tell you that in this book, Harry learns that it falls to him to hunt them down and to destroy them.
This is largely what happens in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was much more exciting. In contrast, the vast majority of this book seems like it’s only present to set the scene for the final book in the series. That said, it is interesting to watch as the wizarding world is forced to deal with the return of the Death Eaters, and the slow descent into fear which characterises the return to power of He Who Must Not Be Named. There’s a darker feel throughout it, and it feels like Rowing’s universe has finally matured, like it’s grown from a child to an adult.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t read this book – I’m just saying that it’s something of a let down, if you compare it to the rest of the books in the series. It just didn’t seem to have the same magic – it was a bit like reading a Rick Riordan book instead of a J. K. Rowling book. Competent enough, but somehow missing that secret ingredient. You should still read Half-Blood Prince, if only to discover who the titular character is, but you should read each of the books in order. That way, you’ll be so deeply invested in the series that by the time that you get here, you’ll be determined to see it through.
I don’t mean to be too harsh on Half-Blood Prince, because there’s nothing inherently wrong with it – indeed, I’m sure there are fans out there who regard it as their favourite book in the series – but I will say that it just didn’t do it for me. That’s all I have to say on the matter, really – it didn’t feel right, it didn’t hit home, and I just didn’t think much of it either whilst I was reading it or afterwards.
Unfortunately, I still have another 200 words to fill, so let’s take a look at its reception. It’s certainly true that it broke a lot of records, although many of those same records were eventually beaten by its successor, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it also sold a lot of copies. My counterargument to that would be that Rowling could have released anything and she still would’ve received the same reception – and, like I said, there’s nothing that’s actually wrong with it.
Perhaps part of my attitude towards it stems from its release date – I was about sixteen at the time, and so I had a lot of other things on my mind. But I still read it pretty quickly, and I’d had high hopes for it after The Order of the Phoenix, which was one of my favourites. It just didn’t live up to my expectations, and that’s a shame – other than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which is much more of a ‘children’s book‘, no other book in the series left such a lasting impression of mediocrity. But hey ho – not to worry about it, just read your way through it and then move on to Deathly Hallows!