Book (Spoilery) Review and Commentary on Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

“Parry Otter, the Chosen Boy Who — well — something of that sort.”

This reread of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince – the last book in my minimal book collection – came as a saving grace during the many (many) holidays of Tishri. The stillness that accompanies sitting with your own thoughts during the countless rest days is painstakingly growing on me, so I needed something to look forward to, other than the many family-talks speculating about what’s ahead.

I’m giving myself permission to sidetrack first into a bit of a backstory, given that this book did the same with its rather long “Previously on Harry Potter” starting point, catching the reader up on the 411.

Back in late 2014 – THE year I started reading Harry Potter for the first time and the same year I promised myself I’d finish the series – I made the hefty mistake of picking up the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, from the library on its own right before Hanukkah, meaning that the sequel wouldn’t be available for another week. I then dutifully devoured the fifth book by day two and convinced my mom that the only thing I wanted, nay needed, was the sequel, which I promptly completed in time to take the finale from the library.

(Spoilers: I finished the series with two days to spare of 2014 in which I also finished To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to provide me some of that lightheartedness, as I mention in my review.)

I personally had a rocky start with reading the series. The first book took me multiple times to pick up and complete; it took me months of what I usually read within a week. I remember now really getting into the series with the fourth and fifth book, though I can’t recall now which works better in my favor.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is probably my favorite because I’m a sucker for dreams and nightmares being interpreted and taken seriously. The minute you start paying attention that’s when you start seeing more clear signs that can easily give answers to your own personal situation.

This sixth book seemed promising to me, as well, because of the Pensieve and its many memories we dive into. This is the only way to do flashbacks… especially given the unbiased perspective to these unfolding events, like getting an introduction into Voldemort’s family line from someone employed by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and then slowly piecing together bits of information through the many reveals.

But before all that can happen, the book starts off where Harry feels most at peace: The Burrow. I love me some good ol’ family dynamics with the Weasleys (and being a united front against Phlegm Fleur).

“Well, all I can say is that it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry.”

Harry is slowly starting to view Ginny as a safe haven; she represents all good and safety in the world for Harry, which he desperately seeks with the upheaval that is his own life. I laughed when my mind associated Harry’s choice of Ginny Weasley with that scene from Parks and Rec with the Saperstein twins:

 

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince centers on the more obsessed-like state of Harry with Malfoy, Hermione sulking away from Won-Won, Roonil Wazlib making a mighty comeback, the frustration when no one believes Harry’s valid suspicions, and so much more which I feature below in my favorite points:

  • The sly insert when Slughorn dismisses Ron’s name with: “…after what happened to your poor friend Rupert.” Clearly, filming for the Harry Potter series was well underway.
  • This particular book in the series feels like the inspiration behind Baz and Simon in Fangirl (and Carry On) what with the slow-moving plot till the characters arrive onto school grounds, and the aforementioned nemesis-watching from afar and following their every move.

“Levi sat back, hugging the pillow again. “They are kind of gay, aren’t they? What with all the watching each other sleep … and the ignoring Penelope.”

I’m personally not into the whole Draco/Harry ship, given Draco literally smashed Harry’s face in just because (this ruthlessness is what’s so vivid in my mind, so much so that the hurt of that scene traveled through back four years when I first read it and I felt the exact same shock) and also the simple fact that Draco Malfoy is a terribly cruel character. Those types need to stray far, far from humans until they acquire some anger management tools. He’s basically a reincarnation of Snape (the only reason they get along) what with all the sulking and pettiness (Snape with Lily, and Draco with his need to acquire power). Just because you’ve marked a certain person/goal as “MINE” in your head doesn’t make it so it’s yours. So the author trying to make me feel sorry for either of them won’t work in my favor. Like, “Woe is me. All I want is the approval of the Dark Lord.”

It’s also the reason why I’m not rushing to reread the following book given the frustrations whenever an author dismisses the actions of an evil character, like Snape, for “Oh, Love…” You’ve painted your picture for the whole series, making us not only hate but despise Severus Snape, so you can’t just drop this pent-up anger with one scene in the seventh book. Snape “loving” (more like, marking his territory) a certain someone who chooses not to settle for him doesn’t justify his following actions, no matter what storyline tries to redeem him.

  • The one thing that really settled with me was when Harry and Dumbledore were discussing destiny and “the prophecy” and how it’s neither here nor there: Voldemort sculpted his own enemy, by choosing to believe that prophecy he molded you into his enemy. I listened to a lecture on the topic that voiced a similar idea that in order for there to be good in the world there needs to be evil to defeat.

“Imagine, please, just for a moment, that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about Voldemort now? Think!’
Harry watched Dumbledore striding up and down in front of him, and thought. He thought of his mother, his father and Sirius. He thought of Cedric Diggory. He thought of all the terrible deeds he knew Lord Voldemort had done. A flame seemed to leap inside his chest, searing his throat.
‘I’d want him finished,’ said Harry quietly. ‘And I’d want to do it.’
‘Of course you would!’ cried Dumbledore. ‘You see, the prophecy does not mean you have to do anything! But the prophecy caused Lord Voldemort to mark you as his equal … in other words, you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your back on the prophecy! But Voldemort continues to set store by the prophecy. He will continue to hunt you … which makes it certain, really, that -‘
‘That one of us is going to end up killing the other,’ said Harry. ‘Yes.’”

  • The main plot-propelling point is circling around the Pensieve, which at the time of reading I found so fascinating and wondered what memories I would store away. However brilliant the first memory from Bob Ogden, sooner than later these flashbacks start feeling like a contrived set up for a grander plot-device, especially when Dumbledore speaks like he’s looking through a crystal ball; Professor Trelawney seems tame in comparison.

“Why?’ said Harry at once, looking up into Dumbledore’s face. ‘Why did he come back? Did you ever find out?’
‘I have ideas,’ said Dumbledore, ‘but no more than that.’
‘What ideas, sir?’
‘I shall tell you, Harry, when you have retrieved that memory from Professor Slughorn,’ said Dumbledore. ‘When you have that last piece of the jigsaw, everything will, I hope, be clear … to both of us.”

This was so defeating to read the first time, being held on a leash with the information that could be released, but on this reread, knowing what’s ahead, I could relax and take in all the suspense and foreshadowing.

  • It’s unfortunate, though, that the author deems all these important adult figures in Harry’s life valuable only long enough to serve him in the grand scheme of things. Children need adults to look up to for longer than a semester period. I noticed that even when I was having a good time reading, half-way through a thought would creep in to remind me that half of the characters wouldn’t survive this series… and then it felt somehow wrong to laugh at something they said.
  • Which leads me to discuss the one thing that I dreaded and put-off… Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince bookspoilsI’d forgotten that rereading Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince meant reliving this emotional trauma of a chapter all over again. I honestly can’t believe I got fooled twice into believing that Snape would come to heal Dumbledore. I was utterly and positively assured that when Severus Snape came running down towards Dumbledore it was to cure him of his wounds. My brain somehow managed to repress the memory of that scene and fooled me into believing the same damn thing I thought the very first time… Evidently, the events of this series have all mixed into one for me so that certain scenes from the last book I expect to show up in here. Though nothing prepared me for this line that broke everything:

‘I am not worried, Harry,’ said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. ‘I am with you.’

If nothing else, I’ll certainly miss his sage sayings:

‘Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right,’ said Hermione.

I commend the cover illustrator, Jonny Duddle, for taking one of the most painful moments in the book and creating such lively artwork out of it:

 

The illustration on the back cover, in particular, had me staring back and forth to take it all in: the tired eye-bags, the sullen face, the grip on his left arm. SO MUCH DETAIL.

And on that chipper note, I’ll conclude by saying that taking my time with this reread made the journey so worth it. Let me know in the comments below if there’s a particular favorite book in the series you’d want me to reread and review!

If you’re interested in buying Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, just click on the image below to go through my Amazon Affiliate. I’ll make a small commission!

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

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