Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter #6)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Pacing, most of the character stuff
Cons: Romantic plots; ending
The Bottom Line:
Some forward movement
Mostly setting up final
Feels incomplete

Harry Potter and the Unresolved Plot

I made it! My goal was to read and review the first six Harry Potter books before the seventh came out. I just barely made it, but it counts.

Since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is book six, most of the background has already been established. Granted, the first chapter gives a bit of a recap, but it serves more to remind readers what has happened before. It will confuse newbies more then help them.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Harry Potter is a boy wizard who didn't know about his powers until his 11th birthday. He has been learning to use his skills at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. While there, he has made many friends including Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and headmaster Dumbledore. Not that all the students like him. Draco Malfoy has hated him from day one. And Harry has had to fight battles against a dark wizard whose power keeps growing.

While I don't spoil book six in my review, I may mention a couple plot points from previous books. Because of the progressive nature of the series, it's impossible to discuss one without the others. So if you haven't read the books and don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now.

Things keep turning darker around Harry Potter. Now that there is a new Minister of Magic, everyone finally believes Harry's claim that You Know Who is back. But that doesn't necessarily make life any easier.

The fight against the Dark Lord is progressing poorly. Death is a common occurrence and is affecting many of the students at Hogwarts. Harry is still trying to deal with the pain of loosing his godfather, in fact.

But life goes on. With the results of their OWLs back, Harry, Ron, and Hermione face a less full schedule but more homework. Harry has been made Quidditch caption for the Gryffindor House. Romantic entanglements are in the air. And they start learning to Apparate.

Harry gets a boost in his studies from someone called the Half Blood Prince. The notes he's found in this old textbook are making him the star student.

But, as always, trouble is lurking beneath the surface. Dumbledore has requested special lessons with Harry. What will Harry learn? And Harry is sure that Draco is up to something sinister, but he can't get anyone to take him seriously. Is Harry right?

One draw of the series is the characters, and here they are in top form. Gone is Harry's anger from the last book. Instead, we get some fun moments with the three main characters. The some of the supporting characters seem to be missing for most of the book, but they do pop up every so often.

Unfortunately, part of the character development here is in the form of romance. I just kept rolling my eyes at some of these developments. It was probably meant to lighten the mood, but it didn't add much for me.

The story moves much better then in the last book. I felt book five was overly long and repetitive. While there are still a few slow parts here, the pacing is much tighter and the story keeps moving forward. I felt like I was always learning something new or putting the pieces together in a new way. And there were some surprises. I made a guess about who the mysterious Half Blood Prince was, but I was completely off base. This book advances the overall story very well and gives us lots of information that I'm sure will be important in the final volume.

My only real problem with this book is the fact that it doesn't really resolve much. The book comes to a gripping and emotional ending, but it is just that, an ending. There is no real climax. And you can feel the "To be continued" at the end even if it isn't actually written there. That always frustrates me. I don't mind a good cliffhanger, in fact I love them (and there's a dozy here), but I like to have something resolved.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will please fans and I'm sure it will prove very important in the end. It just lacked a resolution to anything presented here.

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