Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)
J.K. Rowling

It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys’ house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster, he was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can’t quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys’ of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time? Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6) book cover

When I began rereading this series back in February 2011, my aim was to take them slow and perhaps do one a year. There was no rush, I thought, having already read them and with newer and different things to read.

And yet I managed to fit in books 4 and 5 last year, and now, having only recently caught the terrestrial television premier of Deathly Hallows part 2 (despite the DVD languishing unopened for years) I have a burning desire to finish the series yet again.

Half-Blood Prince, at the time, I liked quite a lot. I did rush through it of course, how could I not? It was a Potter release. Yet the full impact of things didn’t really hit me, I fear, because I came away a little disheartened.

You can argue that I was supposed to: the end of the novel certainly doesn’t cause you to think that the final book in the series will be as light and fun as a walk in the park. Still, something didn’t sit right with me, and I wondered, in a brooding, teen-age way, just where Rowling was taking my precious series. Of course, that’s silly. But I’d lived with Harry for some time now and, by this time, had amassed a considerable collection of fanfiction to go along with the official stories. I was at that stage of Potterhood where every morsel of trivia, every new spell or creature introduced, each new fact about the world slipped in was a diamond and a treasure and, yes, I’ll admit this, the stage where speculation and guesswork were more fun and rewarding than just waiting to have things revealed from the oracular Rowling.

Of my initial reading, the two scenes that stand out best are Harry’s trip to retrieve Slughorn’s memory, more than the extraction itself, which is odd. And, unsurprisingly, the flight of the prince, which I have heard Fry read time and time again. At just under ten minutes into the chapter, when “He missed; the jet of red light soared past Snape’s head; Snape shouted, “Run, Draco!” and turned”. Those six minutes or so with that very personal and powerful duel, despite not being big on action, make for intense and powerful reading.

This time around, I enjoyed the romance more. Reading it at first, I found the teen emotions and all the snogging distracting from the story line, and yet the light humour and those sprinklings of Humanity are really what it’s all about, aren’t they?

I’m going to have to read Deathly Hallows next, there’s just no way around that now. I’m caught up once again in this most powerful and compelling of series, and even knowing how things go, I have to go through them. I suppose I was a little foolish to think that I could just dip in, one book a year, and let the world carry on at the same time. I should have known me well enough to understand that when things start to sweep along, I’d inevitably get caught in their wake. The first three, even four books are essentially Harry to me. They saw me out of my childhood, yes, but embody a lightness and a fun the latter books can’t match. But it’s that fun, that freedom, that sense lost in the later works that Harry is really fighting for. The only way out is through. Things are darkest before the dawn. That sort of thing. I’m going to start Deathly Hallows on my way home from work, as I’m penning this review on my way thereto. Not that it’s been a review in the traditional sense – I haven’t even mentioned dumbledoreisnotdead.com (so utterly compelling and yet bonkers), Rowling’s amazing foreshadowing (that scene where he hides the book: superb!), The extra dialogue between Malfoy and Albus on the tower (mysterious and hugely controversial), or the brilliance of Dumbledore and of Snape, both in their own ways. But I don’t need to, do I? Because if you’re reading this, either you’re such a fan that you already know these things, or you’re not so involved that my mentioning them would matter to you. Perhaps, when I reread the books in another decade, or two, or even a quarter of a century hence (assuming I haven’t been worked or childrened to death by that point), then who knows what things will leap out at me from these pages. These pages which are unchanging, and yet that offer new things each time you look at them. How clever is that?

I am going to save this review now and go and dig out the final book from my library of ebooks, transfer it to my ereader, and work with the warm, contented glow that having a very enjoyable read ahead of me always provides.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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