The long-awaited, eagerly anticipated, arguably over-hyped Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has arrived, and the question on the minds of kids, adults, fans, and skeptics alike is, "Is it worth the hype?" The answer, luckily, is simple: yep. A magnificent spectacle more than worth the price of admission, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will blow you away. However, given that so much has gone into protecting the secrets of the book (including armored trucks and injunctions), don't expect any spoilers in this review. It's much more fun not knowing what's coming--and in the case of Rowling's delicious sixth book, you don't want to know. Just sit tight, despite the earth-shattering revelations that will have your head in your hands as you hope the words will rearrange themselves into a different story. But take one warning to heart: do not open Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince until you have first found a secluded spot, safe from curious eyes, where you can tuck in for a good long read. Because once you start, you won't stop until you reach the very last page.
A darker book than any in the series thus far with a level of sophistication belying its genre, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince moves the series into murkier waters and marks the arrival of Rowling onto the adult literary scene. While she has long been praised for her cleverness and wit, the strength of Book 6 lies in her subtle development of key characters, as well as her carefully nuanced depiction of a community at war. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, no one and nothing is safe, including preconceived notions of good and evil and of right and wrong. With each book in her increasingly remarkable series, fans have nervously watched J.K. Rowling raise the stakes; gone are the simple delights of butterbeer and enchanted candy, and days when the worst ailment could be cured by a bite of chocolate. A series that began as a colorful lark full of magic and discovery has become a dark and deadly war zone. But this should not come as a shock to loyal readers. Rowling readied fans with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by killing off popular characters and engaging the young students in battle. Still, there is an unexpected bleakness from the start of Book 6 that casts a mean shadow over Quidditch games, silly flirtations, and mountains of homework. Ready or not, the tremendous ending of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will leave stunned fans wondering what great and terrible events await in Book 7 if this sinister darkness is meant to light the way. --Daphne Durham
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Begin at the Beginning
There are plenty of reasons to love Rowling's wildly popular series--no doubt you have several dozen of your own. Our list features favorite moments, characters, and artifacts from the first five books. Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive (what we love about Harry could fill ten books!) and does not include any of the spectacular revelatory moments that would spoil the books for those (few) who have not read them. Enjoy.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
| ||* Harry's first trip to the zoo with the Dursleys, when a boa constrictor winks at him. |
* When the Dursleys' house is suddenly besieged by letters for Harry from Hogwarts. Readers learn how much the Dursleys have been keeping from Harry. Rowling does a wonderful job in displaying the lengths to which Uncle Vernon will go to deny that magic exists.
* Harry's first visit to Diagon Alley with Hagrid. Full of curiosities and rich with magic and marvel, Harry's first trip includes a trip to Gringotts and Ollivanders, where Harry gets his wand (holly and phoenix feather) and discovers yet another connection to He-Who-Must-No-Be-Named. This moment is the reader's first full introduction to Rowling's world of witchcraft and wizards.
* Harry's experience with the Sorting Hat.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
| ||* The de-gnoming of the Weasleys' garden. Harry discovers that even wizards have chores--gnomes must be grabbed (ignoring angry protests "Gerroff me! Gerroff me!"), swung about (to make them too dizzy to come back), and tossed out of the garden--this delightful scene highlights Rowling's clever and witty genius. |
* Harry's first experience with a Howler, sent to Ron by his mother.
* The Dueling Club battle between Harry and Malfoy. Gilderoy Lockhart starts the Dueling Club to help students practice spells on each other, but he is not prepared for the intensity of the animosity between Harry and Draco. Since they are still young, their minibattle is innocent enough, including tickling and dancing charms.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
| ||* Ron's attempt to use a telephone to call Harry at the Dursleys'. |
* Harry's first encounter with a Dementor on the train (and just about any other encounter with Dementors). Harry's brush with the Dementors is terrifying and prepares Potter fans for a darker, scarier book.
* Harry, Ron, and Hermione's behavior in Professor Trelawney's Divination class. Some of the best moments in Rowling's books occur when she reminds us that the wizards-in-training at Hogwarts are, after all, just children. Clearly, even at a school of witchcraft and wizardry, classes can be boring and seem pointless to children.
* The Boggart lesson in Professor Lupin's classroom.
* Harry, Ron, and Hermione's knock-down confrontation with Snape.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
| ||* Hermione's disgust at the reception for the veela (Bulgarian National Team Mascots) at the Quidditch World Cup. Rowling's fourth book addresses issues about growing up--the dynamic between the boys and girls at Hogwarts starts to change. Nowhere is this more plain than the hilarious scene in which magical cheerleaders nearly convince Harry and Ron to jump from the stands to impress them. |
* Viktor Krum's crush on Hermione--and Ron's objection to it.
* Malfoy's "Potter Stinks" badge.
* Hermione's creation of S.P.E.W., the intolerant bigotry of the Death Eaters, and the danger of the Triwizard Tournament. Add in the changing dynamics between girls and boys at Hogwarts, and suddenly Rowling's fourth book has a weight and seriousness not as present in early books in the series. Candy and tickle spells are left behind as the students tackle darker, more serious issues and take on larger responsibilities, including the knowledge of illegal curses.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
| ||* Harry's outburst to his friends at No. 12 Grimmauld Place. A combination of frustration over being kept in the dark and fear that he will be expelled fuels much of Harry's anger, and it all comes out at once, directly aimed at Ron and Hermione. Rowling perfectly portrays Harry's frustration at being too old to shirk responsibility, but too young to be accepted as part of the fight that he knows is coming. |
* Harry's detention with Professor Umbridge. Rowling shows her darker side, leading readers to believe that Hogwarts is no longer a safe haven for young wizards. Dolores represents a bureaucratic tyrant capable of real evil, and Harry is forced to endure their private battle of wills alone.
* Harry and Cho's painfully awkward interactions. Rowling clearly remembers what it was like to be a teenager.
* Harry's Occlumency lessons with Snape.
* Dumbledore's confession to Harry.
Magic, Mystery, and Mayhem: A Conversation with J.K. Rowling
"I am an extraordinarily lucky person, doing what I love best in the world. Im sure that I will always be a writer. It was wonderful enough just to be published. The greatest reward is the enthusiasm of the readers." --J.K. Rowling
Find out more about Harry's creator in our exclusive interview with J.K. Rowling.
Did You Know?
A Few Words from Mary GrandPré
"When I illustrate a cover or a book, I draw upon what the author tells me; that's how I see my responsibility as an illustrator. J.K. Rowling is very descriptive in her writing--she gives an illustrator a lot to work with. Each story is packed full of rich visual descriptions of the atmosphere, the mood, the setting, and all the different creatures and people. She makes it easy for me. The images just develop as I sketch and retrace until it feels right and matches her vision." Check out more Harry Potter art from illustrator Mary GrandPré.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5 Up–Opening just a few weeks after the previous book left off, the penultimate entry in the series is, as the author foretold, the darkest and most unsettling yet. The deeds of Voldemort's Death Eaters are spreading even to the Muggle world, which is enshrouded in a mist caused by Dementors draining hope and happiness. Harry, turning 16, leaves for Hogwarts with the promise of private lessons with Dumbledore. No longer a fearful boy living under the stairs, he is clearly a leader and increasingly isolated as rumors spread that he is the Chosen One, the only individual capable of defeating Voldemort. Two attempts on students' lives, Harry's conviction that Draco Malfoy has become a Death Eater, and Snape's usual slimy behavior add to the increasing tension. Yet through it all, Harry and his friends are typical teens, sharing homework and messy rooms, rushing to classes and sports practices, and flirting. Ron and Hermione realize their attraction, as do Harry and Ginny. Dozens of plot strands are pulled together as the author positions Harry for the final book. Much information is cleverly conveyed through Dumbledore's use of a Pensieve, a device that allows bottled memories to be shared by Harry and his beloved professor as they apparate to various locations that help explain Voldemort's past. The ending is heart wrenching. Once again, Rowling capably blends literature, mythology, folklore, and religion into a delectable stew. This sixth book may be darker and more difficult, but Potter fans will devour it and begin the long and bittersweet wait for the final installment.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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