Second Bookses

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré Like a lot of people, I'm sure, I was out last night at midnight picking up my copy of the eagerly anticipated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I went to the grocery, anticipating not only no lines, but also that I could purchase other things I needed, and get home faster to begin reading. I've read each of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling in less than a day, but today, having finished the sixth installment, the feeling is somehow different.::: Beyond the Order :::The blurb on the inside of the book jacket gives the reader a clue that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is going to be somewhat different, focusing on the everyday at the wizarding school Hogwarts rather than events happening outside the school. As the story begins, Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster at Hogwarts and Harry's staunchest protector against the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, comes to fetch Harry at his aunt and uncle's home during the summer holidays. Harry's family, Muggles (non-wizards) all, display their usual fright at being confronted with anyone from the wizarding community.As Dumbledore escorts Harry to the Burrow, home of Harry's best friend Ron's family, for the rest of the summer, he lets Harry know that he will be giving him private lessons over the course of the school year. He also has a task for Harry; luring a new professor to Hogwarts, Professor Slughorn, who the reader assumes will take over the Defense Against the Dark Arts position that somehow ends up vacant every year.Of course, with Rowling, things are never as they initially seem. Dumbledore's private lessons with Harry actually consist of delving into Lord Voldemort's history. Slughorn, who seems to want to cultivate a small cult of students who will move on to bigger things, or have important connections, doesn't actually become the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And Harry's ongoing battle against Voldemort takes several unexpected turns.::: The New Harry :::While Rowling's twists in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince live up to her usual gift of surprise, including the source of the assistance that Harry gets from the Half-Blood Prince of the title, there are too many plot devices, sub-plots, and characters left hanging. Fred and George Weasley, usually so entertaining, appear at the beginning of the book and then get little more than a mention for the rest of the book. An engagement between Bill Weasley and the former Beauxbatons student Fleur Delacour seems almost pointless, and the "intrigue" regarding the depressed condition of the Auror Nymphadora Tonks is similarly introduced and then wrapped up a bit too tidily. Even Professor Slughorn seems to have little to do other than one plot point that fits in a bit too neatly with Dumbledore's charge to Harry. Even more noticeable, the irritable teen of Order of the Phoenix has been replaced with an almost unbelievably mature Harry, who seems to have accepted the loss of his godfather much too stoicly for a 16-year-old boy.This is a new Harry, one who is nearly an adult. But it feels at time as if Rowling has lost touch with her character. The listing for the audio book includes Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as part of the Romance genre, and while you expect that 16-year-olds have some raging hormones, at times, everything else takes a back seat to the "who is snogging with whom" game.Probably the biggest surprise to me was how much less dark and violent Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is compared to the previous two books. My five-year-old daughter has fallen in love with Harry Potter, and while I've let her read the first three books, the violence in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix are too much, in my opinion, I probably would let her have this one. Rowling's dedication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is to her baby daughter, and the reader is left to wonder if perhaps her feelings about pregnancy lightened the mood a bit. The series, up until this point, had gotten progressively darker, and yet Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, even with the darkest wizard ever known back in full power, seems almost Pollyanna-ish at times.Still, for Harry Potter fans, it's been a long wait, and at nearly 700 pages, it's still worth the read. While too many plotlines are tied up a bit too neatly, it's at least a bit refreshing to have had so many questions answered that have been left by the previous six books. No Harry Potter fan will be left unaffected by the ending, and once again, Rowling will leave fans clamoring for more, waiting for the last installment, which promises to be very different from the previous six books.This review previously published at Epinions:

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