Cannonball Read #25: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince02/17/2010
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling delves into one of the most mysterious and misunderstood processes, that of adolescent love. Of course it’s not all about the wizarding teens trying to figure out who to kiss or date, and how to keep their friendships that have developed through the previous five novels. Rowling pairs the light-hearted stories of hookups and breakups with visits to times prior to the novel where we see Voldemort’s beginnings and just how far Harry will have to go to defeat him.
Harry spends a lot of time with Dumbledore in this installment of the series, going with him to persuade an old friend of his, Slugworth, to return to the Hogwarts faculty; and then the two move on to seek answers about Dumbledore’s suspicions about Voldemort. Harry also winds up with a used Potions book, with notations in the margins by the “Half-Blood Prince”. These notations enable Harry to succeed in Slugworth’s class.
Rowling’s convention of the magical Pensieve is a nice little touch. A pensieve is a basin in which memories that Dumbledore has collected are stored, and with the stir of a wand those memories are able to be not only viewed, but experienced. It’s magical time travel, and it works well. Dumbledore and Harry walk through memories of various people that tell us about Voldemort as a young boy and then student. Later on, Dumbledore asks Harry to pursue another memory from Prof. Slughorn, and we learn the final piece of the puzzle: Voldemort has split his soul into seven pieces. Harry must destroy the remaining pieces, and then battle Voldemort to the death.
Pretty heavy plot line, but as I said, it’s paired with relationships between Ron, Hermione, Harry, Ginny, Luna, and other students at the school. At the end, Harry and Ginny are dating, and so are Ron and Hermione. Ron’s brother, Bill, is gravely injured, but his fiancee, Fleur, redeems herself in Mrs. Weasley’s eyes by standing up to defend him to anyone who would speak against him.
The book ends with Dumbledore’s death. Draco Malfoy had been acting suspiciously all year, and it turns out that Voldemort had charged him with killing Dumbledore, but he cannot do it. Instead, Professor Snape kills Dumbledore. Harry had been frozen under his invisibility cloak during the encounter, but once Dumbledore dies, the spell ends, and Harry is able to follow Snape. Snape reveals that HE is the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry’s been following his notes and spells all year.
The school year ends with Dumbledore’s funeral, and Hogwarts is closed because of the danger to the students. The final installment is set up now, Harry’s quest to vanquish Voldemort won’t be set at the school, and he will have to go on this quest with only his friends to help.