Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J K Rowling
|Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J K Rowling|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Questions from previous books are answered, gaps are filled, our suspicions verified - yet there is still much more to learn by the end of this, the penultimate book in the Harry Potter series.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 608||Date: June 2006|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
JK Rowling excels herself in this, the penultimate of her series. It's not as long as the fourth or fifth books, and I felt it was much better edited. Harry seems believable again - angry when anger is appropriate, but otherwise back to character. Once again there are amazing plot twists and turns. Unusually, we don't actually see Harry until chapter three: he's visited by Professor Dumbledore himself, the old and wise headmaster of Hogwarts. What an enjoyable scene that is, as Dumbledore gently but firmly tries to teach Harry's appalling relatives some manners, and takes Harry away with him.
But the book starts with quite a different scene: the UK Prime Minister having a conference with the Minister of Magic. Apparently JK Rowling had wanted to use a variation of this for a couple of the previous books but it had never seemed quite right. However it worked extremely well in this book, giving a sense of urgency and also cleverly explaining a little of the major plots of previous books from a point of view that doesn't seem tedious.
Almost immediately we switch to a very dramatic chapter featuring some rather dubious characters, and a plot twist which Harry and Dumbledore know nothing about. Could it be a bluff? I did wonder vaguely. But no, I figured this was where we, the readers, learned something we had suspected for a while. This knowledge heightens the suspense in the rest of the book - and yes, it's very dramatic, with plenty of action and suspense.
I had heard that there was 'lots of teenage hormonal stuff' in this particular book, and wasn't entirely sure what to expect. It turned out to be a great deal of kissing and a fair amount of talking about who was going out with whom. But really nothing unsuitable for young children. Indeed, those under about the age of twelve would probably find that section rather boring and want to move on rapidly.
Much of the book involves Harry learning - at last - about his destiny, and also about Voldemort's childhood. It's done very cleverly, literally 'showing not telling', as Harry and Dumbledore are taken back into somebody's memory. These episodes do fill in a lot of gaps.
I don't think this book would stand alone very well. It would be extremely confusing for someone who had not read any of the previous books (or perhaps seen the movies). I think I'd have found it pretty confusing, for that matter, if I hadn't re-read all the others immediately before I read this one. There's a fairly large cast, and if I didn't already know most of them from the earlier books, I would have got immensely muddled. I also wouldn't have appreciated the various subplots properly.
I do think it's really a book for older children and teenagers. Some of the concepts could be a bit frightening or puzzling for a child of six or seven, and the ending is not something that would be expected in a children's book.
Highly recommended, nonetheless.
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