If you haven’t been living in a cave on a remote island with your eyes pinched shut and your fingers in your ears, then this book should need no introduction. I should preface this by saying that I am not the sort of rabid fan who lines up at midnight before the release date or buys deluxe editions or feels more saddened by the death of fictional characters than real people, but they are good books. I happened to get into the series before it really started on fire (I read the original British pressing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as it was called), and I happen to have a certain amount of indiginity that some of my reading choices are shared by small children.
Nevertheless, I received Half-Blood Prince on Saturday by mail (I wouldn’t be caught dead clawing my way through the slobbering hordes at Barnes & Noble), but didn’t get to read it until Sunday, as I was in the middle of Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent at the time. Rowling’s book is an easy read (as they all are), meant to be accessible to both children (though I become increasingly incredulous that small children could read or understand some of the recent additions to the series).
I search my mind for something to say about Book 6 that hasn’t been said about, for instance, Book 5, but I come up short. If Rowling is one thing, it’s consistent in her style. If you liked any of the other books, you’ll like this one just the same, even if the more fragile of you squawk and flail and weep when you read the ending. Yes, the ending is horribly sad; moreso than Order of the Phoenix, so all you drolly emotional housewives should bring your tissues closer and gird your loins.
I suppose the only complaint that I have with this iteration (like the last one) is that the plot is somewhat nebulous; it doesn’t have a central point around which things transpire. In the first book, Harry was new to Hogwarts; in the second, there was the Chamber of Secrets; in the third, Sirius Black and a variety of new world-making on Rowling’s part; in the fourth, the Tri-Wizard Tournament; in the fifth and sixth books, however, post-Voldemort, the plot is a bit of a flubby mess. Even in Order…, anyway, there is the Delores Umbridge fiasco; in Half-Blood Prince, the only book-long plot element is that of Harry suspecting Malfoy of misdeeds (what, really?) and the book’s namesake, a mysterious character called the “Half-Blood Prince.” I’ll tell you right now that nothing particularly interesting ever really comes from it. The book is named after what is largely a curious aside.
At the least, book six in the Harry Potter series does what it needs to: it moves the characters along in their personal and magical development; it fills in some previous gaps of knowledge; especially with regard to Voldemort’s past; it continues to raise the level of urgency and danger as previous books have, it adds a few more mysteries/cliffhangers; and it ends with a clear pointing [sic] toward a final climactic battle. The problem, though, is that the book does the least one would expect and no more.
And unfortunately for Rowling, she’s given herself a doozy of a mess to wrap up, and she only has one more book to do it. I’m extremely curious as to where she’ll take the story and what she’ll do after Book 7 is completed (she certainly doesn’t need to work anymore: she’s worth as much as $1 billion). I don’t need to tell you whether or not to read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you’ve bothered to read any others, you’ll read this one in due course, and no review in the world will stop you, but for what it’s worth, it’s fairly satisfying for such an easy read.