The Daily Bongo

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and have been trying to collect my thoughts about the book. As most people know if they haven't been under a rock for the past few years, Harry Potter is the creation of J.K. Rowling. This book is the sixth in what is promised to be a seven book series. Just in case you have been under a rock, the series is about an orphaned boy who lives with his abusive uncle and aunt (the Dursleys) and their obnoxious son, Dudley. In the first book, Harry finds out on his eleventh birthday that is a wizard and will be attending Hogwarts to learn everything he can about the magical world. It seems that the world is populated with magic folk and non-magic folk, called Muggles. Harry also learns some other startling news. His parents were killed when he was a baby by Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters were so feared by others that people were afraid to even use his name, so he is usually called "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Cannot-be-Named". With all this evilness, however, Harry survived the murder attempt with a lightening bolt scar on his head, but Lord Voldemort did not. This is the basis for the books--trying to figure out what happened that night. How did Harry survive and why was Voldemort killed? Or was he? As we find out in the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Lord Voldemort wasn't really killed, but was severely weakened. Through the books, Voldemort becomes stronger, and finally comes back in the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The Half-Blood Prince starts with the magic world and the Muggle world both feeling the effects of the rise in strength of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters. The acts of death and destruction are now visible in the Muggle World, and the Ministry of Magic seems incapable of doing anything to control the situation. Meanwhile, Draco Malfoy's mother visits Snape and asks him to keep his eye on Draco in the coming school year. It appears that Lord Voldemort has given Draco a task that he must accomplish or face Voldemort's wrath. Bellatrix Lestrange accompanies Draco's mom, and tells her not to trust Snape because he is in with the Order of the Phoenix. Snape, however, says that he is not, and makes an unbreakable vow with Draco's mom that he will make sure that Draco stays safe AND if Draco can not accomplish his task, Snape will finish it for Draco. Dumbledore also seems to be having trouble with Voldemort and the Death Eaters because when he goes to gather Harry from the Dursleys his right arm is withered and dead looking. Obviously something bad has happened, and it doesn't look very promising to Harry or the reader that Dumbledore has not come through unscathed. With all the deaths and heightened security that face Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the start the school year just as they have in the past. Harry is sure that Draco Malfoy is up to no good after the trio spy on Draco threatening a shop keeper in Diagon Alley, and is fixated on figuring out what Draco is up to. Meanwhile love blossoms. What is Draco up to? Will Harry stop him in time? In this book, we also find out quite a few things about Voldemort's past, such as the fact that he killed his father and framed his uncle for the murder. What happens in the book? Well, spoilers follow below! Don't read on if you don't want to know what happens!!

Spoilers below! Read at your own risk!

The first thing that I have to say is that I enjoyed this book very much. I had read some reviews on Saturday that said that the book was slow moving at times, and I suppose that could be valid. Most of the book is spent on the personal lives of Harry, Ron and Hermione, and this doesn't have alot of action or appear to advance the ultimate story of the epic battle between Harry and Voldemort, or does it. Love is in the air. We all knew that there were feelings between Ron and Hermione, but then Ron makes the stupid move of snogging (kissing) with Lavender Brown because of jealousy that Ron feels over his younger sister, Ginny, snogging with her boyfriend, Dean. Ginny told Ron that he was upset with her snogging because Ron had never snogged in his life. So Ron goes to prove her wrong. Well, these leads to alot of tension between Ron and Hermione. Not to worry though because by the end of the book, Ron and Hermione have straightened things out between them. The shocker though is that Harry realizes that he is in love with Ginny when he sees her kissing Dean. Will Ron approve of Harry dating his sister? He does, and Harry actually does some snogging with Ginny. They aren't the only couples in the book. Bill, Ron's brother, is engaged to Fleur. All the women of the family hate her because Fleur is so beautiful, but there is more to Fleur than meets the eye. She finally wins the women over by sticking to Bill's side when he is mauled by a werewolf at the end of the story in the big fight. Then there is Tonks and Lupin who finally admit their love for each other. It's obvious that J.K. Rowling is setting us up for love will conquer all in the end. After all, didn't Harry wind up surviving the Avada Kedavra curse because the love of his mother saved him. So perhaps all this talk of love does advance the story because it makes me wonder if Ginny will lose her life to save Harry?

We do have a new teacher of the Dark Arts, and it's Snape. He finally gets his wish of being the teacher, and this leads me to the whole theory of what the heck is going on with Snape. Snape appears to still be a follower of Voldemort. He makes the Unbreakable Vow with Draco's mum, and Harry is sure that he can't be trusted. But can he? Is it possible that all that happens in this book is a ruse to setup Snape to get close to Voldemort and undermine him? After all, we find out in the book that the reason a teacher never lasts more than one year as teacher of the Dark Arts is because Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort wanted the job, but was denied it by Dumbledore. The position has been cursed ever since that happened. Now Dumbledore would know that the curse couldn't be broken as long as Voldemort lives, and I'm sure that he didn't think Voldemort would die within the school year. Could it be that there is more to the appointment of Snape to this position than meets the eye? We also find out at the end of the book that the Half-Blood Prince is Snape. His father was a Muggle and his mother was a witch. Harry is given a potions book to use by the new teacher of potions, Horace Slughorn, which has notes on how to make the potions actually work and with spells. The book belonged to the Half-Blood Prince, A.K.A. Snape. When Harry tries to use one of the spells against Snape at the end of the book, Snape says "don't use my own spells on me". We then find out from Hermione that Snape's mother was Eileen Prince, and Snape is indeed a half-blood Prince.

There's also a new teacher of potions, Horace Slughorn. At first, I was highly suspicious of him because I thought that he was getting the Dark Arts position, and because he was hiding memories for Dumbledore. However, he is basically innocent in the story. Slughorn is an influence seeking wizard, and his only crime is that he likes to have a hand in helping students become successes so he can later get things because of his connection to someone powerful. It is Slughorn who gives Voldemort information of horcruxes which I will go over in more detail in abit.

The huge plotline in the story is that Dumbledore dies in the end. He is actually killed at the hand of Snape. The thing that Draco Malfoy was to do was to fix a cupboard in the Room of Requirement. The cupboard has a twin in the storeroom of Borgin and Burkes, and once the cupboard is fixed at Hogwarts, it provides a way for the Death Eaters to bypass the security system of Hogwarts and enter the school. Draco's other task is to kill Dumbledore. Voldemort has threatened Draco and his family with death if Draco does not complete his tasks. Throughout the school year, we see Draco agonizing because he is not getting anywhere with his tasks and he knows that death awaits him if he fails. Two murder attempts are made against Dumbledore, and Ron and Katie Bell fall victim to these attempts. Both are saved. (Ron is saved by Harry's quick thinking and the help of the Half-Blood Prince's potions book.) At the end of the book, Dumbledore and Harry are in search of a horcrux, and when they return to Hogwarts, they find the Dark Mark above the school. They race there to find that Death Eaters have entered the school with the help of Draco and the cupboard. Dumbledore then stupefies Harry while Harry is under the invisibility cloak, and Dumbledore faces Draco alone. It is obvious that Draco will not have it in him to kill Dumbledore. That is when Snape rushes on to the scene. Dumbledore then pleads with Snape and then Snape kills Dumbledore. The thing is that when Dumbledore did his pleading, I didn't get the feeling that he was pleading with Snape to save him, but to kill him. I really have difficulty believing that Dumbledore is truly dead. I think that there is something more that is going on with Snape, and we can't forget that Dumbledore has the close tie to Fawkes the phoenix. I think that somehow in the last book, we will see the return of Dumbledore and the revelation that Snape is indeed on the side of the Order of the Phoenix.

Finally, the last part of the story that is going to have the biggest impact on the next book is the Horcruxes. It is possible to split one's soul and to put it in an object outside of your body. So even if you are killed, you really don't die because there is still a part of your soul that is Earthbound. Voldemort got this information from Slughorn when Voldemort was still a pupil at Hogwarts. Usually, the soul is split into only two pieces, but Voldemort asked questions about splitting the soul into seven pieces. Dumbledore has been in search of the Horcruxes, and that's how he wound up injuring his arm. Dumbledore was able to get one Horcrux which was in a ring that belonged to the Slytherin side of Voldmort's family. Another Horcrux is believed to be in a necklace that Voldemort's mother sold before she died. This necklace is hidden in a cave, and Harry and Dumbledore go to collect it. They are successful in a way, but at a cost. Dumbledore had to drink the poison that filled the well where the Horcrux was hidden. This almost killed him, and led him to be in a weakened state at the end of the book when he confronts Draco and Snape. After Dumbledore dies, Harry looks at the necklace to find that it is a fake. Someone with the initials R.A.B. has been there before, and has already destroyed the necklace, leaving a fake with a message for Voldemort. That means that there are four more Horcruxes out there, and Harry believes that they are in the locket that is missing, a cup that Voldemort stole earlier, in something associated with the different houses at Hogwarts.

What we do find out at the end is that Harry is not planning on returning to Hogwarts next year. His plan is to search for and destroy the Horcruxes. Initially he is going to do this alone, but Ron and Hermione set him straight by saying they will join in the search. An interesting thought is that in some way, Harry himself is a Horcrux. Remember the prophecy from the fifth book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies."
"Neither can live while the other survives" makes me curious about Harry's connection to the Horcrux. It will be interesting to see what happens. I just find it difficult to wait another two years for the next book. However, I will have the joy of re-reading a series that so pulls you into the story you find yourself living and breathing the magic of it. I can't imagine a world without Harry Potter and as long as we have the books, we won't have to. If you haven't read the series yet, you are missing a tale full of love, hope, death, and action. It's the story of life.

July 19, 2005