J.K. Rowling,
Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
(Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2005)

The only bad thing about Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince is the fact that I will never be able to look at the previous books the same way again. The concluding events of Book 6 really change everything -- no longer can I talk about Harry Potter and begin sentences with the words "I'll bet..." or "I wouldn't be surprised if...." Some of my hopes and intuitions would seem to be thoroughly dashed now. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but this book left me both eaten up inside and horribly empty at the same time. My suspicions were correct in some regards, but I was thoroughly shocked in places. The ending is just heart-breaking, seemingly ensuring that the seventh and final book will be extremely dark.

A large part of the book sort of takes you back to the good old days, though. There are even stretches where Voldemort's shadow seems to fade completely away momentarily. There's a new teacher to get to know, a new dimension to the studies of our sixth-year heroes and, of course, Quidditch matches to be played. The half-blood prince worked out much differently than I had envisioned, adding yet another air of mystery over the year's proceedings. Then there's Malfoy, whose changed manner and mysterious doings harbor no good whatsoever -- he's no longer the Malfoy we've known 'til now. Then there is, of course, that whole teenaged thing, as the relationships in this book take center stage. Ron and Hermione, of course, argue a lot -- but it goes much further than ever before this year. As for Harry's burgeoning love life, things finally go in the direction I always wanted them to go (and I loved the subtle way in which Rowling nursed it along) -- but, of course, all bets are off with the momentous changes that take place in the end.

I just have so many questions now, as it seems hard to believe that what happened did actually happen in the way it happened, and it seems like it should never have happened at all. Alas, I can not go into more detail here, though. Book 7 will be unlike any that have come before (and this book itself was quite different in that Harry doesn't even appear until page 38). Enjoy the first 550 pages of this one, as these pages feature the last days of anything approaching innocence in this magical world we all love so much. The ending may well leave you in tears; you may not even feel like the same person after you finish it. I don't consider Book 6 quite as strong as Book 5, but, at the same time, I think it proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that J.K. Rowling is the best writer of our generation.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 30 July 2005

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