Review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" by J. K. Rowling

It's pretty sad when you're 33 years old and the highlight of your year is when the next new children's book is finally out on the market. Deciding to skip the ridiculous lines and midnight ?parties,? I pre-ordered my copy online, and only had to chew the tablecloth for four hours from when I woke up at eight o'clock, till the postman finally delivered my book at noon on Saturday.

And, just like last I did with Order of the Phoenix, I forgoed (forgew? forwent?) everything, and did nothing but read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (stopping for the occasional bathroom break) until I finished Sunday afternoon.

God, I love being a geek.

Before I get into it, I'd like to share something I've noticed about the Harry Potter books since, say, The Goblet of Fire. Imagine buying a jack in the box. A big one, say two feet by two feet by two feet. The instructions tell you that the longer you crank the handle on the side of the box, the bigger the ?jump? at the end. So you test this out. You crank the handle a few turns, and just lifts the lid and says, ?not worth my time!?

So, you decide to turn the crank for one full minute. ?Pop Goes the Weasel? begins to play, and Jack gives the standard jump at the end. You try it for five minutes, and this time he jumps out and yells, ?Tequila!?

So, what would happen you wonder, if you cranked it for a whole day? So, you begin to crank.

And crank.

Stop for a bathroom break.

Go back to cranking.

Stop cranking at one in the morning, wake up at eight, and resume cranking.

Till two in the afternoon.

Then you open the door, make sure no cars are coming, hit the button, and run across the street. You faintly hear the organ monkey music in the background till the time comes.

And then trumpets blair!

Angels come down from on high and lift their voices in praise!

The house explodes in a barrage of sound and heat and light!

And, at the same time, you have a spontaneous orgasm.

That's what reading a Harry Potter book is like.

The Gist: It is year six for Harry and the gang at Hogwarts. And the wizarding world is at war (crank). The students read the Daily Prophet every morning to learn if anyone they know has gone missing, or been found dead (crank). Dumbledore is leaving the castle for extended periods of time, however, when he does return to the castle, Harry starts taking private lessons with him, lessons that will hopefully prepare Harry to face Voldemort (few hours of cranking).

Soon, the students of the school fall under attack (I feel the springs tensing). Harry is convinced, though he has no proof of it, that Malfoy is responsible on two near fatal attacks on Hogwarts (must? keep? cranking!). He believes them to be small occurrences in a much bigger plot.

A plot grows into one climatic night, when the Dark Mark is conjured over Hogwarts (Cue the trumpets! Cue the trumpets!).

The Good: Trying to be as non-spoilery as possible, let me list some of the plusses:

We learn why the Avada Kadavra curse does not kill Voldemort after it rebounds off Harry.

We learn who the Half-Blood Prince is.

We know for once and for all which side Snape is really working for? or do we?

The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year?Damn!

Harry learns what he must do to finally defeat Voldemort.

The Bad: I will have to admit, this book is nothing, NOTHING like what I expected. Like the other books, it still centered around life in Hogwarts, when I thought the scope would have branched out much more by now. I was hoping for a little less conversation, a little more action, please. Though the war is full on in the wizarding world, we actually see very little of it, until the end.

However, that is obviously because the purpose of this book is purely to set up book seven. The ending of Half Blood Prince guarantees that book seven will be nothing like any of the others. So, while the book wasn't all I wanted, it did it's job. It makes me want to read the last book all the more.

And, no, I'm not going to tell you who dies. Sorry.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books; July 16, 2005
ISBN: 0439784549
Genre: Fantasy
Author's Webpage:

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.


  1. Only had to wait 4 hours... you lucky bastard! Only 33... you lucky bastard!

    Hem-hem. (done in my best Umbridge voice).

    I was also let down. After book 5, I had high expectations. This book is nothing more than filler fodder for (what I hope will be) an awesome book 7.

    I must ask you, Joe, do you think J.K. wrote this book alone?

    Here's why I ask.

    All previous books felt like fly by the seat of your pants books. We get new spells, new characters (and interesting ones), we get new, this, new that, everything is fresh.

    Then there's book 6. The only thing new is a rather dull character. Everyone else is back, but the book spends all its time positioning everyone. The final conflict felt drained of all life and was quite rid of emotion. I didn't care when the ill-fated death happened. I also noticed that EVERYTHING that could have been questioned in each of the five previous books was explained in this one.

    So I question, did J.K. write this book on her own, or did a team get together and say 'This is what everyone expects, put it in. This is what everyone dislikes, leave that out.'

    For example, this is the first book where Dumbledor doesn't wait until the end of the book and then say 'Here's what happened while you had your back turned'. I for one got tired of that, but it was formulaic.

    On the plus side, we got to see more into Voldy's world. I thought seeing Tom Riddle was quite cool. Possibly the highlight of the book would be those glimpses.

    Sorry to ramble for so long. I also cranked all day and well into the night and finished my copy Monday morning (as I didn't get my copy until late Saturday night). Unfortunately, for me, I heard kazoos, not trumpets. I'd still rate this book a strong 3, though.


  2. My, my, what an interesting question you ask.

    Just to let others know, possible tiny spoilers follow below.

    Yes, I believe that Rowling wrote the book alone, but it is rather obvious that this book, more than any other, has been influenced by outside sources, namely the movies and the internet.

    The influences of the Harry Potter films are small, but noticeable. For instance, a small running joke throughout the book is that the new, uninteresting character cannot bother to remember Ron's name, so on several occasions he gets it wrong. Once, while talking to Harry, he calls Ron? Rupert. Get it? Rupert Grint plays Ron in the movies.

    In another scene, Rowling actually became confused between the books and the movies. In this scene, Harry is reminiscing about the time Hermione punched Malfoy in the face. Of course, this happened in the movie Prisoner of Azkaban. In the book, she slapped Malfoy. Oops.

    But by far the biggest outside influence on this book is the internet, primarily and

    If you've never been to either of these sites, they are nirvana to Harry Potter fans. Warner Bros. sends them the newest and latest info and gossip. J. K. herself granted the websites' creators an interview with her hours after Half-Blood Prince came out.

    But, more than that, they have huge forums discussing and debating every detail of everything Harry Potter. And Rowling reads the sites. She enjoys reading the theories and questions the fans come up with. She answers questions posed on the sites on her own website in the FAQ section.

    If you read the forums, or the ?open letter to J. K. Rowling,? a letter posted on both sites that contained a list of questions about the books, you will find many of the questions posed were purposely answered in this book, even ones she already answered on her site. Big questions (Why would Voldemort trust Snape when all the evidence suggests he's working with Dumbledore), and small questions (Who is the head of Ravenclaw house?) I think working in answers to so many readers' questions was the reason this book contains so much exposition.

    As for the ending of the book, I was not so much on pins and needles about who dies, but was honestly kind of surprised how it happens. What got me about the end was the fact that it sets up book seven to be so vastly different from the other six. I think book seven will be what I expected book six to be in terms of action and plot, and then some.

    So there's my $.02.

  3. Having a 10-year-old who has friends ranging in age from 8 to 15 might put a different spin on this. First of all, we went to a midnight release event, but at least not to a megastore. Instead, we went to a cool little independent store where local author Nancy Kress was conducting a trivia game, folks were drinking coffee and hot chocolate, and the mood was generally nice.

    Like Joe, my daughter abandoned all other activity to read the book, in part because she wanted to submit her review to our local paper. (BTW, her review was published: this link is to the article.) While she wasn't giddy with excitement about the book, she definitely enjoyed it. One of her friends was even in tears at the death. So, perhaps younger readers, the primary target audience, see the book differently. In fact, no slight intended to one of the Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas, I'm wondering if you ought to solicit reviews of YA fiction from a member of the target audience. Maybe one of Mike's or Evo's kids?

    All that said, I've not read the book, yet. My wife has, but I don't have a feel for how she liked it.

  4. Is YA really the intended audience anymore? I mean, it's pretty clear that kids AND adults read the books, and they'd be fools to exclude either. Kind of like Shrek...

  5. vfrgurrl says

    Well, Joe, yes I did listen to your review of "Spiderbabes". But not until yesterday on my way home from work. I laughed until I hiccuped. Thanks for not spoiling the Half-Blood Prince. I hate reading reviews just for that reason. "And then he...."
    Please don't get disappointed and stop, you are one of my favorite bits on the dragonpage. Have a cold one for me....

  6. Thanks, vfrgurrl. I appreciate that.

    Dave, good luck getting Evo's kid to do a review, I've tried. I suppose Mike's kid would, if he was ever unchained from the basement and allowed to see visitors. Or read books. I don't like to think about it.

    On the other hand, YA aged reviewers or not, I have permanent dibbs on everything Harry Potter. Hate to have to hurt a kid over something so trivial... hate it, but I'd still do it.

  7. LOL, Joe. OK, we won't stand between you and Harry Potter. And I agree, Magess, that it's not strictly YA, just like Pixar and DreamWorks films, etc. Still, for books that are YA or multiage in their target audience, it would be great to get some YA input for the review. I might be able to cajole my daughter into providing some feedback. She's an avid reader and has read all sorts of stuff, from Magic Treehouse to Young Jedi Knights to Lord of the Rings. If you're interested, drop me a note.


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