It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys’ house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can’t quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys’ of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time? Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine…
Right before we get started be warned this will contain spoilers. If you don’t know who dies in this book, or indeed the previous book, turn away now.
Right lets get down to business.
Back when I first read the series, I’d have said this was my least favourite of all the books. It struck me as merely a filler, setting up the final book, and not much else. This is still true. Much like The Chamber of Secrets, The Half Blood Prince is a bridge book carrying the story over from the middle arc created with The Prizoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix to the final climax in the Deathly Hallows. However I feel I enjoyed the it more this time around.
I’ve said before that while Harry Potter is generally considered a children’s series, from around The Goblet of Fire and definitely by The Order of the Phoenix they are really more young adult fiction, a trend which is continued in The Half Blood Prince. In addition to battling Voldemort everyone is battling being a teenage and the pangs of first love. It is well played out and will be recognisable to all.
The big moment though is of course Dumbledore’s death. There are many death’s in the series. It is not a topic which Rowling shies away from. Dumbledore’s death is up there as one of the saddest. I’d personally rank it as joint third with Sirius (places 1 and 2 go to Dobby and Snape…..god that little elf will get you every time). Dumbledore’s death is a seismic moment in the series as it removes Harry’s last guardian from play. From here on out he is an adult and on his own.
This still isn’t my favourite of the series, but I feel its one I appreciate more now as an adult and knowing how everything will play out. It certainly lives up to the standard set by the rest of the books and is a fitting prelude to the final installment.