Based on six hundred and seven pages, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the penultimate book in Harry Potter series that was initially published on July 16, 2005, in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury Publishing pic. It was also released on the same date in the United States of America by Scholastic Corporation. Within a day of release, almost nine million copies had already been sold in the UK and the USA alone. The dark and violent themes of the novel make it stand out among other books of the Harry Potter series.
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE PLOT
As Dumbledore picked Harry from Dursleys in order to take him to Burrow, they stayed a little at Slughorn who was a former professor at Hogwarts. Harry convinced him to return to the school and continue teaching. On the other side, Snape met Malfoy’s mother Narcissa Malfoy and aunt Bellatrix Lestrange. Narcissa confessed that Voldemort has assigned his son a deadly task that she is afraid will cost her son’s life. Contrary to what Bellatrix was expecting, Snape agreed on not only saving Malfoy’s life but also assisting him in this task. On the day of Ordinary Wizards Level (O.W.L) results, Harry along with Hermione and Ron saw Malfoy in Knockturn Alley where he was buying Dark Arts supplies. It made Harry suspicious that Malfoy might be one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters. On Hogwarts Express Harry discussed his doubts about Malfoy with his friends and wore an invisibility cloak to spy on him. Harry overheard Malfoy talking about the mission assigned to him by Voldemort. However, Harry got caught in the process, and Malfoy out of rage petrified him. Unable to move, Harry was really worried that he would not be able to reach school before the train departs. Luckily, Nymphadora saw him and took him to school.
Snape became the new Dark Arts Teacher while Horace Slughorn resumed his previous post as aPotion Teacher. In Slughorn’s class, Harry found a book that said it belonged to Half-Blood Prince. With the help of this book, Harry started excelling in Potion Class. The book had different tips and notes written on it that helped Harry beat his other classmates. On the other hand, Dumbledore arranged regular meetings with Harry in his office to guide him about Voldemort’s past. Dumbledore personally believed that it would help Harry win the prophesized battle with Voldemort. In the meanwhile, Ron started dating a sixth year Gryffindor girl known as Lavender Brown but this increased the conflicts between Ron and Hermione. Dumbledore and Harry used a Pensieve to saw the memories of Voldemort and learn how his obsession for power and eternal life increased. Dumbledore assigned Harry a task to ask Slughorn to give him a memory in which he and young Tom Riddle were talking about something. This way Dumbledore and Harry can know more about Voldemort’s rise of power. Dumbledore also had plans to use this memory against Voldemort in order to defeat him.
Harry used an hour’s dose of Felix Felicis in order to retrieve the actual memory of Slughorn and young Tom Riddle. In the memory, Harry saw Slughorn telling Riddle that a wizard can split his soul into different parts and hide them in different objects. These objects are known as Horcruxesbut in order to have the ability to turn objects into Horcruxes, one must commit murder. Voldemort thus made himself immortal by creating six Horcruxes and hid them in different places. The two of these Horcruxes—Tom Riddle’s diary and a ring that once belonged to his grandfather had already been destroyed. Dumbledore elaborated that in order to destroy Voldemort completely, the remaining four Horcruxes must also be destroyed.
In the meanwhile, Ron broke up with Lavender and the bonding between Ron and Hermione grew a little. Similarly Harry and Ginny developed feelings for each other. By the end of the year, Harry and Dumbledore embarked on a mission to destroy one of the Horcruxes of Voldemort—a Slytherin’s locket. They found out the locket is kept hidden at the basin of an island to which a person can reach only after drinking the potion present above it. Dumbledore drank this potion which caused him pain and hallucinations. They took the locket and went back to Hogwarts. As they reached, they saw the Dark Mark placed on one of the school’s towers. As they were climbing up the tower Malfoy attacked along with some other Death Eaters. Dumbledore froze Harry beneath his invisible cloak to keep him hidden. Malfoy, on the other hand, disarmed Dumbledore but couldn’t succeed in killing him. This why his mother was worried that he won’t be able to fulfill the task assigned to him by Voldemort. Snape appeared in the meanwhile and killed Dumbledore by a magic spell. He told Harry that he was the Half-Blood Prince while Malfoy and other Death Eaters ran away.
Harry found out that the locket wasn’t a real Horcrux. He was shattered upon Dumbledore’s death and decided not to come back to Hogwarts the next year to find the remaining Horcruxesinstead. Ron and Hermione decided to help Harry in this task.
Though Horcrux seems like a great possible way for wizards to get immortal through this J.K Rowling has tried to show the consequences of murder. As discussed above, in order to become immortal and to be able to create different Horcruxes, one must kill somebody. Though murder has always been shown as a tragedy for victims here Rowling also explains the consequences faced a murderer. On the surface level, Rowling has shown that after a wizard murders someone he finally has the ability to split his soul into different pieces but in a more allegorical sense the murder itself devastates the murderer and tear away his soul in many pieces. With the concept of Horcruxes, Rowling has portrayed how worse and evil Voldemort is.
Another symbolism can be derived from Felix Felicis potion which reinforces the idea that human innate abilities are way better than magic. For example, Harry tricked Ron by showing that he had added luck potion in his drink which made Ron confident and he performed well at Quidditch match. Later when Harry told that he had added no potion, Ron realized the power of his own abilities and started believing in them. However, the fact that Harry used this potion to retrieve Slughorn’s memory shows the limitations of human abilities—they can only function up to a certain limit.
Despite different controversies and bets on which Harry Potter character would die, Half-Blood Prince turned out to be greatly admired by the fans and critics. Liesl Schillinger from The New York Times acclaimed the novel for its dark themes and suspenseful ending. Similarly, KirkusReviews said, ‘it [novel] will leave readers pleased, amused, excited, scared, infuriated, delighted, sad, surprised, thoughtful and likely wondering where Voldemort has got to since he appears only in flashback’
The book also won several awards, like 2006 British Book of the Year Award. Similarly, it also won the 2006 Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children' Books. In the United States, the American Library Association selected the novel for 2006 Best Books for Young Adults. It also won some other awards like Quill Awards and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Awards. In short, the second last book in the Harry Potter series was hugely praised just like other books of the series.
SOME FAMOUS QUOTES
I. ‘It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.’
II. ‘Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.’
III. ‘When you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not underestimate the power of obsessive love.