Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: a book drastically different from the movie and my penultimate Harry Potter review for CBR9. Half Blood Prince is one of my least favorite movies in the series, despite all the balls it puts in motion, and even though I re-watched it in preparation of my reading I found myself zoning out in places. Maybe sloughing through 27 hours of (the audiobook) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix gave me a new appreciation for the zippy pacing of the comparatively short 17 hour HPB.
Spoilers abound because I’m pretty sure everyone knows the plot from the books, movies or both…
We open with an exchange between the Prime Minister of England and Cornelius Fudge, the recently replaced Minister of Magic, discussing the escalating antics of the Death Eaters against the wizarding world and muggles. We are also introduced to the new Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour (excellent name). This is a much better opening than in the film, which is almost entirely different, and better explains how the problems in the wizarding world are seeping into the muggle world.
After the brief exchange between ministers we have Snape explaining himself to Bellatrix Lestrange (who doubts his loyalty to Voldemort) followed by his unbreakable vow to Narcissa Malfoy to protect Draco on the mission Voldemort has tasked him to do (mostly because V is upset with Lucious). All in all a lot happens before we get to the Chosen One.
So Dumbledore, who has somehow injured his hand, comes to get Harry at the Dursley’s who, because of movie contracts disputes, don’t appear in the adaption where the love magic is explained again and we learn that Harry has inherited Kreacher as well as 12 Grimmauld Place from Sirius. All of this happens before we set out to meet Horace Slughorn, the former head of Slytherin house, who Dumbledore plans to recruit with Harry’s help (because Slughorn collects exceptional students like trophies). We make our way to the Burrow where we are informed that Fleur and Bill are engaged, although none of the Weasleys like Fleur, and as someone who had only seen the films it is infuriating how poorly their relationship was handled in the adaptation (this could be a blanket statement, go ahead and imagine this aside after every third sentence from here on out) since we only know about the relationship because there is a wedding scene in Deathly Hallows! The film also rushes Tonks and Lupin’s relationship; her patronus change and general depression is not mentioned.
Anyway, everyone goes to Diagon Alley to get school supplies and even though security is tight the trio manage to sneak away from their escorts because they suspect Draco is up to something in Knockturn Alley. We also learn about Love Potions (foreshadowing) being sold by the Weasley Twins, whose business is booming. And then we get to the Hogwarts Express where Harry spies on Draco some more after the first meeting of the Slug Club. And then we find out Snape finally gets to be the DADA teacher because Slughorn is actually a Potions teachers, which is good for Harry because his OWL results wouldn’t have gotten him into Snape’s NEWT Potions class but Slughorn will accept him. In Potions class we are introduced to The Half Blood Prince, an old text book that helps Harry throughout the year, and Felix Felicis (liquid luck).
The biggest portion of Half Blood Prince that was paired down to its detriment is Harry’s lessons with Dumbledore and all the memories he has collected over the years trying to figure out how Tom Riddle became Voldemort, including his connection to Slytherin, how creepy he was as a child in the orphanage and how he wanted to come work at Hogwarts after graduating. Voldemort created his first horcruxes when he killed his father & grandparents and another when he murdered Hepzibah Smith for the Hufflepuff cup and Slytherin locket! Learning from the past is very important throughout the novel; all the memories Dumbledore shows Harry about Tom Riddle from before he was Voldemort are meant to give him an edge in defeating him in the end. Also, the HBP’s notes in Harry’s text book help him save Ron, teach him new spells and get him in Slughorn’s good graces. This is key because there is one memory Dumbledore doesn’t have that he tasks Harry with retrieving from its owner, Slughorn.
Now, I remember a big complaint people had was that the Burrow doesn’t burn in the books; what I didn’t realize was there wasn’t any issue with Death Eaters at Christmastime.Why eliminate the conversation between Scrimgeour and Harry in favor of this??? Did they just need to give Helena Bonham Carter more screen time?
“He accused me of being Dumbledore’s man through and through.”
“How very rude of him.”
“I told him I was.”
Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. Fawkes the phoenix let out a low, soft, musical cry. To Harry’s intense embarrassment, he suddenly realized that Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes looked rather watery, and stared hastily at his own knee. When Dumbledore spoke, however, his voice was quite steady.
“I am very touched, Harry.”
While friendship, primarily between our main trio, is still at the forefront of our story this book has the most romance plot points out of any of the previous novels. Since Dumbledore mentions repeatedly that love is its own kind of magic it makes sense that, along with being 16, it would begin to feature in our story. Overall Hermione and Ron’s relationship is a lot more organic in the novel. Maybe I’m a sucker for long time friends becoming romantically involved, I met my husband when we were 12 and we had a snarky, sarcastic platonic friendship for ten years before getting together to have a snarky, sarcastic marriage.
Excluding Hermione & Krum and Harry’s feelings for Cho most of the other books didn’t do a lot of relationship stuff. I kind of like that, even when the world is falling apart, people are still people and teenagers still have hormones. Harry really struggles with his feelings for Ginny, who is dating Dean Thomas at the beginning of the book, because she is Ron’s sister and he doesn’t want to hurt his relationship with his best friend. Their kiss after she wins the quidditch match for Gryffindor is so much more organic than weirdly kissing while destroying evidence from Snape. However, if I was the actress that played Ginny I would be so pissed off if I read the books before accepting the part- she is a smart, powerful witch (better than her brother)in the books; it’s actually one of the reasons Harry falls for her!
“I love you, Hermione,” said Ron, sinking back, rubbing his eyes wearily.
Hermione turned faintly pink, but merely said, “Don’t let Lavender hear you saying that.”
“I won’t,” said Ron into his hands. “Or maybe I will . . . then she’ll ditch me . . .”
Anyway, Harry stays convinced the whole year Draco is up to something and eventually has his house-elf, Kreacher, and Dobby (a huge freaking part in the whole Potter universe drastically cut from the movies) tail him. He discovers Malfoy has been using the Room of Requirement for whatever his plan is but can’t get into the room to see for himself. Harry and Draco eventually duel in the bathroom (question why is Moaning Myrtle helping Draco help Voldemort when she was killed by Tim Riddle?) with Harry using a spell the HPB wrote specifically “for enemies” but Snap swoops in to save Draco and punish Harry.
So time is running out for Harry to get the memory from Slughorn so he takes his Felix Felicis and the potion directs him to Hagrid’s where he is burying the giant spider, Aragog. Harry runs into Slughorn on his way to the funeral where Harry proceeds to get him drunk enough to share the memory. Harry rushes to Dumbledore’s where they discover that Slughorn explained how to create a horcrux to a young Tom Riddle and they deduce he has split his soul into 7 pieces and that’s why he can’t die. Dumbledore has already destroyed one horcrux, a ring, and Harry destroyed the diary, from Chamber of Secrets, but they still need to find four more.
Later, when Harry joins Dumbledore on a journey to collect a horcrux, Harry warns Hermione and Ron that, with Dumbledore away from Hogwarts, Malfoy may finally do whatever he has been planning to do. He gives them the last of his Felix and tells them to protect the school. Harry leaves with Dumbledore, who made Harry swear to obey all his orders, to a cave the young Tom Riddle once tortured some fellow orphans in. After a few obstacles the duo makes it to a basin filled with a mysterious potion that has to be drunk before you can get the locket underneath the liquid. Dumbledore drinks the potion which seems to weaken him; he struggles with drinking the potion but Harry forces him to finish. They get back to Hogsmeade where they discover the Dark Mark is above the school and they rush back. Dumbledore is very weak and asks Harry, hidden under his invisibility cloak to get Snape but before Harry can do so Dumbledore freezes him in place because Malfoy has come into the Astronomy tower. So we find out Malfoy has been repairing the Vanishing Cabinet to create a portal between Knockturn Alley and the school so Death Eaters can come into Hogwarts. Draco struggles with killing Dumbledore but soon other Death Eaters arrive (not Bellatrix, again more HBC in the movies than in the book) and eventually Snape kills Dumbledore. Harry runs out of the tower, Dumbledore’s death breaks his spell, into a battle between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters. We find out that Bill was attacked by a werewolf, badly scarred, but otherwise the Order wins. This is literally a battle of Good vs. Evil and Good perseveres, of course.
After the difficulty of getting the locket/ horcrux out of the cave Harry discovers the locket is a fake and it was all for nothing. Dumbledore is buried and Harry breaks up with Ginny so he can spend the next year looking for other horcruxes. Ron and Hermione continue to be the best friends that ever were and volunteer to join Harry on his journey.