Harry Potter #6
Harry Potter, a young wizard, is collected from his Muggle relatives by Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Dumbledore. Harry has been waiting throughout the summer for news from his world. Harry is still reeling from the shock of having lost his godfather, Sirius Black, mere weeks before. Lord Voldemort, the most feared Dark wizard of the age, has finally moved into the open and the Ministry of Magic can no longer ignore the story. Rufus Scrimgeour replaces Cornelius Fudge as Minister for Magic. Dumbledore takes Harry along with him to visit with Horace Slughorn, whom he wishes to take up a teaching post at Hogwarts. Harry seems to be the one to persuade Slughorn, and Dumbledore explains to Harry that it is because Slughorn is a collector of sort, a collector of great students.
Returning to Hogwarts, Harry and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, are horrified to learn that the reviled Severus Snape will no longer be teaching Potions, but finally got the post he has always wanted: Defence Against the Dark Arts. Slughorn takes up Potions. With Snape no longer being the Potions master, Harry will be able to realize his dream of becoming an Auror, a Dark wizard catcher, seeing as his grades are then fine to be accepted into the class. In their first Potions lesson (seeing as he never bought the relevant books for this class), Slughorn instructs him and Ron to go and borrow school books. Harry gets a rather tattered and frayed one, and is irritated to learn that the previous owner scribbled just about everywhere in the book. However, soon Harry realizes that the previous owner was a genius, and it wins him a prize: Felix Felicis, a luck potion that is incredibly strong.
Harry learns that the book belonged to someone who nicknamed themselves the Half-Blood Prince, and Hermione is awfully sceptical about the book – and not only because Harry has replaced her as top Potions student, either. Aside from school being completely different, Harry feels useless, like he is doing nothing to stop Voldemort. Dumbledore soon informs Harry that he will be attending private lessons with him, and Dumbledore starts revealing memories that he has collected of Tom Riddle in his youth, prior to becoming Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore insists it is of the utmost importance to understand how Voldemort marked Harry as his equal, and how Harry’s greatest power over Voldemort is the fact that he can love. Harry also has issues come up when he starts to realize that he likes Ron’s sister Ginny more than he should, and tries his damndest to stay away from those thoughts and dreams. Ron and Hermione are endlessly fighting about things, and the friendship dissolves when Ron starts seeing fellow Gryffindor Lavender Brown.
Harry is alone in being incredibly suspicious of his nemesis, Draco Malfoy. Prior to school starting Draco was threatening Mr Borgin in Knockturn Alley in his shop, and it is a dark place to be, full of people living on the fringe of the Dark arts. At school, his suspicions are not abated, and Malfoy keeps inexplicably disappearing off the Marauder’s Map at random times (once Harry becomes obsessed enough to try and track him). Harry is tasked with extracting a memory from Professor Slughorn, and using the Felicis, he extracts the memory. He and Dumbledore explore Slughorn explaining Horcruxes to Tom Riddle, and Riddle asking terrible questions. Horcruxes are Dark magic. It entails splitting your soul and hiding it in something, and someone has to die to split the soul. Voldemort has created six Horcruxes, and it becomes Harry and Dumbledore’s job to recover them.
Harry and Dumbledore have a lead and chase it down, but everything goes downhill from there. Harry continually questions why Dumbledore trusts Snape, and he will no longer answer. Will Harry and Dumbledore be able to recover the Horcruxes that Voldemort has hidden his soul in? Two are already destroyed and a large grouping of unknown ones remain. What is Malfoy up to that Snape is insistent on helping him with and that has turned Malfoy against his favourite teacher, made him intent on grabbing the glory for himself? What is going on in the school, and what are Voldemort’s plans? When will the Dark Lord strike again?
I had some issues with some sections in the book. The first time I ever read it, I was struck by the fact that it almost felt as though J.K. Rowling was rushing to get through this book, and I have never been able to shake the feeling. There are a lot of disjointed areas to read through, and some sections of downright sloppy, rushed writing. But then there are areas again that are simply superb. The story that she conveyed in this book was tremendous. The roots of Tom Riddle while on the rise to becoming Lord Voldemort, a terrifying and feared Dark wizard is astounding. Dumbledore’s task of finding out more about Voldemort’s past was dangerous as well as a stroke of genius. A lot of the book revolves around Harry’s obsession with Draco Malfoy, who admittedly has a much smaller part than usual. I was saddened to see that very little attention was given to Sirius’s death as well as how Harry was dealing with it. Being at Hogwarts itself was almost brushed aside, but the luscious detail used to describe Dumbledore’s mission to recover recollections to arm Harry against Voldemort takes precedence and gives us an incredible look into Voldemort’s mind, and how he could possibly be the way that he is. I thought that the best written section of the book was most definitely the last quarter, from Harry’s last trip to Dumbledore for their lesson together and the aftermath. This book series is really one of those rare gems – well written and presented, strong and with a wealth of characters that just draw you into their magical world. This really was a fantastic entry into the series, and had a lot of history in it that just makes all you know that much more solid.
J.K. Rowling managed to convey the raw loss of Dumbledore as well as Harry’s detachment from the rest of the world when he realizes that he is about to leave everything in his life behind to set out on the mission that Dumbledore set out for him: recover the Horcruxes and end Voldemort. The last section of the book was so damn tightly written and well executed. The fight between Snape and Harry will always haunt me and taunt me, even the first time around that I read it, while reeling from the loss of Dumbledore, I realized something deeper was going on, that Snape was sticking out his neck for something.