Harry Potter: Who is the Half-Blood Prince?

   The wizarding world is in “a state of open warfare” at the beginning of the sixth novel in the bestselling Harry Potter series.

   Bridges are collapsing, hurricanes are inexplicably cropping up in Western London and reports of mysterious deaths are seeping into the Muggle realm. Even the Muggle prime minister has taken notice.

   “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” released July 16 is the newest, darkest novel by J.K. Rowling in the increasingly sinister series. The long-awaited sixth book has met with mixed reviews since its release on July 16. Some have touted it as the best book in the series; others opine that it is about as imaginative as a pile of dragon dung. Those people are stupid. It’s pretty much the best book ever written, next to the first five books.

   Voldemort and his Death Eaters are on the march, slowly gaining control and wreaking havoc on the populace.  They seem to have enlisted the giants, the dementors and the fearsome Inferi, corpses that are reanimated and used to kill who ever Voldemort wants dead.

   Fraught with more violence than in previous novels, “Half-Blood Prince” takes Harry and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, through the most turbulent times the wizarding world has faced since the reign of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The sixth book is by far the most intense novel in the series, and sets the stage for the final, inevitable duel between Harry and Lord Voldemort.

   “HBP” picks up with Harry back at the Dursley’s, his Muggle aunt and uncle’s dwelling, grieving the loss of his beloved godfather, Sirius.

   Shortly into the summer holidays, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Dumbledore, whisks Harry off on a mission to entreat and old colleague of Dumbledore’s to join the staff at Hogwarts. Luckily, Dolores Umbridge, the old Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, is gone for good, and Dumbledore makes a very interesting appointment to that position.

   Harry spends the rest of the summer at the Burrow with the Weasleys, where Dumbledore thinks Harry will be safest.

   The Weasleys, Harry and Hermione take a trip to Diagon Alley to see Fred and George Weasley’s new joke shop, called Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.  There’s an unpleasant run-in with Draco Malfoy, and subsequently Harry, Ron and Hermione trail Malfoy into Knockturn Alley to see what peculiar business he’s up to.        

   Malfoy, Harry’s antithesis, presents a bigger threat than ever, and consequently, Harry becomes obsessed with stalking Malfoy around Hogwarts to try and catch him doing the Dark Lord’s bidding.

   On a lighter side, the young witches and wizards of love, lust after and hex each other in what can only be described as sexually frustrated teenagerdom.  New romances that have been brewing since Harry, Ron and Hermione’s first year finally come to fruition.

   Harry’s violently shifting mood swings from the last book have mercifully vanished, giving way to renewed faith and loyalty in Dumbledore, and Harry’s vow to avenge Sirius’ death.

   Though security is increased at Hogwarts this year, with Aurors on guard and Imperturbable charms surrounding the premises, Dumbledore’s frequent absences leave Harry and friends concerned about evil being loosed in the castle.

   Gone are Snape’s Occlumency lessons, replaced by personal lessons with Dumbledore.  Even Quidditch takes a backseat to Harry’s love life and mysterious newfound love of Potions.

   Which brings us to the Half-Blood Prince. Harry continues studying Potions in order to follow his dream of becoming an Auror.  He stumbles across a used  Advanced Potions textbook whose previous owner, who calls him or herself the “Half-Blood Prince,” filled the margins with tips and tricks for making strangely perfect potions. Hermione and Ron are baffled when Harry’s prowess at concocting potions dramatically improves.

   Hermione and Ginny Weasley both disapprove of the book; it was only a few years ago when Lord Voldemort was controlled Ginny’s mind through a book.  Hermione’s only reason is that Harry starts getting better grades than her.

   Harry comes across a few spells scribbled in the book that it seems the Half-Blood Prince made up including the incantation “Sectumsempra,” which Harry uses against Malfoy to disastrous result.

   There are new characters on the scene, from Cornelius Fudge’s replacement, Rufus Scrimgeour, as Minister of Magic, and the fright Fenrir Greyback, a werewolf who takes pleasure in biting children.

   The most central new character is the new teacher, pretentious, name-dropping Horace Slughorn, who takes students underneath his wing by way of his elitist society, the Slug Club.

    All the usual suspects are present, though Peeves, Professor McGonagall and Hagrid are not mentioned half as much as in the other novels.

   Basically, the book is a must-read for all Pottheads, as it brings us all one-step closer to hopefully seeing Lord Voldemort defeated.

    It seems that this latest installment could not have come at a better time. London has fallen victim to terrorist attacks this month, and uncertainty and fear plague our daily lives, just as in the wizarding world. Lord Voldemort and his death Eaters are just as intangible an enemy as the faceless term “terrorist.” Harry Potter doesn’t offer so much an escape as a different take on the world the same sort of world.  Although it is, undoubtedly, a great escape.

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