Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (by JK Rowling)

Having finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and still awaiting delivery of the final instalment of this seven-book series by JK Rowling, I turned to the sixth book - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I have only read this once before, a month or two after it was published, back in 2005. I thought it excellent then, and didn't revise my opinion this time.

Knowing what was coming made me read a little slower, perhaps; I was hoping I might pick up some clues about what to expect in the seventh book, when it eventually arrives. I don't think I was any the wiser.

 Rowling has said, as far as I recall, that nothing should be unexpected - that readers should be able to work out from the previous books how it will all end. Well, if so, she should probably turn to crime fiction next since I really don't have the faintest idea what will happen. I can generally work out 'whodunit' in Agatha Christie and similar, but can find very few clues in the Harry Potter series. There are, of course, thousands of predictions, all different - so presumably it's not obvious.

As for this book - it's very exciting, it's a bit dark, but still tinged with humour here and there. There are the usual school exploits alongside a bit of teenage beating hearts and kissing; nothing unsuitable for small children, but probably of very little interest to them. The early chapters of the book tell us things that apparently give us more insight into reality than the characters - but, on re-reading, I suspect they're some kind of bluff.

Harry and his friends are in great danger in this book, as is the whole wizarding world, after the rise of Lord Voldemort and the gathering of his people. There's a big battle at the end, as with all the other books, and while the finale was unexpected, it was also perhaps inevitable. Not that I had worked it out beforehand, of course. But it certainly paves the way for the final book... which I very much hope will arrive in our PO Box before the end of the week!

Highly recommended, but preferably after the first five books.

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