Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
by J.K. Rowling
672 pp | Arthur A. Levine Books | ISBN 0439784549 | US$29.95 | 2005

The difficulty in approaching a review of a book in a series as prominent as Harry Potter is that there exists already an immense amount of expectation in the mind of the reviewer. The spectacular children’s series which has swept the world has made “Harry Potter” a household name.

Expectations aside, the newest addition to the Harry Potter phenomenom: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a fantastic piece of literature. When reading the book, I felt that I was actually present in the stunningly vivid world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The characters are lively and real, and face problems both ordinary and extraordinary throughout the book.

However, as has already been stated, Harry Potter comes with expectations. In the opinion of this reviewer, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is far from being a children’s book. The themes are inappropriate for children below age 10 or 11. Rowling’s teenage characters face teenage problems such as relationships, sexual attraction and display all the characteristics of a common teenager. These ideas are not only inappropriate for younger readers, but are also incomprehensible. An 8-year-old will find the behaviour of his heroes confounding and baffling.

Furthermore, as the wizarding world is pitched deeper and darker into fear of Lord Voldemort, so too do the themes grow darker, and the line between right and wrong becomes faded. Ideas of betrayal, deceit, hatred, death and loss are contrasted with themes of hope, love and unity. Ultimately the appropriateness of the book will fall to the maturity of the reader in question.

As a work of literature, and part of a series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is brilliant. Rowling uses her trademark combination of suspense and humour throughout a wonderfully constructed storyline. The book answers several enormous questions which have undoubtedly been on the tongues of Harry Potter fans around the globe.

The book begins in a world darkened by the return of Lord Voldemort, and a clever first chapter indicates how things have changed since we last left Harry at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The first half of the book is slow, but as addictive as ever, filled with enough subtle tidbits and red herrings to keep the reader interested. By the second half of the book, things change speed and a rollercoaster of twists and turns follows. The book ends with more questions on the tongue of the reader than they had when picking up the book, leaving them with the impatient desire for the next, and final book in the Harry Potter series.

Is the book as good as it has been hailed, as “The best Harry Potter book so far”? My opinion is No; the book is fantastic, but is probably too short for diehard Harry Potter fans.

Matthew Beard is a Year 11 student at Redfield College in Sydney.

Dr. Matthew Beard is an ethicist and moral philosopher. He is currently an Adjunct Lecturer at UNSW Canberra's School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Matthew was awarded his PhD from the University...