As Harry Potter begins his sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Lord Voldemort is gaining in power. Not only is he a threat to the wizarding community, but he's now causing havoc in the human world as well. The Ministry of Magic has their hands full cleaning up bizarre, inexplicable events, while Professor Dumbledore has increased security around the school. Harry continues to learn the skills he'll need to take on his nemesis, and Dumbledore offers him private lessons in which he educates Harry on Voldemort's background and shares theories about the dark lord that he hasn't told anyone else. While increasing his knowledge of his enemy, Harry unexpectedly falls in love, but his budding new romance may be in jeopardy before it's barely begun. When another person Harry cares for deeply falls prey to the dark lord's followers, the event ignites a burning desire to see Voldemort deposed once and for all and brings Harry to finally accept his destiny... only he can make that happen, and no matter how long or hard the task, he must not fail.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was another fabulous book in the Harry Potter series. It is essentially Harry's coming of age book in which he finally comes to terms with his destiny and embraces the path he didn't choose, but which he must follow in order to save not only the wizarding world, but possibly the human one as well. Of course, that path will lead him to the climactic battle with the dark lord, Voldemort, in the final book of the series. This story begins a bit differently with the action of the first two chapters setting the scene while dealing with other characters. Harry doesn't even show up until Chapter 3, and his time with the Dursleys is shorter each year, something for which Harry is quite grateful. After the summer, everything appears to be business as usual at Hogwarts with Harry and his friends in their sixth year there, during which he learns a few more of the skills that I'm sure will become essential for him to win his coming battle with Voldemort. As is typical, Harry has many suspicions and theories about bad things to come, this time primarily involving Malfoy, but as always, he doesn't trust Snape either. Unfortunately, as is also usually the case, no one, including his closest friends, believes him until it's too late, which leads to a fateful conclusion.
After being largely absent in The Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore is finally back to his old self in The Half-Blood Prince. I've always loved Dumbledore for his calming, paternalistic presence. He's been more of a father to Harry than anyone except maybe Sirius. In this story, Dumbledore begins giving Harry private "lessons" in which he teaches him to "know your enemy." In these lessons, we learn many fascinating things about Voldemort's past, and in many ways, his life parallels Harry's. As Dumbledore eventually reveals to Harry, this is no accident. Each person must choose their own path. Harry has chosen the path of goodness, because of the way in which one pivotal moment shaped his life, while Voldemort chose the path of evil despite the best efforts of Dumbledore and others to steer him back to the side of right.
Throughout the series, Snape has pretty much been an enigma, whose true loyalties were, in my mind, always in question. Snape was a known Death Eater in the past, but there are those, Dumbledore included. who believe he has mended his errant ways and was truly sorry for all he'd done. However, Harry has never trusted Snape one iota. With this being the case, Snape has always been a mystery. Even throughout most of this book, I wasn't quite sure if he was truly evil or if he was acting as a double agent for the side of good. I thought we'd probably not find out the truth of where he stood until the final book. Ms. Rowling surprised me though, by revealing more than I expected her to. Now I'd say that by the end of this book, it's pretty clear whose side Snape is really on... I think... although despite his actions in this story there are a few things that still make me wonder just a bit.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, love appears to be in the air. This book boasts a number of different romantic entanglements. First off, Ron and Hermione's bickering reaches an all-time new level until at one point, they aren't even speaking to each other anymore, putting Harry in a difficult position. Their jealousy and attraction to one another has become obvious to Harry and nearly everyone else, except each other. Ron does finally receive his first kiss, though I'm not saying with whom. All I will say is that afterward, he can't seem to stop kissing (aka snogging;-)), at least for a while.:-) Meanwhile, Harry experiences some unfamiliar and confusing jealous feelings of his own toward a certain young lady. Wedding bells are soon to be ringing for Bill, the eldest Weasley sibling, and his new fiancé may come as a bit of a surprise. Needless to say though, the ladies in the family don't particularly like her, at least not at first, even though the guys are a bit sweet on her. Last but not least, there is a surprise announcement of romance made about two characters who I like very much, and I'm really rooting for them to work out their differences and make their relationship permanent.
All in all, there was a lot going on in this penultimate book of the series. I finally got an explanation - sort of - for why Hogwarts can't keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for more than a year, which is something I've been wondering since the first book. One of Hagrid's magical creatures passes on, while readers and the characters say a sad, tearful farewell to a beloved main character who has been there since the beginning. I had unintentionally gotten a spoiler about this, so I can't say that I was totally surprised by this turn of events. However, the way in which it happened was a bit shocking. In spite of knowing it was coming, I still found myself in disbelief, trying to find some loophole in which they weren't really and truly gone. This person's death will leave a big hole in the story and they'll be sorely missed. At the same time though, I know that it is something that will drive Harry to his ultimate destiny. I love how the pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together in preparation for the big finale. I'm beginning to get glimpses of how each character is most likely going to play a role in that and how each of their individual talents might come in handy, and all I can say is I can't wait to see how this all turns out. Only one more book to go, and I'll be eagerly trying to fit it into my reading list as soon as possible.
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