Harry, Ron, and Hermione are back at Hogwarts for their sixth year, and the sixth book is the darkest one yet. Voldemort is steadily gaining power, and even the Muggle world is starting to be effected by him. The war is coming, and Dumbledore knows isn’t going to be around much longer, so he starts to prepare Harry for what lies ahead.
Voldemort is still the main antagonist, but he isn’t physically present in this installment, he only appears in flashbacks in the Pensieve. Dumbledore and Harry explore memories that people have of Voldemort in order to gain insight as to defeat him. Dumbledore’s theory is that Voldemort has been creating Horcruxes to cheat death. Harry must figure out what items Voldy used to create the Horcruxes and he must find a way to destroy them.
Professor Horace Slughorn is a fun new character. Dumbledore convinces him to come out of retirement and resume his old position as the Potions teacher. Slughorn is the Head of Slytherin House. He has all the attributes of a typical Slytherin: he is a cunning, ambitious leader who enjoys power. He collects students that have potential, and uses his contacts from the “Slug Club” to improve his own status in life. He is a little bigoted, but he still can see past one’s blood status. Most Slug Club members are pure blood, but Lily and Hermione were still recruited, and Lily was his favorite student.
There isn’t as much of a mystery plot in this story. They spend some time trying to figure out what Malfoy is up to, and they also try to discover who the Half-Blood Prince is. A lot of time is dedicated to showing student life at Hogwarts. Ron gets a girlfriend and Hermione gets jealous and they have stop hanging out for a while. Harry develops feeling for Ginny and is torn between his heart and loyalty to his best friend. It seems like J.K. Rowling is setting everything up for the final book.
SPOILER ALERT: So Dumbledore dies at the end of this one. And now Harry is in control of his fate, he doesn’t have anyone to guide him anymore. He doesn’t have Sirius or Dumbledore to ask advice. He’s not alone, he still has Ron and Hermione, but he knows that it is time to face Voldemort.
You find out at the end that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince. The book is basically called Harry Potter and Snape. J.K. does a tremendous job handling Snape’s moral ambiguity. You can never tell if he is good or evil, or which side he is on. The final reveal of his character in the Deathly Hallows would not have worked without his depiction in this book.
This book is much slower than the previous entries to the series. It’s more reflective and a character study than an exciting book about a wizard war. It’s the calm before the storm. A very important step before all Hell breaks loose.
Critically Rated at 13/17