When I sat and thought about it, I realized there wasn’t really a whole lot of things that actually happened in this book. There are a few hugely important events, but all in all, the majority of the story is background information and series of suspicions and small occurrences that lead to the important events. That being said, I actually really liked this book. It felt like things were happening all the time even though it was only thoughts or history being presented.
The story opens with Dumbledore escorting Harry to the Weasleys’ house. They take a detour on the way and end up visiting Professor Slughorn, a man Dumbledore is attempting to get to teach at Hogwarts that year. Through Harry’s efforts, Professor Slughorn agrees to come to the school. Harry is rather baffled why Dumbledore seems to express such importance on Slughorn going to Hogwarts, but this is later discovered by Harry. At the Weasleys’ you learn of Bill and Fleur’s engagement and upcoming wedding and the gang prepares for another year at school. When they visit Diagon Alley for supplies, they are saddened by the number of closed shops and the scared feeling from the crowd because of Voldemort’s return and current mayhem. They also visit Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop run by Fred and George. When they return to school, Harry begins to take lessons with Dumbledore on the history of Voldemort in order to better understand his enemy. They start back at the very beginning with Voldemort’s parents and later with him in the orphanage before he comes to Hogwarts. Later, Harry discovers that Slughorn was plays a key role in an important aspect of Voldemort’s rise of power – a memory that Harry has to persuade off the new potions teacher. The leads to the discovery and belief that Voldemort created Horcruxes, objects that hold a piece of his soul that allows him to remain alive even if his body is dead. Throughout this whole time, Harry is also balancing his lessons with being the Quidditch captain, a budding relationship with Ginny, and chasing Draco Malfoy around. Harry believes Malfoy to be a Deatheater and up to something at the school. He employs Dobby and another house elf to follow Draco and figure out what he is up to. Harry believes he is behind the two near death experiences of two students, but cannot prove it. All he knows is that Draco disappears into the Room of Requirement for long periods of time. What he is truly doing is discovered at the end of the book, proving Harry right. Furthermore, Harry is accidentally given a book in potions class that has been written in and modified by someone who identifies themselves as the Half-Blood Prince. Throughout the book, Harry uses this modified potions book to excel in his potions class and get close to Slughorn. The modified book as provides new spells written in the margins that have varying effects. Hermione is convinced the book is written by a dark wizard, but Harry insists on continuing to read it and learn the new jinxes. The end result of this study is a brutal surprise that leaves Harry reeling from what he has done.
The book covers a lot of information.The majority of the time, Harry is in high emotional states, usually angry or frustrated that no one will believe him about Malfoy. There is a lot of stress from being the Quidditch captain and his growing relationship with Ginny is interesting to see. There is a funny sort of way the author describes Harry’s coming to realize his feelings for Ginny that I found rather amusing. The growing relationship between Hermione and Ron is also fraught with emotional turmoil as Ron dates Lavender. The struggle between the boys and Hermione about the Half-Blood Prince’s book gets somewhat old, but at least the boys come up with different reasons why Harry should keep reading it each time the subject is brought up. Most interesting was probably the history on Voldemort. You learn a lot about him that you didn’t know before and can see how everyone noticed something was wrong but didn’t stop him before he left Hogwarts. Also, the Horcruxes were an interesting item that helps explain a lot about Voldemort and provides for a more complex story line in the future.
Overall, I think the book was great and showed a fairly good depth of character that was missing in the earliest books. You get to see more emotion from all the characters and the result is just a deeper feeling book that pulls you in. The book didn’t feel like it dragged along in places, but kept the pace going continually through the book. Again, this is not the best book for young children, but probably middle school age or higher is my suggestion.