Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince is J. K. Rowling’s best work to date. I’m not one of those freaks who sped through the latest Harry Potter book in five hours. I can’t understand the logic of waiting on the edge of your seat for two years only to blow through the payoff in half a day. That, and I didn’t actually want to pay the thirty dollars for the privilege, so I borrowed the book from one of the aforementioned freaks once she was done with it.
You can feel the series coming to a head here—the sixth book is markedly different from all the others that have come before it. For one, it is the first Potter book to shrink in size compared with its predecessor, weighing in at just over 600 pages. Rowling’s easy to read style combines with the surprisingly tight plot to make the chapters fly by.
Order of the Phoenix had a little too much happening all at once, and as a result that book’s climax felt circus-like, greatly weakening the Big Death Scene. Prince, on the other hand, is so tightly focused that the Big Death Scene hits you like a shotgun blast.
In order to accomodate a fast moving plot in a smaller book, Rowling obviously had to forsake many beloved supporting characters. Even some of the most important secondary characters, like Neville Longbottom and Professor McGonogall, get barely more than a few sentences. Luckily, my favorite characters are the ones getting the heavy page time, so I’m thrilled. The lack of (most) superfluous details is indicative of the next stage of Harry’s coming of age: the boyish knick-knacks are being pushed away so that Harry’s mentor can teach him about the villian he is destined to fight.
I didn’t cry on page 596. That took until the middle of the following chapter. So yes, it’s really, really good.