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  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  ( Harry Potter - 6 )

  J. K. Rowling

  The long-awaited, eagerly anticipated, arguably over-hyped Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has arrived, and the question on the minds of kids, adults, fans, and skeptics alike is, “Is it worth the hype?” The answer, luckily, is simple: yep. A magnificent spectacle more than worth the price of admission, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will blow you away. However, given that so much has gone into protecting the secrets of the book (including armored trucks and injunctions), don’t expect any spoilers in this review. It’s much more fun not knowing what’s coming—and in the case of Rowling’s delicious sixth book, you don’t want to know. Just sit tight, despite the earth-shattering revelations that will have your head in your hands as you hope the words will rearrange themselves into a different story. But take one warning to heart: do not open Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince until you have first found a secluded spot, safe from curious eyes, where you can tuck in for a good long read. Because once you start, you won’t stop until you reach the very last page.

  A darker book than any in the series thus far with a level of sophistication belying its genre, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince moves the series into murkier waters and marks the arrival of Rowling onto the adult literary scene. While she has long been praised for her cleverness and wit, the strength of Book 6 lies in her subtle development of key characters, as well as her carefully nuanced depiction of a community at war. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, no one and nothing is safe, including preconceived notions of good and evil and of right and wrong. With each book in her increasingly remarkable series, fans have nervously watched J. K. Rowling raise the stakes; gone are the simple delights of butterbeer and enchanted candy, and days when the worst ailment could be cured by a bite of chocolate. A series that began as a colorful lark full of magic and discovery has become a dark and deadly war zone. But this should not come as a shock to loyal readers. Rowling readied fans with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by killing off popular characters and engaging the young students in battle. Still, there is an unexpected bleakness from the start of Book 6 that casts a mean shadow over Quidditch games, silly flirtations, and mountains of homework. Ready or not, the tremendous ending of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will leave stunned fans wondering what great and terrible events await in Book 7 if this sinister darkness is meant to light the way.

  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  To Mackenzie,

  my beautiful daughter,

  I dedicate

  her ink-and-paper twin.

  1. THE OTHER MINISTER

  It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind. He was waiting for a call from the President of a far distant country, and between wondering when the wretched man would telephone, and trying to suppress unpleasant memories of what had been a very long, tiring, and difficult week, there was not much space in his head for anything else. The more he attempted to focus on the print on the page before him, the more clearly the Prime Minister could see the gloating face of one of his political opponents. This particular opponent had appeared on the news that very day, not only to enumerate all the terrible things that had happened in the last week (as though anyone needed reminding) but also to explain why each and every one of them was the government’s fault.

  The Prime Minister’s pulse quickened at the very thought of these accusations, for they were neither fair nor true. How on earth was his government supposed to have stopped that bridge collapsing? It was outrageous for anybody to suggest that they were not spending enough on bridges. The bridge was fewer than ten years old, and the best experts were at a loss to explain why it had snapped cleanly in two, sending a dozen cars into the watery depths of the river below. And how dare anyone suggest that it was lack of policemen that had resulted in those two very nasty and well-publicized murders? Or that the government should have somehow foreseen the freak hurricane in the West Country that had caused so much damage to both people and property? And was it his fault that one of his Junior Ministers, Herbert Chorley, had chosen this week to act so peculiarly that he was now going to be spending a lot more time with his family?

  “A grim mood has gripped the country,” the opponent had concluded, barely concealing his own broad grin.

  And unfortunately, this was perfectly true. The Prime Minister felt it himself; people really did seem more miserable than usual. Even the weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle of July… It wasn’t right, it wasn’t normal…

  He turned over the second page of the memo, saw how much longer it went on, and gave it up as a bad job. Stretching his arms above his head he looked around his office mournfully. It was a handsome room, with a fine marble fireplace facing the long sash windows, firmly closed against the unseasonable chill. With a slight shiver, the Prime Minister got up and moved over to the window, looking out at the thin mist that was pressing itself against the glass. It was then, as he stood with his back to the room, that he heard a soft cough behind him.

  He froze, nose to nose with his own scared-looking reflection in the dark glass. He knew that cough. He had heard it before. He turned very slowly to face the empty room.

  “Hello?” he said, trying to sound braver than he felt.

  For a brief moment he allowed himself the impossible hope that nobody would answer him. However, a voice responded at once, a crisp, decisive voice that sounded as though it were reading a prepared statement. It was coming—as the Prime Minister had known at the first cough—from the froglike little man wearing a long silver wig who was depicted in a small, dirty oil painting in the far corner of the room.

  “To the Prime Minister of Muggles. Urgent we meet. Kindly respond immediately. Sincerely, Fudge.”

  The man in the painting looked inquiringly at the Prime Minister.

  “Er,” said the Prime Minister, “listen… It’s not a very good time for me… I’m waiting for a telephone call, you see… from the President of—”

  “That can be rearranged,” said the portrait at once. The Prime Minister’s heart sank. He had been afraid of that.

  “But I really was rather hoping to speak—”

  “We shall arrange for the President to forget to call. He will telephone tomorrow night instead,” said the little man. “Kindly respond immediately to Mr. Fudge.”

  “I… oh… very well,” said the Prime Minister weakly. “Yes, I’ll see Fudge.”

  He hurried back to his desk, straightening his tie as he went. He had barely resumed his seat, and arranged his face into what he hoped was a relaxed and unfazed expression, when bright green flames burst into life in the empty grate beneath his marble mantelpiece. He watched, trying not to betray a flicker of surprise or alarm, as a portly man appeared within the flames, spinning as fast as a top. Seconds later, he had climbed out onto a rather fine antique rug, brushing ash from the sleeves of his long pin-striped cloak, a lime-green bowler hat in his hand.

  “Ah… Prime Minister,” said Cornelius Fudge, striding forward with his hand outstretched. “Good to see you again.”

  The Prime Minister could not honestly return this compliment, so said nothing at all. He was not remotely pleased to see Fudge, whose occasional appearances, apart from being downright alarming in themselves, generally meant that he was about to hear some very bad news. Furthermore, Fudge was looking distinctly careworn. He was thinner, balder, and grayer, and his face ha