Released on July 16, 2005, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. It has 30 chapters and is 607 pages long in the UK and 652 pages long in the US. It has sold around 65 million copies.
The war against Voldemort is not going well; even the Muggles have been affected. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. And yet… as with all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Harry receives some extraordinary help in Potions from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. And with Dumbledore’s guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort – and thus finds what may be his only vulnerability.
– Back cover description
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Half-Blood Prince was originally the working title for Chamber of Secrets, though she decided that the information disclosed belonged better in Book 6 and therefore the two books have many parallels. Rowling had the book “planned for years,” but she spent two months going over her plan before she began writing seriously. This was a lesson learned after she did not check the plan for Goblet of Fire and had to rewrite a third of the book. Rowling revealed the title of Half-Blood Prince on her website on June 29, 2004. On December 21, 2004, she announced she had finished writing it, along with the release date.
The first chapter, “The Other Minister,” which features the meeting between the Muggle Prime Minister, the Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge, and his successor, Rufus Scrimgeour, was a concept Rowling tried to start in Sorcerer’s Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Order of the Phoenix, but she found it finally worked in Half-Blood Prince.
Before publication, 1.4 million advanced orders were placed for Half-Blood Prince on Amazon.com, breaking the record held by Order of the Phoenix, with 1.3 million. The initial print run for Half-Blood Prince was a record-breaking 10.8 million. Within the first 24 hours of release, the book sold 9 million copies worldwide, 2 million in the UK and about 6.9 million in the U.S., which prompted Scholastic to rush an additional 2.7 million copies into print. Within the first nine weeks of publication, 11 million copies of the U.S. edition were reported to have been sold.
There were some controversies surrounding the release of the book. In May 2005, bookmakers in the UK suspended bets on which main character would die in the book amid fears of insider knowledge. A number of high-value bets were made on the death of Albus Dumbledore, many coming from the town of Bungay, where, it was believed, the books were being printed at the time. Betting was later reopened. In early July 2005, a Real Canadian Superstore in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, accidentally sold fourteen copies of Half-Blood Prince before the authorized release date. The Canadian publisher, Raincoast Books, obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court of British Columbia prohibiting the purchasers from reading the books before the official release date or from discussing the contents. Purchasers were offered a Harry Potter T-shirt and an autographed copy of the book if they returned their copies before July 16. On July 15, 2005, less than twelve hours before the book went on sale in the Eastern time zone, Raincoast warned The Globe and Mail newspaper that publishing a review from a Canada-based writer at midnight, as the paper had promised, would be seen as a violation of the trade secret injunction. The injunction sparked a number of news articles alleging that the injunction had restricted fundamental rights.
The audiobook in the US is read by Jim Dale and Stephen Fry in the UK.
This summary is from SparkNotes.
Lord Voldemort has returned to power, and his wrath has been felt in both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds. Severus Snape, long considered an enemy of Voldemort and a member of Dumbledore’s anti-Voldemort coalition, the Order of the Phoenix, meets with Narcissa Malfoy, mother of Draco and wife of Lucius, an imprisoned Death Eater. Snape makes an Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa, promising to protect her son, Draco.
Dumbledore heads to 4 Privet Drive to collect Harry from his aunt and uncle. On their way to the Burrow, Harry and Dumbledore stop to recruit Horace Slughorn to return to teaching at Hogwarts. Harry is reunited with his best friends, Ron and Hermione. When shopping for schoolbooks, Harry runs into Draco and follows him to Borgin and Burkes, where he overhears Draco threatening Borgin and insisting that he fix an unknown object. Harry is instantly suspicious of Draco, whom he believes to be a Death Eater, just like his father. The students return to school, and Dumbledore announces that Snape will be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, much to Harry’s surprise.
Harry receives a used Potions textbook that once belonged to someone named “The Half-Blood Prince.” Spells and amendments are written in the margins of the book, and Harry uses the Prince’s notes to excel at Potions. Dumbledore schedules regular meetings with Harry in which they use Dumbledore’s pensieve to look at memories of those who have had direct contact with Voldemort. Dumbledore believes that if Harry can learn enough about Voldemort’s history, it will help him when they finally fight face to face, as the prophecy concerning Harry foretells. Harry learns about Voldemort’s family, including his grandfather Marvolo, his uncle Morfin, and his mother Merope, who cast a love spell on a Muggle and was abandoned by him when it wore off. Voldemort was left at an orphanage and grew to be an unpleasant and aggressive boy. Harry also learns that Voldemort has divided his soul into seven Horcruxes. Two of these, Tom Riddle’s diary and Marvolo’s ring, have already been destroyed. One resides in Voldemort, one resides in a snake, one is Merope’s locket, and the other two are suspected to be hidden in objects belonging to Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Gryffindor.
Ron acquires a new girlfriend, Lavender, of whom Hermione is extremely jealous. Harry feels stuck in the middle of his friends’ bickering. Eventually, Harry falls in love with Ginny, Ron’s sister, and Ron and Lavender break up, making Hermione quite happy. Harry spends much of his time keeping up with his duties as Quidditch captain and following Draco Malfoy. Harry uses his Marauder’s Map to keep track of Draco, but often cannot find him on the map. Eventually, Harry realizes that when Draco is not on the map, he is using the Room of Requirement on the seventh floor of Hogwarts, which transforms into whatever its user needs. Harry tries his best to get in to see what Draco is up to, but until he knows exactly what Draco is using the room for, he cannot gain access. Eventually Harry and Dumbledore leave Hogwarts together to fetch and destroy Merope’s locket, thus making Voldemort one step closer to mortal. They must overcome a variety of traps and challenges before reaching the basin where the locket is hidden under a poisonous potion. Dumbledore drinks the potion and Harry fights off Voldemort’s Inferi. They take the locket and return to Hogwarts as quickly as possible. Dumbledore is quite weak, and when they reach Hogsmeade they can see that the Dark Mark is visible above the astronomy tower.
Harry and Dumbledore rush toward the tower. When they arrive, Dumbledore uses his magic to freeze Harry in place, while Harry remains hidden by his cloak of invisibility. Draco Malfoy sprints into the room, threatening Dumbledore’s life. Weak and with his wand out of reach, Dumbledore stalls Draco, telling him that he is not a killer and that the Order of the Phoenix could protect him and his mother from Voldemort. Draco lowers his wand, and Snape pushes into the tower. Harry cannot move or speak, but he hears members of the Order fighting Death Eaters below. Snape raises his wand and kills Dumbledore, sending him flying over the edge of the tower. When Dumbledore dies, his spell on Harry is broken, and Harry rushes after Snape, determined to avenge the death of his friend and headmaster. Snape escapes, and Harry is devastated. He looks at the locket he and Dumbledore retrieved and realizes that it is not a Horcrux. Inside the locket is a note from someone named “R. A. B.” Harry tells his friends he will not be returning to Hogwarts next year and will instead search out and kill Voldemort by destroying all of the Horcruxes. Ron and Hermione vow to join him.
To Mackenzie, my beautiful daughter, I dedicate her ink and paper twin.
Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, Jo’s third child, was born on January 23, 2005. Rowling was pregnant with Mackenzie while writing Half-Blood Prince. Mackenzie was born around the same time the book was published; hence, this book is her “ink and paper twin.”
- ALA Best Book for Young Adults
- Anthony Award for Best Young Adult Mystery
- Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Novel Award from Disney Adventures magazine
- Booklist Editor’s Choice
- British Book Awards 2006 WH Smith Book of the Year
- CCBC Choice
- Chicago Public Library “Best of the Best”
- New York Times Notable Book
- Nickelodeon’s 2006 Kid’s Choice Awards Book of the Year
- Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Seal
- Publishers Weekly Cuffie
- Quill Children’s Chapter/Middle Grade Book of the Year 2005
- Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children’s Books (best book for readers aged 8–12 years) 2006
- Indian Paintbrush Book Award Nominee 2006-2007
- New York State Children’s Choice Award Nominee