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    Arthur A. Levine, July 2005

    Harry Potter is back at Hogwarts, but all is not well in the continuing battle against 'he who must not be named.' Harry may be the annointed one, but Lord Voldemort is intent on proving the prophesy true--by ensuring that Harry does not survive their next meeting.

    Harry is back together with Hermione and Ron--who can't quite get it together. The game Quidditch plays a major role (with Harry having become captain of the team), and Harry has strange feelings toward the once bothersome and now all-too-popular Ginny (his best friend's sister). But Harry also suffers from the attentions of a new professor--one who is intent on bringing all of the future leaders together in his 'slug club,' and his certainty that both Snake and Malfoy are up to no good and definitely cannot be trusted. Even Hermione and Ron desert him on this particular fixation, but Harry pursues the facts to support his guesses, nevertheless.

    Author J. K. Rowling (see more reviews of novels by Rowling) mixes coming of age, plenty of magic, and some wry political commentary in an exciting and readable package. Favorite characters are back (although there's sadly less of Hagrid than I would have liked), growing older and more mature. Kissing becomes a bit more common as Harry and the others reach 16. The death of a major character at a crisis point late in the story isn't completely unexpected, but it does introduce a note of sadness.

    HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is a bit different from the earlier books in the series. It doesn't stand alone nearly as well as the other books. Without an understanding of the characters and Rowling's magical world, parts of the story will make little sense. The book also starts a bit slowly, with a stage-setting scene in the British (muggle) Prime Minister's office. Still, once Rowling gets going, this is a hard book to put down.

    Fans of the Harry Potter series will definitely enjoy this one. If you aren't a fan yet, you will probably do better starting with the earlier stories and working your way up to this definitely less cheery story.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 7/22/05

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