The book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury and in the United States by Scholastic on 16 July 2005, as well as in several other countries. It sold nine million copies in the first 24 hours after its release, a record at the time which was eventually broken by its sequel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There were many controversies before and after it was published, including the right to read the copies delivered prior to the release date in Canada. Reception to the novel was generally positive and it won several awards and honours, including the 2006 British Book of the Year award.
Reviewers noted that the book took on a darker tone than its predecessors, though it did contain humour. Some considered the main themes to be love and death, and trust and redemption. The character development of Harry and several other teenage characters was also remarked upon.
Dumbledore takes Harry to the home of Horace Slughorn, former Potions teacher at Hogwarts, and persuades him to return to teach. Later, Harry and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger follow Draco to Dark Arts supplier Borgin and Burkes. Harry is instantly suspicious of Draco, whom he believes to be a Death Eater. The students return to school, where Dumbledore announces that Snape will be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts this year, while Slughorn will resume his post as Potions teacher. Harry now excels in Potions, thanks to having received a used Potions textbook that once belonged to someone named "The Half-Blood Prince", which is heavily annotated with tips and spells.
Harry falls in love with Ron's sister Ginny, and Ron and his girlfriend Lavender Brown break up, to Hermione's delight. Believing that Harry needs to learn Voldemort's past to gain advantage in a foretold battle, 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. Harry learns about Voldemort's family and his evolution into a psychopath obsessed not only with power, but with gaining eternal life. Harry eventually succeeds in retrieving one of Slughorn's memories about how he revealed the secrets about splitting one's soul and hiding it in several objects called Horcruxes. Dumbledore explains that two of these have already been destroyed but that others remain.
Harry and Dumbledore journey to a cave to retrieve a Horcrux. They reach the basin where the Horcrux is hidden underneath a potion. Dumbledore drinks the potion and Harry fights off Voldemort's Inferi. They take the Horcrux, Slytherin's locket, and return to Hogwarts. Dumbledore uses his magic to freeze Harry in place while Harry remains hidden by his cloak of invisibility. When Draco arrives, he disarms and threatens to kill Dumbledore, acting on his mission from Voldemort. Dumbledore tries to stall Draco, who is unable to go through with it. Snape arrives and kills Dumbledore. Because of Dumbledore's death, his spell on Harry is broken and Harry rushes after Snape to avenge Dumbledore. Snape reveals that he is the Half-Blood Prince and escapes. Later, Harry finds out that the locket is not the real Horcrux, containing only a note from someone named "R. A. B".
After Dumbledore's funeral, Harry is devastated and tells his friends that 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.
Rowling spent years planning Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Rowling stated that she had Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince "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. She started writing the book before her second child, David, was born, but she took a break to care for him. The first chapter, "The Other Minister", which features the meeting between the Muggle Prime Minister, the Minister for MagicCornelius Fudge, and his successor, Rufus Scrimgeour, was a concept Rowling tried to start in Philosopher's Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Order of the Phoenix, but she found "it finally works" in Half-Blood Prince. She stated that she was "seriously upset" writing the end of the book, although Goblet of Fire was the hardest to write. When asked if she liked the book, she responded, "I like it better than I liked 'Goblet', 'Phoenix' or 'Chamber' when I finished them. Book six does what I wanted it to do and even if nobody else likes it (and some won't), I know it will remain one of my favourites of the series. Ultimately you have to please yourself before you please anyone else!"
Rowling revealed the title of Half-Blood Prince on her website on 29 June 2004. This was the title she had once considered for the second book, Chamber of Secrets, though she decided that the information disclosed belonged better in book six. On 21 December 2004, she announced she had finished writing it, along with the release date of 16 July. Bloomsbury unveiled the cover on 8 March 2005.
The record-breaking publication of Half-Blood Prince was accompanied by controversy. 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. Additionally, in response to Greenpeace's campaign on using forest friendly paper for big-name authors, Bloomsbury published the book on 30% recycled paper.
In early July 2005, a Real Canadian Superstore in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, accidentally sold fourteen copies of The Half-Blood Prince before the authorised 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 16 July.
On 15 July, 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. Canadian law professor Michael Geist posted commentary on his blog;Richard Stallman called for a boycott, requesting the publisher issue an apology.The Globe and Mail published a review from two UK-based writers in its 16 July edition and posted the Canadian writer's review on its website at 9:00 that morning. Commentary was also provided on the Raincoast website.
Style and themes
Some reviewers noted that Half-Blood Prince contained a darker tone than the previous Potter novels. The Christian Science Monitor's reviewer Yvonne Zipp considered the first half to contain a lighter tone to soften the unhappy ending.The Boston Globe reviewer Liz Rosenberg wrote, "lightness [is] slimmer than ever in this darkening series...[there is] a new charge of gloom and darkness. I felt depressed by the time I was two-thirds of the way through". She also compared the setting to Charles Dickens's depictions of London, as it was "brooding, broken, gold-lit, as living character as any other".Christopher Paolini called the darker tone "disquieting" because it was so different from the earlier books. Liesl Schillinger, a contributor to The New York Times book review, also noted that Half-Blood Prince was "far darker" but "leavened with humor, romance and snappy dialogue". She suggested a connection to the 11 September attacks, as the later, darker novels were written after that event. David Kipen, a critic of the San Francisco Chronicle considered the "darkness as a sign of our paranoid times" and singled out curfews and searches that were part of the tightened security at Hogwarts, as a resemblance to our world.
Julia Keller, a critic for the Chicago Tribune, highlighted the humour found in the novel and claimed it to be the success of the Harry Potter saga. She acknowledged that "the books are dark and scary in places" but "no darkness in Half-Blood Prince...is so immense that it cannot be rescued by a snicker or a smirk." She considered that Rowling was suggesting that difficult times could be worked through with imagination, hope, and humour, and compared this concept to works such as Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.
Rosenberg wrote that the two main themes of Half-Blood Prince were love and death and praised Rowling's "affirmation of their central position in human lives". She considered love to be represented in several forms: the love of parent to child, teacher to student, and the romances that developed between the characters. Zipp noted trust and redemption to be themes promising to continue in the final book, which she thought "would add a greater layer of nuance and complexity to some characters who could sorely use it." Deepti Hajela also pointed out Harry's character development, that he was "no longer a boy wizard; he's a young man, determined to seek out and face a young man's challenges". Paolini had similar views, claiming, "the children have changed...they act like real teenagers."
Publication and reception
US cover of Half-Blood Prince.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was met with positive reviews. Liesl Schillinger of The New York Times praised the novel's various themes and suspenseful ending. However, she considered Rowling's gift "not so much for language as for characterisation and plotting".Kirkus Reviews said it "will leave readers pleased, amused, excited, scared, infuriated, delighted, sad, surprised, thoughtful and likely wondering where Voldemort has got to, since he appears only in flashbacks". They considered Rowling's "wry wit" to turn into "outright merriment", but called the climax "tragic, but not uncomfortably shocking". Yvonne Zipp of The Christian Science Monitor praised the way Rowling evolved Harry into a teenager and how the plot threads found as far back as Chamber of Secrets came into play. On the other hand, she noted that it "gets a little exposition-heavy in spots" and older readers may have seen the ending coming.
Christopher Paolini, writing for Entertainment Weekly, pointed out that the change of tone was "disquieting" as the world evolved, and praised the character development, though he considered Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the best.The Boston Globe correspondent Liz Rosenberg wrote, "The book bears the mark of genius on every page" and praised the imagery and darker tone of the book, considering that the series could be crossing over from fantasy to horror. The Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela praised the newfound emotional tones and ageing Harry to the point where "younger fans may find [the series] has grown up too much". Emily Green, a staff writer of the Los Angeles Times, was generally positive about the book but was concerned whether young children could handle the material. Cultural critic Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune called it the "most eloquent and substantial addition to the series thus far" and considered the key to the success of the Potter novels to be humour.
Awards and honours
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has won several awards, including the 2006 British Book of the Year Award and the 2006 Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children's Books for ages 8–12 in its native United Kingdom. In the United States, the American Library Association listed it among its 2006 Best Books for Young Adults. It won both the 2005 reader-voted Quill Awards for Best Book of the Year and Best Children's Book. It also won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Seal for notable book.
Potter fans wait in lines outside a Borders in Newark, Delaware for the midnight release of the book
Before publication, 1.4 million advanced orders were placed for Half-Blood Prince on Amazon.com, breaking the record held by the previous novel, 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. The U.S. audiobook, read by Jim Dale, set sales records with 165,000 sold over two days, besting the adaptation of Order of the Phoenix by twenty percent.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published simultaneously in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Along with the rest of the books in the Harry Potter series, it was eventually translated into 67 languages. However, because of high security surrounding the manuscript, translators did not get to start on translating Half-Blood Prince until its English release date, and the earliest were not expected to be released until the fall of 2005. In Germany, a group of "hobby translators" translated the book via Internet in less than two days after release, far before German translator Klaus Fritz could translate and publish the book.
Reproductions of artwork by Mary GrandPré (pictured) were available with the Scholastic Deluxe Edition.
Since its wide hardcover release on 16 July 2005, Half-Blood Prince was released as a paperback on 23 June 2006 in the UK. Two days later on 25 July, the paperback edition was released in Canada and the U.S., where it had an initial print run of 2 million copies. To celebrate the release of the American paperback edition, Scholastic held a six-week sweepstakes event in which participants in an online poll were entered to win prizes. Simultaneous to the original hardcover release was the UK adult edition, featuring a new cover, and which was also released as a paperback on 23 June. Also released on 16 July was the Scholastic "Deluxe Edition", which featured reproductions of Mary Grandpré's artwork and had a print run of about 100,000 copies. Bloomsbury later released a paperback "Special Edition" on 6 July 2009 and a "Signature Edition" paperback on 1 November 2010.
The film adaptation of the sixth book was originally scheduled to be released on 21 November 2008, but was changed to 15 July 2009. Directed by David Yates, the screenplay was adapted by Steve Kloves and produced by David Heyman and David Barron. The film grossed over $934 million worldwide, which made it the second-highest grossing film of 2009 worldwide and the fifteenth highest of all time. Additionally, Half-Blood Prince gained an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.
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