Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Saturday, 16 July 2005 18:18 UK

Harry Potter review blog

Harry Potter countdown
The two-year wait for the sixth Harry Potter book is now over

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the best-selling series by JK Rowling, is released worldwide at 0001 BST on Saturday.

The BBC News website's Darren Waters picked up his copy then and reviewed it here overnight, posting a new review entry every few chapters.

You can follow his reaction to the book - and see your own comments - here.

This blog has now ended. Beware - book reviews inevitably contain plot spoilers. We will try to avoid these as much as possible, but if you DO NOT want to know what is in the new book, DO NOT READ ON.

0530 BST

I've just finished the last few words of the book.

In the final few chapters, the book seemed to rouse itself out of a slumber and concluded with a number of dramatic episodes that will no doubt leave devoted Potter fans reeling.

I will not spoil the surprise for anyone reading this. But this I will say - all the pieces for the final book of the series are now in place.

In many ways this book has been a mere staging ground for Rowling's final narrative to come.

Too much of the book was either a repeat of what we have seen before, or bogged down by Rowling's attempts to manoeuvre plot lines and characters into position.

After a while all magic tricks begin to lose their impact.

Cut a woman in half? Boring. Make your assistant disappear? Seen it a thousand times before.

Quidditch? Magic lessons? Dark Arts?

After six volumes I am a little disinterested in the magic that Rowling has to offer.

But of course the Potter phenomenon hurtles on like the Hogwarts Express.

But with just one book left in the series, does JK Rowling have anything left up her sleeves?

0400 BST

I am now past the 400-page mark and a mere 205 pages remain.

I'm not sure whether it is the lateness of the hour or the paucity of the plot but I am definitely beginning to flag.

The book is creeping towards a conclusion but there appears to be little rhyme or reason to much of what happens in the book.

Of course, Rowling is trying to keep the suspense going.

Draco Malfoy is up to no good as usual - but what precisely are his plans?

Severus Snape - can he be trusted?

And who is this Half-Blood Prince? I had hoped that given the book bears his title that we might have learned a little more by this stage.

The most interesting part of the book, without doubt, is the history of Lord Voldemort himself that is being revealed.

Finally we learn the origins of the dark wizard himself and it is quite a tale.

I can picture children across the globe delighting in every detail that is being teased out by Rowling.

0300 BST

Half way there! But something is wrong. The magic of Potter books past just doesn't appear to be working in this new volume. Has the spell cast on JK Rowling's ink well expired?

The problem is that there doesn't appear to be any particular thread in this new book. The old, familiar elements are all there - Quidditch matches, magic lessons, old rivalries - but the plot itself seems to be lacking.

The problem is that Rowling seems to have her sights so firmly set on ending the series that what little excitement she has left in store seems to have been spread ever so thinly.

Interestingly, Rowling seems to have belatedly realised that her main characters are teenagers with raging hormones.

There is even some passion to be found in the pages - even if it is wrapped in that ever-so-quaint and nostalgic fog that envelops all of her books.

0200 BST

Two hundred pages in and JK Rowling is into her stride. The Potter novels are always quite comforting because they follow a common structure - each book is based around an academic year at Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is no different. The pace of the books always lifts once Harry, Ron and Hermione are ensconced within the walls of the school.

Children connect with the books because they have a rhythm that they can instantly relate to - the shock of the new, but the comfort of the familiar.

This of course is book six, the penultimate in Rowling's series.

All threads, plots and questions must be tied together and resolved soon and in this book one can feel the narrative moving to a conclusion.

Ten chapters in and Rowling is beginning to address some of the books' biggest questions.

In some ways that need to draw the series to a conclusion, it is hindering the narrative of the book.

It is still unclear what this particular book is about - and there has only been one brief mention of the Half-Blood Prince of the title.

0100 BST

A hundred pages in and it's been something of a lethargic start. JK Rowling usually sets off at a terrific pace, but this time it is much more reflective.

The first chapter is a rather drawn out re-capping of all that happened in the last book - although, given how convoluted it was, that is no bad thing.

Chapter two is much better and already the first shock and surprise is unleashed on an unsuspecting audience. Who would have thought that....no, I'm not going to ruin it for you.

Harry Potter himself, the boy who lived, makes his first appearance in chapter three and the book starts properly here.

As Dumbledore says to Harry at the end of the chapter: "And now Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."

And so I must continue with that pursuit.

0010 BST 16 July

I have the book in my hands - hundreds and hundreds of pages worth - after picking it up at my local Waterstones in Richmond.

The coffee is brewing, the sofa is my domain and let the reading begin.

Will Dumbledore be killed as the rumours seem to suggest? Who is this mysterious Half-Blood Prince?

And does JK Rowling still have the magic in her fingertips?

I'll guess I'll find out in the next five or six hours.

I'll update with my thoughts in about 100 pages time. Happy reading.

2200 BST 15 July

With just two hours to go before Harry Potter hits the world - again - I'm limbering up for my marathon speed read effort.

I've done a few warm up exercises - reading the last few chapters of the previous book The Order of the Phoenix as quickly as I can - and I've managed to get a few hours sleep this afternoon so that I do not collapse into a narcoleptic heap mid-chapter.

I will be receiving no special treatment as a journalist when it comes to getting my hands on the new book. I will be waiting outside my local bookshop along with all the other eager Potter-ites at midnight.

I will then be dashing home, brewing some coffee, settling down and reading.

I understand there are 672 pages to plough through and no doubt I shall be cursing JK Rowling's garrulous writing style as I go along. How I yearn for the days when Harry Potter was a slimline volume.

The books have got bigger and bigger as Potter has got older and the Harry phenomenon exploded out of control. Coincidence?

But I pledge to read every word of every chapter in order to bring this review to you.

I'll be reviewing chunks of the book as I go along, pausing only to type and to imbibe caffeine.

I'm doing this as an adult, and hope no children will be allowed to read their new book before going to bed. It simply isn't healthy.


What do you think of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Is it as good as the first five books? Do you agree with Darren's review? Let us know using the form below.

I was left with a despairing, defeated feeling
Chandni, London

I received the book this morning and I've finished it. All I can say is that it has left me feeling very upset. I usually end on an upbeat note after Ms Rowling's books. This time I was left with a despairing, defeated feeling. The magic is wonderful, as always. It is well written, however the realistic real life events are a bit too sad, and the twist, a little too twisted.
Chandni, London

I had planned to spend a romantic Saturday, sun-bathing with my partner, unfortunately I lost her earlier this morning to Harry Potter's bespectacled charms... I'm hoping she finishes it by the end of the day!
Marquis, Suffolk, UK

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been looking for good reviews and thoughts on the book since I woke up this morning. Sadly I was not able to get a book as I am in a Third World country but I am awaiting it from a friend who is bringing it to me. I can't stand the tension, thank you for the small clues given in the above blogs. Now I might be able to survive the long wait.
Dominique Lassalle, Bogota Colombia

Rowling just spins it all up, the intricacy and touch of the arising plot lead up to a climax that will keep your nose buried in the book till the very last word. Plenty is revealed as the author so cunningly kept the last few bits of the jigsaw. It also teaches us not to extend the hand of trust too far, and to bear in mind that death could be waiting just around the corner.
Kalon Tsang, Hong Kong, China

I thought this book was one of the best. A lot of back-story on Voldemort and a good set-up for book seven. The first part of the book did move slowly, but once the pace picked up I couldn't put it down. I can't wait for the last book!
David, Perth, Scotland

Credibility is a bit of an issue
Jay, Staffordshire

Credibility is a bit of an issue. Whereas before things seemed feasible, here that doesn't always feel the case. It did seem to be more preparation for the final instalment. Despite that it was fairly enjoyable, and staying up reading until 9am - an adventure in itself.
Jay, Staffordshire, England

The book will be great as I have not read it yet but I'm sure it will be more exciting, amazing and more adventurous than the first five books.
Madhavi Deshpande, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Harry Potter is an action-packed book!
Aqdssd, Nottingham, UK

I actually managed to buy a copy of the sixth Harry Potter book (Half-Blood Prince) in Brussels on Thursday morning, just before boarding an Eurostar to London. There were plenty of books on display and they even put it in a Harry Potter paper bag for me. Anyway, I'm a big fan of Harry Potter (in my early 30's) and am now half way through the book. I'm very much enjoying it so far and plan to spend Friday night finishing it (it's quite thick!). It's probably best not to say anything more about the contents at this point - but you won't be disappointed, I find it so far even better than the Order of Phoenix.
Cathy, Cambridge, UK

My copy arrived from Amazon this morning! I couldn't believe it. I'm half way through so far having taken the day off work to be one of the first to finish it. I was very surprised that the expected death occurred so early in the book, seeing as how the last big death was at the end of book five. I'll just say this: it's no-one suggested in any review I've read. Time to place more bets!
Richard Barker, Basingstoke, UK

I am upset that the person who dies has to die. I am upset that the murderer had to kill.
Grsillpuff, Berlin Germany

I think the Harry Potter books are one of the best book series I have read, I think they are better than the Lord of the Rings too. After reading Darren Waters' thoughts about Harry Potter, it really is obvious that he has not read any of the books, except maybe the first one! In each book, the characters develop and mature more and more, and many things he "thinks" are missing from the book are very clear if you actually read them!
Nathan S, WA, USA

I love Harry Potter and I am sorry to see that the 7th year is coming up.
Sara Mcgilligan, Ireland

I've started reading it and I can only say that it's a complete and utter pile of pap.
Gaz, Oxford

I read The Order of the Phoenix in under three hours and regretted it. The books only come out every few years, take your time and enjoy it!
David Horn, Leeds, UK

I have finished reading the book and was utterly dismayed. Everything has been turned on its head but it's not quite credible (I won't give details and ruin the read for others). It's good if you like that kind of twist, but to my mind the twist is such an extreme stretch of the imagination that I was not carried along by it, as I have been the other stories.
Phoebe, Wellington, New Zealand

One book: excellent; second book... good; third one... hmhmhm; 4, 5, 6... pure commercial almost literature. F Velasquez
Federico Velasquez, Colombia

I am so glad that SOMEONE is publishing a blog on the new book and revealing spoilers!!! I went from Harry Potter fan site to Harry Potter fan site to find some information about the plot that was leaked, but all I found were guarantees that "extra precautions were being taken" so that it would be impossible to read a spoiler about the new book. How frustrating!!! Thank you so much for doing this service for the people who are anxiously awaiting information on the plot of the new book!!!
Kuba, NY, USA

My son was in bed from 6pm to 11pm before we awakened him and his sister to go to a bookstore launch party near where we live. The atmosphere was wonderful with quizzes and children dressed up as their favourite characters. He's been allowed to stay awake until 1am to read the first chapters. I am watching him read. I'll be amazed if we can wrestle the book away from him as I want to start reading it.
Gillian Coulthard, aged 35, Newcastle upon Tyne

I am so excited about reading this book. Love the site and your blog.
Charles, Los Angeles, USA

The first feeling of getting the new book after months of waiting is "disappointed" because it contain fewer pages than the last one! Nevertheless, I believe I am going to enjoy every bit of it and let my mind travel with the storyline for a while. Happy reading to all.
Cheng, Kuala Lumpur

I am following your blog closely! I won't be able to buy the book until Sunday at least for a number of reasons so I am going to vent my frustration by reading as much as possible about it online. And I am 26 and a Potter (actually Hermione fan) fan! Keep writing your reviews!
Sizzlingtree, Baton Rouge, USA

About a hundred pages behind and enraptured. It is a little slow-going at first, and yes the second chapter is... "surprising" is the best word I can come up with. If I remember correctly in Order of the Phoenix, the sound of apparting was a loud crack (as opposed to a pop in the first four books), but here in Half-Blood Prince it's back to a "pop" sound, and "crack" is left for house-elves... Loving it!
Jaime Ignacio, Loughborough, UK

I have just finished reading Book 6 and right now am in a slight state of shock - who saw some of the things coming? But that is part of JK Rowling's magic, that almost indefinable quality which keeps millions of us worldwide, young and old, queuing up in their droves to lay their hands on the latest instalment. I read it almost without drawing breath and I have to say - I am impressed. I now want to know what happens next, and will have to wait a rather long time to find out. A magical story, told in the most human of ways and appealing to the heart as well as the imagination.
Philippa Norman, Wiltshire, UK

Like the look of the book as it has more dark an edge, and clearly JK wasn't afraid to go into honest territory by starting off with introducing the Prime Minister, easily pictured character of course. Nicely put, while entertaining fans with Snape as the catchy story interest also at the start. Mmm... wonder what more surprises lay ahead as the pages turn?
Scottish Potter Fan, Dundee

Just finished reading it and have to say that I'm a little disappointed but hopeful. This book seems to do no more than to set the scene for the final book in the series although there are a number of questions answered - or are they? Anyway, hope the kids like it as much as they liked the others but for an adult this was a disappointing anti-climax!
Richard, Burton on Trent



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