Literary Criticism and Significance

J. K. Rowling’s sixth novel in a series of seven, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released at midnight on July 16, 2005. The highly praised novel tells the story of Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts.

Darker in tone and subject matter than the earlier books in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince presents in-depth character development, a complex plot, and many unanswered questions. Readers are left with questions such as: Is Snape really on Voldemort’s side or just playing both sides in order to protect himself? Where are the other Horcruxes? Who is R.A.B., who has stolen the real Horcrux? This sixth novel sets the stage for the seventh, final novel of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was surrounded by controversy and unprecedented legal action. Fans of Harry Potter were in suspense about which character would die in this book, and the secret was well-guarded by the publishers. However, a Real Canadian Superstore in British Columbia accidentally sold fourteen copies of the book before its official release date of July 16, 2005. The publisher obtained a legal injunction, preventing the consumer from reading, selling, or revealing the contents of the books before the official release date. When one buyer tried to sell the book on eBay before the July 16 release date, they were stopped by the injunction. This injunction was controversial because even though the fourteen buyers of the book did not do anything to break the law, they were prohibited from reading the book they had purchased. Legally, it was decided that because J. K. Rowling holds the copyright to her book, it was within her rights to protect the confidentiality of her work until the release date.

When the book was released, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Princesold about nine million copies within twenty-four hours, breaking the record of the most books sold in the first day of their release. Many of these books were sold at “Harry Potter Parties” held at bookstores on the evening leading up to the release. These parties consisted of games, costume contests, crafts, performances, and of course the unveiling and sale of the novel at midnight. The book sales resulted in more than $100 million dollars in revenue, and millions of happy readers.