With his sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in full swing, Harry Potter’s slow march toward an inevitable final confrontation with Lord Voldemort grows ever grimmer. So the Boy Who Lived and Professor Albus Dumbledore, the school’s ever-wise headmaster, attempt to discover the horrible secret behind the dark wizard’s power. Marked by magical journeys into the past, long-awaited revelations and a heartbreaking final twist, the penultimate installment in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book series expertly sets the stage for the story’s epic conclusion. Now shouldering the full weight of his destiny, Harry sheds the teenage angst of The Order of Phoenix to become the young leader he was prophesied to be. As readers debate the fate of their fandom in the wake of Rowling’s transphobic comments and writing, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince remains one of the books that carries the most emotional weight in the series. —Megan McCluskey

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