While in Perdido Eric bought this book on the first day it came out and finished it the following day. Then David read it in two days and I was able to start it, but then had to buy a copy myself when I got home so I could finish it.
This might be the best-written book of the series. All of the characters are given depth in this go around instead of the usual flat side characters that have been typical in past books. Here the adults largely act like adults and even Harry’s arch-enemy, Draco Malfoy, shows a human side. The interactions among the chief players are well done and certainly the majority of the book is more concerned about Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s love lives than anything else. Although all of that was enjoyable, nothing really happened for most of the book either. We get some tantalizing clues about the identity of the title character, and still more about the mysterious comings and goings of Dumbledore. However, none of these things are resolved until the last few chapters. I’m not about to give away what happens in the book, but the seventh (and allegedly final) book will have to be awfully busy tying everything up, including a new mystery involving the initials R.A.B. in the last couple of pages. There are also a number of sub-stories about the origins of Voldemort which serve to better develop his character although he is largely absent here.
There is nothing here to compare to how all the clues were neatly tied together at the end of the third book. And the action probably lags the fourth book. But this is still a much better book than the disappointing fifth and, as stated earlier, it is probably the best-written of any of them. The crimes of the Death Eaters certainly parallel that of terrorists today, especially with the recent London bombings.
I still have a few quibbles. One relates to the puzzle over the identity of the Half Blood Prince. Harry seems to ask around to just about everyone except the one guy who would probably know, Dumbledore. And this despite the fact that Harry has more access to Dumbledore than in any previous book. Also a few new wrinkles in wizarding magic that are thrown in that were missing from previous books, but that really change the base rules. One is apparating which allows a wizard to transport themselves nearly anywhere they want instantly, a la the TV series Bewitched. Another is the use of silently cast spells which could change a lot of things as well.
So, all in all, this is a very satisfying read and, as the penultimate part of the series, leaves the reader impatient for the conclusion which I am guessing is still a couple of years away.