I confess that I read enough of the reviews behind spoiler warnings that I knew what was going to happen, so I was really in it for the ride rather than the plot. And, while it took a while to get going (I see minny complaining that she has got half way through and not a lot has happened yet) I think this is the best of the series since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While the third book marked a turning point in exploring the back-story of Harry's family and past, this one seemed to me to have some the first real development in terms of his friends and future (after what I felt was a bit of a false start in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). And I was completely wrong about the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, who I had assumed right from the start must be Hagrid, since we knew he was a half-giant.
The one thing I found noteworthy which I haven't seen others comment on is the nature of politics in the wizarding world - clearly Fudge and Scrimgeour are not appointed by Tony Blair, as I had assumned from the other books, but emerge through some other non-transparent process. The Ministry runs everything, but to whom is it accountable?
So, still much to play for in the final book. We've put childish things aside - Dumbledore, Hagrid to an extent - and now on for the big finish. Is Snape really evil, or is Dumbledore in a sense complicit in his own demise? (Indeed, will Dumbledore return, like that guy E.T., or Father Jack, or one or two other better known mythic figures?)
I still think the third book is the best, but I will read the seventh faithfully.
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