So, I read it over the weekend. (Yes, I'm one of those.) I like to think that I read it so I could report about it here, but that's only part of it, really. Okay, intro aside, here is the review:
Book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Year Published: 2005.
Grade That Means Nothing Coming From Me: C-.
Another year of Harry's life, his sixteenth. The war is in full swing, with Voldemort's Dark Eaters gaining strength and killing both wizards and muggles on a daily basis. Security has tightened at Hogwarts. As 6th years, Harry, Hermoine and Ron are now studying harder than ever, each of them passing the appropriate tests to get them into the classes they want. Dumbledore is teaching Harry private lessons to help him fight Voldemort, giving him history lessons on Voldemort's past. Harry excels in potions after receiving a used potion book that has notations from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. In between studies, love is in the air at Hogwarts, with some of the favorites getting together. The war continues to get closer and closer to Hogwarts, with parents getting worried after students keep getting cursed, even on school grounds. Harry believes Snape, the new teacher of Defense of the Dark Arts, is working with Draco Malfoy as Dark Eaters. Dumbledore asks Harry to accompany him on a mission to weaken Voldemort. When they return, they find that the Death Eaters have taken over the castle. A grisly fight and tragic real-tears death follow.
Disappointment. Rowling struggles throughout this one to maintain her audience. It seems as though she is not sure whom she is talking to. The characters and action are no longer age appropriate for the 12 and under crowd, due to the amount of swearing (the characters all seem to be swearing, even though very few are actually written out), snogging (their word for some serious horizontal lip-locking) and violence. Yet, Rowling writes in a voice that is condescending to both children and adults. She wrestles with the voice of the book, even going as far as having the characters say in their dialogue what is important to remember.
In addition, she spends the first 135 pages of the book in a massive recap of what has already happened, as if she cannot fathom her readers could possible remember. She liberally sprinkles reminders from her other books throughout the rest of the text, which are so gratuitous that it feels like she's either being paid by the word or doing heavy self-promotion. I almost expect Harry to begin reading a Harry Potter book.
She also reuses the plot from Book 2. Harry once again finds himself with an object that gives him directions from an unknown hand. You would think that he would be wary of picking up another object, but he just plunges in, even though Hermoine keeps saying how much she disagrees with it.
Character perception is another problem. Even though Harry has been right for everything up until now, even though everyone refers to him as The Chosen One, even though he has no reasons to lie and is acknowledged as seeing things, nobody believes him. This is ridiculous. Rowling is forced to make very smart characters inconceivable unperceptive in order to make her plot work. Overall, it's disappointing.
That being said, it does end well. It seems that Rowling gets out of unnecessary exposition land somewhere around page 510, making the last hundred and fifty or so pages an enjoyable read, with the pace, tone, characters, and voice consistent with what we expect of Harry Potter book.
I will grudgingly read Book 7 because I care about the Potter crew. But it would be great if it would cut to the chase.