I just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Here’s my first-impression review, wholly free of those annoying spoilers. (Hence, it is surely annoying vague!)
I certainly enjoyed it. As with the other novels, the mystery unfolds throughout the book, leading to a spectacular end, with significant questions still to be answered in the next (and final) novel. For those who love Harry Potter, it is certainly required reading. If you haven’t met him in print yet, you should read the series from the beginning.
Perhaps in an effort to trim down the length, much of the now-usual rich detail about life at Hogwarts was omitted. Or perhaps the problem was that the material covered was largely recycled, rather than freshly invented, as in past books. On a related point, the relationships developed seemed to coast upon prior motivations, rather than fresh interests. As a result, they had a feel of boring inevitability to them.
Also disturbing was the way in which the flow of the story was marred by some bad cliches. The most notable (from the very last pages) was very much out-of-the-blue, particularly since it was not consistent with characters in question. Another resulted in a rude interruption of a painfully dramatic moment with a trivial matter. (In the course of reading, I did note more than these two examples.)
Also, I’m not sure that the story showed the heroism of the heroes like in books past. Harry showed his mettle, but the other heroes seemed weak to me. One failed monumentally for not-yet-explained reasons, while the others simply seemed to lack much role in the action.
I certainly don’t wish to dissuade anyone from reading the book with these criticisms. So please understand them in the context of my overall passion for Harry Potter, as well as my high expectations for this latest installment.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read, particularly in its soul-twisting ending, but not without some unfortunate flaws.
Update: A friend of mine rightly noted one great virtue of Half-Blood Prince, namely that Harry Potter is now a thinking Harry Potter. That’s an important character development, I think.