Or at least it feels that way!
So, allow me to join the pack and give my spoilerish thoughts on this latest installment of The Saga of the Boy Who Lived...
I thought this was the best page-turner so far, and that thought started with the meeting of Snape, Narcissa and Bellatrix. Finally, we get to see into the world of the Slytherins, and what goes on - and start to get the idea that Draco's future is not necessarily the bright one he expects.
And the rest of the book, as it progresses, is refreshingly unnerving. Harry finally gets to spend the time with Dumbledore that all of us, in the back of our minds, knew he should be. But the result? We see the eerie similarities between Harry and Voldemort, and what a thin line there is between the two (orphans, parseltongue speakers, incredibly gifted), especially as Harry seems to become more arrogant and careless - in part due to the Half-Prince's book. Equally unnerving is Dumbledore's sudden openness; was I the only one wondering if this was really Dumbledore? Frankly, he creeped me out at times!
And then we hear of a boy who's been crying in the bathrooms, and I know at once that it's Draco - with whom Harry again shares eerie similarities (singled out, given difficult tasks) and with whom Harry is frighteningly obsessed. And, on top of it all, it turns out that Harry is, sadly, right! (or at least close to the mark). And, yes, it was good to see that Draco could not kill in cold blood; but was it because of goodness, or fear? And interesting to know that Draco was putting up a brave front the whole time - or I assume that was the case. I can finally feel something for Draco.
Did I anticipate Dumbledore's death? Yes, but as a general principle, not because of anything specific. Yes, the withered hand hinted that Dumbledore was not indestructible - that was part of it. But mostly I was thinking that we're getting close to the end of the books, and in all classic coming-of-age tales, the old generation must make way for the new - often by the father, or father figure, dying. And that's exactly what happened here. In fact, now Harry's father, his godfather, and, you might say, his surrogate father, are all dead.
Did I expect Snape to kill him? Honestly, I wasn't sure what he'd do! The conversation at the beginning, and everything else, seemed to point to Snape being a double agent. So did the apparent backfiring of his attempts to teach Harry Occlumency, which seemed to only open his mind up more. But I did think that Dumbledore had something that made his faith in Snape unshakable... other than the reason he gave Harry, which, frankly, seemed like the last thing that would make Dumbledore have faith in Snape.
Did I guess who the Half-Blood Prince was? Not until Snape caught Harry using the spell... then I started thinking about it. Did I know Hermione and Ron would end up together? Well, come on - we all knew that! *G* Did I guess about Tonks and Lupin? Not in a million years! But, how adorable! Squeee!
So, very interesting read compared to the others; I was very happy with the book.
Of course, I have a couple of pet "Peeves" (*groan*). One I've already mentioned to anima_mecanique, which is: if every spell in the world is Latin, why in the world don't they teach these kids Latin? In fact, they seem to be unaware that the language exists! Why else would Harry be surprised by what "Levitatum Corpus" or "Separatum Sectum" do? (Sorry, I'm sure these are not correct, but you know what I'm referring to.) So, is a spell created by just translating the action into Latin? If not, how do people invent spells? On the other hand, I was relieved to see Harry and Ron preparing food by hand because they're underage and can't use magic at home; I'd wondered how they got around that, if all the work at home is usually done by magic. Still, if that's the case, you'd think they'd be more familiar with muggle technology, then - since that's the only way kids can do things (i.e., without magic).
Ah, well, just a couple of quibbles. Excellent book. Now let's see how Harry gets through all those Horcruxes in one last book!
Another question, though... what's the use of keeping your soul immortal in these different items? I mean... how does it help? It's not like there are 7 Lord Voldemorts, since the one in the body seems to be the only conscious one that is capable of much action. Ah, well... - it's just a plot device, anyway!