Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, the 6th out of a series of seven books. This is the book I had been waiting for since I first read Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone. The long awaited book where Harry's and Dumbledore's relationship finally comes to the forefront. This was my first re-read since the HBP movie came out...I remember being so disappointing in the film for taking a more 'romantic comedy' approach and leaving out so many important details. But this re-read has actively restored my faith in HBP as only the second best Harry Potter book out there. I'll try and summarize generally before going into plot details but it's hard for me not to go into spoilers right away: there is so much to discuss!
So HBP starts off fresh on the heels of OotP. Everyone in the wizarding community knows that Voldemort is back now. The Ministry for Magic has gotten rid of Fudge and taken an stronger stance against the dark forces that loom ever closer. Having now lost his godfather as well, Harry must come to grips with his loss, as well as the contents of the ominous prophecy regarding himself and Lord Voldemort. (view spoiler)[ Right from the start, when Dumbledore goes to Privet Drive to fetch Harry coming full circle from dropping him on that same doorstep some 15 years prior...speaking to the Dursley's...taking Harry to meet Slughorn (with good reason of course ;) and the touching and perfect scene when both Dumbledore and Harry speak outside the Burrow ♥ *sigh* (hide spoiler)]
The writing in HBP is above reproach, it just flows effortlessly and the book reads in the same way. We are getting into the thick of the real plot now. The truth about Harry's destiny...and Voldemort's. And I loved learning every little detail of it right along with Harry. The scenes in Dumbledore's office with the pensive are among the most riveting in the whole series.
I did however find it a bit frustrating that Ron & Hermione are so reluctant to believe Harry's thoughts on Draco. (view spoiler)[ As early as chapter 7, Harry told them he suspected Draco to be a Death Eater...and for almost the duration of the book they treat him as insane for even thinking it. (hide spoiler)]
I feel like at this point, they've known each other long enough and been through enough together to know that Harry's hunches are usually dead on. The guy has amazing instinct, period.
Another highlight in HBP for me is Ginny and the evolution of her character and consequentially her relationship with Harry. Can I just say how much I love Ginny?! She's fierce, brave, an incredibly skilled witch. She is also the least intimidated by Harry. He can be raging or sad to a point where Ron and Hermione would hesitate to approach him...but Ginny never hesitates...she can always get through to him. (view spoiler)[ I've read people saying that they didn't see the love between Harry and Ginny coming... that you don't notice Ginny till book 6 so JKR is at fault for not putting Ginny in the forefront more or sooner. But I feel that these people forget the story is told through Harry's eyes. Harry has always cared for Ginny but I mean she hardly ever spoke in front of him; being so smitten with Harry. As early as OotP, Harry shares many glances, laughs and moments with Ginny. It's like she almost creeps up on him...slowly starting in OotP he respects her, he admires her skill as a witch, and on the Quidditch pitch when she replaces him as seeker. And in book 6 he starts inviting her with him as early as on the train. Then he sees her play chaser and she's brilliant. He loves her before realizing he does and so as readers, she creeps up on us a bit too the first time around...but upon re-reading the clues are there...and quite clear ;) I just loved seeing Harry fall for Ginny; she's much more worthy that Cho could ever dream of being! (hide spoiler)]
And finally:Horcruxes! Loved learning about them, how they came to be...every single pensive giving a clue for one or more of them. The concept is brilliant, hats off to Rowling for coming up with the whole idea. (view spoiler)[ Seriously, how creepy was it to learn about Riddle's family, and younger Riddle?! *shudders* (hide spoiler)]
And yes the ending is beyond sad and I tear up a few times during the final chapters. But it's fitting, it's what needed to happen and it sets the stage perfectly for 'Deathly Hallows'. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>