This post is going to be all Harry Potter. If you don't read/like HP, you may want to skip. If you do like him, but haven't read Book 6 (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) you should definitely skip, as there will be spoilers.
The first Harry book came out in 1997, but I didn't read it till I was 21, a senior in college. My mom had picked it up after reading all manner of raves about it, and she couldn't stop talking about it. Harry came along for me during Thanksgiving of that senior year, and he was truly a life-saver. Senior year was not a good time in many ways – my dad was in ill health, my boyfriend and I broke up, I didn't want to leave the cozy confines of college, and my cat died. But everything changed with Harry. The world according to Harry was so far removed, so fantastical, and so clearly black and white, that a person could easily lose themselves, not only while reading, but in contemplating the overarching mystery.
I have been a devoted Harry fan ever since, and I even bought Order of the Phoenix at midnight along with a bunch of 12 year-olds when it came out two years ago.
Harry has of course aged from that abused and sweet boy in Philosopher's Stone to a somewhat jaded and brave teen-ager. Gone is the overly whiny and brooding Harry of Phoenix, thank goodness. And while I loved Phoenix, as I love any Harry book simply for the fact that I am attached the characters and the world of wizards and witches, Half-Blood Prince is a triumphant return to JK Rowling's mix of mystery, intrigue and comic sweetness.
Phoenix was almost entirely lacking in light-heartedness, whereas Prince has multiple moments of breaking up the darkness that is the world with Lord Voldemort. Examples? Hermione's hysteria before finding out her O.W.L.s reminded me of Anhabelle and myself before we would find out law school grades. The Weasley family's reaction to Fleur Delacour, the tremendous characterization of Horace Slughorn, and as ever, anything with Dobby and Kreacher. In fact, I read a review that, although positive, complained about JK's inability to create a character who is neither wholly good or wholly evil. Hogwash, I say. Horace Slughorn is beautifully multi-layered – capable of goodness and a great deal of selfishness.
Okay, enough of that. On to bigger things. The mystery. R.A.B. anyone? Pablo disagrees, but I think it must be Sirius's brother, Regulus Black. It makes sense, and remember that Harry now owns Grimmauld Place, and in Phoenix, the kids found a heavy locket that no one could open. Could be the Horcrux. However, I do wonder how Regulus could remove the locket from the cave…. remember that Dumbledore said that this was not a job one person could do alone.
Next, the biggest mystery of all – is Snape evil after all? Of course, at first I was enraged and thought he was a bad guy. But I am now falling firmly into the camp that there is much more to this than meets the eye. You'll recall that Hagrid overheard Snape and Dumbledore arguing – that Snape said he didn't want to do it and Dumbledore said too bad, he had to. Could Dumbledore be ordering Snape to kill him? Dumbledore would never plead with Snape to spare him, but perhaps his whisper of "Severus" was Dumbledore ordering Snape to do what had to be done. I don't believe that Dumbledore is so blinded by a desire to see the best in everyone that he would place his trust in Snape unless it was truly warranted. And remember that Dumbledore spent a good part of the final chapters demanding that Harry do exactly as he is ordered to do – we know that Sirius never liked to do what he was told, but Snape has a respect for authority and will follow orders… including killing Dumbledore?
Lastly, is Dumbledore really dead? He has a connection with the phoenix, which grows old, immolates, and rises from the ashes, reborn. Harry thinks he sees a phoenix fly up from the tomb. And as one of the reviewers pointed out, Dumbledore's death smacks of Gandalf's fall in Fellowship of the Ring. And JK has said that we can expect more from the Department of Mysteries – perhaps behind the veil?
So many questions… and so much time to contemplate, as the next book won't be out for at least two years. Probably longer. Le sigh.