This contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
I liked this book. You can tell by the way I finished it in 24 hours. It’s slightly tighter than OOP was, and better plotted, almost.
She’s trying too hard to lay false trails, to the point that they’re getting in the way of the story. HP works, in part, because there are always three layers in action. You’ve got the “Gosh wow look wizards” universe, their links to the “muggle” world and the ramping up fight against The Enemy; Slightly higher you have the tale of three friends growing up at Hogwarts; and finally on the top you have the plot-de-jour of the Philosophers Stone, Wizards Cup, Malfoy’s Plot and whatever. It works best when she is dealing with one of those threads, or two of those threads interacting with or interrupting each other. Stuff like the relationships within the Order of the Phoenix don’t fit in any of these layers enough to do any more than stand out. You do, however, have to make the standard ultimate get-out clause that whilst it doesn’t fit now it may become absolutely vital in the next book.
And that’s the thing. She only has one book left now, in which they are going to have to locate and destroy all the Horcruxes (which I find amusing, as it means the entire debarcle takes a leap further towards the classic fantasy Quest scenario JKR doesn’t think she fits into. This would be fine and logical if she had another couple of books left to fulfil this, but with the final book on the horizon she’s got an awful lot of macguffins to find. Too many, I think, to do proper justice to each of them.
Is Dumbledore dead?
There are various theorys to say he isn’t, from the theory that the Dumbledore in HBP is someone polymorphed (Since he doesn’t get the memory from his head like everyone else does) to the fact that they’ve been rehearsing sub-vocal curses all year and the Abara Kadava spell appears to work radiacally different on Dumbledore than anyone since (and you have to mean it for it to work). There are many get-out clauses. Plus Dumbledore looks like Gandalf.
Harry and Ginny. I win a point in the cosmic game of one-up-man-ship. Ginny is patently JKR’s daughter in ink form, also. They didn’t get very long, though, did they? From snogging behind the Quiddich shed to Harry going on the fateful Quest was only a couple of pages, and he dumps her (How bloody noble, as if saying “We’re on a break” instantly stops whether they fancy each other. I digress) just after the funeral (“In which we never see the body” say the conspiracy theorists, “And before which the Phoenix has been crying lots”).
And so they leave Hogwarts to quest on their own, taking some kind of Magical Gap Year before their NEWT exams or whatever.
In the next book, they will find the Horcruxen, nearly die defeating Voldemort, and they will end on a nice little homely scene in the Burrow on a paragraph about how nice it is to have friends. Not much else will happen
The only thing left to wonder about is if Snape is actually good or evil, and whether it matters in the end.