I knew going into it that reading the new book would be an emotional roller coaster, and I was not wrong. While there were a few things in the book that initially rubbed me the wrong way (some of which I have later reconciled myself to, and others—well actually, only one—I still have a bit of a hard time with), overall I loved the book.
What I loved:
-Dumbledore’s arrival at Privet Drive. I love how in charge he was, how polite, and yet how…well, how sternly he told the Dursleys off for mistreating Harry. Actually, I just loved Dumbledore in general in this book—generous, gentle, noble, humble-but-not-too-humble, wise, treating Harry like an adult, sticking to his guns about what he thinks is right, being willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary. I had predicted that Dumbledore would die in this book, but if there was any doubt in my mind when I first opened the book, I was certain by the time I was about halfway through, because it was clear that every stop was being pulled to make sure that the reader thoroughly loved Dumbledore before letting that blow fall. JKR was clearly trying to milk it for all it was worth. And she succeeded, at least for this reader.
-Horace Slughorn. He’s just a great character. And I love that JKR gave us a Slytherin who is both good (has generally good motives and is on the good side) and likeable (not a sarcastic jerk). Heh. And I love even more that this good, likeable Slytherin is not remotely sexy. Take that you Slytherin fangirls! ;)
-Bill/Fleur! I think Fleur is hilarious, and I love that she’s such a snob, but she’s totally in love with this boy form a simple, poor, and boisterous family. And the scene in the hospital at the end—so cute! “I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk!” afjdkl;fajdlk;ajfdlkas;f You go, girl.
-Harry saying that Luna and Neville are cool. He’s come a long way since the train ride from the previous year.
-The confrontation with Draco on the train. Okay, I felt bad for Harry, but it was a good tense moment, and it was good to see Draco finally becoming a worthy rival for him. I enjoyed the development of Draco’s character in general in this book, particularly his role in the final battle. I know it made the Slytherin fangirls happy, and despite my earlier jab, I’m happy for them, too. :)
-Tonks. Tonks is not a wimp. Despite her sorrows, she was still pretty cool, IMO. More on this later.
-Snape as DADA teacher. daveydee_2 was right!
-Harry smelling Ginny’s perfume in the Amortentia. asdjfa;djfak;lfjadkl;f Apparently there was subconscious attraction there after all. And Hermione trailing off and going pink when describing what the potion smelled like to her. R/Hrs everywhere are dying to know what she would have said.
-Merope. She reminds me a bit of Eponine in Les Miz. Too bad she crushed on a far less worthy object than Marius, poor thing.
-Harry as Quidditch captain. I like how Hermione pointed out that it made him equal in status with her and Ron by mentioning that it would allow him to use the Prefect’s bathroom and such (and I’m sure that revelation will launch a few smut bunnies in this fandom). It’s just nice to have balance in the Trio. And I thought Harry did a good job as captain. I liked how he handled the tryouts, and I really liked how he tricked Ron into doing well at the first Quidditch match. I just thought it was really clever, and I believe it will have a lasting effect on Ron’s confidence.
-Ron/Hermione! Okay, so I was hoping for a kiss in this book. But who cares about that? Hermione was going to ask Ron out! Harry actually thought about their relationship for like, two paragraphs! I love the scene in Herbology, as well as Harry’s observation that they got along well with each other between that little confession and when Ginny tells Ron that Hermione kissed Krum. That proves what many of us have been saying all along: that Ron and Hermione don’t and won’t fight with each other nearly as much when they are secure in where they stand with each other; the nastiness only comes when they are insecure about the other’s feelings. I also liked the scene where the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes quill messed up Ron’s homework, and Hermione fixed it, and Ron said "I love you” and finished his homework on his own. *melts* Finally, the hug at the funeral was probably my favorite moment, because it was just so sweet and beautiful. *sniff* I don’t think they’re officially a couple yet as of the end of HBP. I think JKR will show us a little bit more resolution in the first few chapters of Book 7, against the backdrop of Bill and Fleur’s wedding.
-Harry being a good friend, especially to Hermione. It saddens me that some H/Hrs have complained about Harry and Hermione’s friendship being diminished in this book, when it’s clear to me that it grew considerably. Harry was so oblivious to his best friends’ problems in most of the past books, so caught up in his own issues (which are admittedly more serious) that he was always sort of taking them for granted. In this book he does much better. I’ve already mentioned how he helped boost Ron’s self-confidence in the first Quidditch match, by showing him he could do well if he just believed in himself, and how he stood up for Luna and Neville on the train. But I also love how compassionate and kind he is to Hermione in this book. I really love the part where he decides to try to comfort her when she's upset about Ron making fun of her in class. He wasn’t able to say anything to help her, but I was pleased with the fact that he thought about it, and made an effort.
-Harry and Luna’s just-friends date. I thought it was really sweet. (I tend to think Luna may be an “asexual” character; she won’t be romantically involved with anyone, and that’s fine with her.) I also enjoyed Luna’s “uncomfortable” honesty throughout the book, from her insights into Ron and other characters, to her hilarious Quidditch commentary.
-Angsty!Lupin. He’s my favorite character, and it was good to see him make a few appearances in this book. Is it normal to love to see your favorite character get tortured, though? Anyway, I enjoyed his angst over Grayback, having to live among other werewolves and, though we didn’t realize it until later, Tonks. On a simlar note—“furry little problem”? djfa;lkdjfa;lkfdjal;fdkja;l
-Ron/Lavender. It annoyed me during my initial reading, because to be honest, I’m getting a little tired of the R/Hr tension. But “Won-Won” and “My Sweetheart” and “a sound like a plunger being removed from a sink” were just too ajfdalkfdjal;kdfjal;kdfja to be too upset about the delay in R/Hr.
-Harry telling off Scrimgeour at Christmas. I adored Harry in this scene. He was just so grown up. And he’s “Dumbledore’s man, through and through.” Beautiful.
-Ron’s birthday surprises. See above comment about enjoying seeing favorite characters get tortured. But Hermione returning to his side in the hospital wing and “Er-my-nee” were the best parts of this episode.
-Harry using the Felix Felices to get Slughorn’s memory. This was another part where I was just so proud of Harry, and so pleased with how he’s grown up. And the part where Slughorn started to get teary-eyed about Lily, and Harry pointed out Slughorn’s selfishness—I just found that really affecting. I teared up a bit myself.
-Horcruxes. angua9 was right! And what a delicious mystery to discuss until Book 7 comes out.
-Sectumsempra. I loved the angst of this confrontation with Draco and Snape, and I was pleased that Harry felt guilty about what he had done. Also, I had thought Snape might be the HBP before this chapter, but it was this part that made me feel sure. I enjoy it when I’m able to figure out one of the little mysteries in these books. That’s part of the reason PoA is my favorite—because I was able to put the clues together and figure out that Sirius was a good guy and that Lupin was a werewolf before those revelations were made. Likewise, part of what made me enjoy this book was that I was able to figure out the identity of the HBP before it was revealed, and that I was able to get a good guess as to who RAB is before discussing the book with anyone else.
-The kiss! *SQUEEEEE!!!!*
-Harry’s Horntail tatoo! And Ron’s Pygmy Puff! afdjk;jfdka;fsjkf
-Harry giving the rest of the Felix Felices to his friends. What a hero!
-The climax. Harry and Dumbeldore’s adventure had the right amount of suspense, and the part with the potion was just…horrible and perfect, if you know what I mean. And “I am not worried Harry…I am with you.” *sobs* And Dumbledore’s death! I was expecting it, and yet it was shocking. The whole final battle was just so wonderfully tense, just as it should be. And Snape! Wow. Just wow. I love the way all of it went down. I love that Snape was still berating Harry even as he was fleeing—still teaching him, in his Snape-ish way. I was also pleased and proud that my prediction that Harry would not face Voldemort in this book turned out to be correct.
-Ginny leading Harry away from Dumbledore’s body, with her “smaller and warmer hand.” *sigh* So sweet.
-Remus/Tonks! I was skeptical about this ship post-OotP, and I remember being kinda “meh” about the idea of a match between them back then. But that little scene in the hospital wing totally made a convert out of me. I loved it, and I’m a bit at a loss to explain why I didn’t think they were a good match before. Oddly, it may be because I can sympathize better with the subdued Tonks we saw in this book that I now feel more inclined to pair her with Remus. While I’m at it, I want to say a few words in defense of this ship. First, no, it was not too out-of-the-blue. Yes, it was a surprise, but I believe it was supposed to be. Lupin and Tonks are minor enough characters that a surprise romance between them should be an acceptable plot twist. There were a few hints in OotP and HBP, which I think constitute enough of a buildup, even though I missed them myself. Second, no, Tonks is not pathetic for getting all mopey over *gasp* a man. First of all, I got the impression that they were actually in a relationship, which Remus broke off some time between OotP and HBP. It’s a bit more understandable to be upset over a relationship that has ended, not because of a lack of love, but because of dire circumstances and “some stupid, noble reason” than to be upset over unrequited love, or even an ordinary breakup. Also, it’s even more understandable to be upset when the person you are separated from is in considerable danger and distress. Besides that, I don’t think Tonks is really that bad off. She still seems to be doing her job well enough—she rescues Harry on the train just fine, and conjures a Patronus with no trouble. Just because she’s obviously unhappy, and is having enough trouble transforming that she can’t go around with her usual pink hair doesn’t mean she’s suddenly turned into a worthless wimp. Really, her symptoms don’t seem that bad to me. No, interestingly enough, they seem just bad enough so that our POV character can notice that something is amiss. Funny that. ;) Last, Tonks/Remus was clearly something JKR had planned and was proud of (note her comments on it in the TLC/MN interview). It was not put in there to please Wotcher Wolvie shippers, nor to prove that Remus is straight. I think JKR had real and valid purposes for writing it. First, it fits in with the “Love is in the air” atmosphere of the whole book, which I think is important. Guess what, folks? You know that theme of the value of love in the series? I think that includes romantic love. Yep. I said it. Does that mean Harry and Ginny are going to defeat Voldemort with the power of their Deep Soul-Bonding Lurrve? No. But romantic love still has its place in the story. JKR has kept it pretty low-key in the previous books, but now her POV character is the right age to see it for what it is: something that makes people a little crazy, but that is ultimately worth having and worth taking risks for. It’s good that there’s “a little more love in the world,” and Remus/Tonks is a great example of this. More to the point, I think there is an intentional parallel between Remus/Tonks and Harry/Ginny. It may be noble to push the one you love away because your life is too dangerous, but in the end, that’s not the answer. Lupin seems to have come around now; Harry will, too. And Ginny will wait for him. No, ladies. There’s nothing wrong with a little well-placed persistence. Having Tonks wait for Remus, and Ginny wait for Harry is NOT a message to little girls to wait around for unresponsive men to notice them. Tonks knew Remus still loved her, and Ginny knows Harry still loves her. The message is that real love is long-suffering, that it endures hardship, that it holds out hope and perseveres through darkness and doubt. I think that’s a beautiful message.
-Dumbledore’s funeral. The whole atmosphere of the scene was just right. I cried quite a bit, which is as it should be.
-He knew that at that moment they understood each other perfectly, and that when he told her what he was going to do now, she would not say, “Be careful,” or “Don’t do it,” but accept his decision, because she would not have expected anything less of him. Exactly. That’s exactly how I foresaw Harry and Ginny’s relationship working. She knows and loves both “Just Harry” and “The Chosen One”. She understands him perfectly.
-Ron and Hermione: “We’re with you whatever happens.” And …there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione. A perfect ending to an awesome book.
What would have made me enjoy the book even more:
-A bit more tenderness in Ginny’s character and in the development of H/G in the earlier parts of the book. I really craved more moments like “Lucky you” and “Chocolate in the library”, where we see Ginny’s compassion and her understanding of Harry’s emotional needs. In this book, we saw a lot more of her sassy side, which Harry clearly likes, but is not really my favorite thing about her. I don’t fault JKR for this; she chose to take a more humorous route in getting H/G together, and that’s a fine way to do it, especially since she had already established the other aspect of the relationship and of Ginny’s rightness for Harry in OotP—something that certain people would do well to realize. *ahem* Also, the H/G relationship in the next book will probably be a bit more on the angsty side, which is a good reason to go for humor in this book. It’s just that I would have enjoyed it a bit more if JKR had infused Harry and Ginny’s romance in this book with a little bit more of the mushiness as well. That’s just what I like. Ironically, this preference of mine means that my favorite H/G moment in the book was the break-up, because that was the tenderest.
Other than that (and a few typos and minor errors, such as “punched” instead of “slapped”), I have no complaints.
As for fandom…*sigh* I think some people probably would do well to reread the books, if they could do so with an open heart and an open mind, and with a newfound understanding of where things are actually going. I hope some of them will do so, and perhaps see things in a new light. I don’t really care if people continue to ship H/Hr (or R/S or whatever). However, it would be nice to see some of them open their hearts to R/Hr and H/G and R/T as well. Then they could really prove how much more brilliant and artistic and magnanimous and loving and harmonious they are than us OBHWF plebes. ;)