Top critical review
My least-favorite book of the series so far.
Reviewed in the United States on April 10, 2009
Perhaps I should wait until after I've read book seven of the series before reviewing this one; there are things that could possibly happen in that book that would raise my rating of this one to four stars. But in the end, the book needs to stand or fail on its own merits, as has every other book in the series, and on its own merits, it's only passable.
Granted, the writing is still very good, and the overall plotline (the one spanning all the books) is compelling. But unlike the first five books of the series, there was no separate plot that belonged to this book alone that was successfully navigated by Harry and his friends; what little plot it had other than its part in the main overview ended badly. Which brings me to my next complaint: it is just depressing. Granted, if one is telling a classical tale of heroic conflict, it is a weakness to have a superior "Merlin" type to aid the hero unless he is severely limited, so it was eventually going to be necessary to explain why Dumbledore couldn't have done anything that Harry could in order to defeat Voldemort. But we had a good groundwork for explaining that; the whole scar-on-the forehead thing, indicating that Harry was somewhat proof against Voldemort, might have been justification enough. In any case, even if it WAS a necessary plot device, that doesn't mean I have to like it.
But what's more (and REALLY a legitimate complaint) is that, if something isn't done in book seven to ameliorate the effect, what we have just seen is the absolute, total undercutting of the main message of the series so far, as told by Dumbledore to Harry: if Dumbledore's message to Harry (and to all appearances, Rowlings' to the reader) is that the power of love (and trust) will defeat the powers of darkness, then Dumbledore, by being done in by his trust of Snape has proven that his message is flawed. As I say, it is possible that this complaint will be cancelled out by events in the next book, but until I see that, I have to mark this book down for that apparent flaw.
Also, just for the sake of quibbling over minor flaws, I really HATED the "Spider-Man breaks up with Mary Jane" scene at the end of the book in which Peter (oops, sorry, Harry) trys to break off with all of his friends in order to keep them safe from his powerful enemy. PLEASE. So long as he cares about them, they aren't safe, so he may as well show them the courtesy of allowing them the choice of whether to cower under their beds or try to help him.