And some additional spoiler-warning space for anyone surfing by clicking the forward button in my journal.
All right, that should be good.
Like just about everyone else I know who read this book, I was disappointed by it. Two main reasons:
1) 800 pages of torturing the main characters. In previous Harry Potter books, you got 50-100 pages of Dursley-torture that ended when Harry got to Hogwarts. In this thing, it's like the spirit of the Dursleys never leaves. It's not just that bad things happen, or even that bad things happen for wholly unjust reasons. It's that plus the total inability of the main characters to fight back effectively. They cannot rebel, and virtually every act of resistance they do make serves to worsen their situation.
This is partially alleviated by the occassional effective acts of rebellion. After all that's happened, it's utterly delightful to read the sections where Fred and George's fury has been unleashed upon the headmistress.
Still, this goal could've been accomplished in way fewer pages. I don't mind reading 880 page of delight and wonder interspersed with spots of great struggle and danger. Heck, even 880 page of struggle and danger would've been fine. Fore example, the sequence where Harry and his friends are fighting Death Eaters was not torturous: they were tense and interesting. But most of this novel wasn't struggle, it was torture, and it definitely exceeded my levels of masochism.
2) No sign the Harry learned anything from all of this. OK, Harry ignores a string of warnings, makes several serious mistakes, and winds up needing to be rescued and inadvertantly causing Sirius's death. Well, that stinks, but at least he'll realize the importance of keeping his head and listening to the advice of those around him, right?
Well, I can hope that's the case, but I don't have a lot to prove it by in the text. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad that Dumbledore did his confession thing and admitted his mistakes. (Which, let's face it, were pretty egregious. At any point he or Snape could've said plainly, "Look, we think Voldemort is trying to manipulate you RIGHT NOW so don't trust those visions! That last one was only right because he's trying to leave you with a false sense of confidence in them." And maybe if they'd been clearer, Harry would've been less cocky.)
But Dumbledore's "It was all my fault" seems to have absolved Harry from any reason to consider "Gee, perhaps I should control my temper better" or "Hmm, maybe I'm not always right about everything and can run roughshod over any hints that I might be mistaken".
So I'm left with the feeling that book six is going to be more of hot-headed, cocky Harry, and frankly whether he's right or wrong I don't expect to enjoy that much.
According to Amazon, book six is due out July 16 and will be 672 pages. I'm not going to be in any rush to pre-order it. I figure I'll wait and see what my friends have to say: if this gets another lukewarm "meh" reception, I'll pass. There are plenty of good books to read out there; I don't need to slog through the mediocre ones.