This review is going to have two parts, spoilers and non spoilers, if you don't want to learn it from me, don't read the second half.
Harry Potter. Kids books? I guess, I mean, they were meant for children but the whole Potter-mania has taken a life of its own. Much has been made (mostly by media outlets) on the books length and the dark tone.
Length of books has never really bothered me. I prefer it when a book is really long, that means I get to spend more time with the characters and more time enjoying the story (that is, assuming the book is good). But then again, I read semi-regularly, I read Robert Jordan, whos books regularly reach the 1000 page limit, so 600+ (652 exactly) page Harry Potter book isn't exactly daunting.
As for the dark tone... in HPatHBP Harry is 17, so 6 books ago, when the series began, he was 11... A book written about an 11 year old is going to have a different tone than a book about a 17 year old. So of course there's a darker tone to the books, Harry is older, Rowling's readers are older and the series is nearing its climax.
That out of the way, I really liked the book. I definitely liked it a lot more than the 5th book (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) but I still think the 4th (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) is my favorite.
General points: I was surprised by how much of the British English came through the book (not that I mind). I mean, they changed the title of the first book from Philosopher's Stone to the Sourcerer's Stone, but this had a ton of words like snogging (which I assumed means kissing). Maybe not a big deal, but I did notice it.
The love story between the wizard students was kind of distracting. I understand why it was there, the whole 'there's still love during tough times' idea, but I didn't care all that much. Plus her writings on Harry and his monster in his stomach was kinda dumb.
The overall story was very interesting; it kept my attention all the way through (though I did finish the book in under 6 hours). The end was also well done, a major character did die and Rowling did make the end very poingent.
Finally, I did end up picturing a bunch of people from the movies. Though it was mostly Ron, Snape and Malfroy; I did okay with the rest of the characters.
*****Plot Stuff SPOILERS*****
The title came into play early on in the book, and even though I knew the Half Blood Prince wasn't Voldemort (as Rowling had earlier stated) the entire book I spent thinking it could've been him. The Half Blood Prince refers to a name on the back of a used Potions text book that Harry uses. The Prince wrote his notes in the book and the tips turn out better than the actual text. It turns out Snape is the Half Blood Prince.
This is Snape's book, you learn Snape is the Half-Blood Prince and you learn Snape is the one who told Voldemort about the prophecy (that led Voldemort to kill the Potters).
I've always been of the theory that Snape is good and Harry is too paranoid about him. But this book seems to put a end to that theory. The main character who died (and I'm not too surprised) is Dumbledore and Snape kills him, so it doesn't look too good for my theory. However, since we see Snape being forced (kind of) into an unbreakable vow spell to start off the book, Rowling leaves a bit of hope that Snape isn't all bad (plus he doesn't kill Harry at the end). But that is kind of streching it, Snape doesn't look too good after this book.
Which kind of bugs me, not that I really like Snape (or Draco Malfroy), but Harry spends the entire series thinking up ways that they are trying to hurt him. I would like to think that there are some people in this world who could simultaniously not like Potter and still not be evil. But I guess not.
Also, since it appears that Snape betrays Dumbledore, it seems Dumbledores fatal flaw is that he was too trusting, he believed too much in people/was to gulible. But Rowling has put Hagrid in the same boat as Snape (in Dumbledore's eyes), so it's kind of a mixed message. In an interview she talks about Dumbledore being too trusting. I can see the point in that; 'if you're too trusting you can be duped.'
But my problem is Harry is always right, basically about everything. He's paranoid the entire book, he never trusts Snape and at the end it looks again like Harry was proven right. Maybe I want the books to be a bit more complex a bit more like real life. Draco is bound to follow in the fathers footsteps (but not completely, he couldn't bring himself to kill Dumbledore) and become a Death Eater and Snape is bound to return to Voldemort. In Potter's world, if they don't like Harry Potter (or his parents) they are evil. In Potter's world if you don't like one another, there is no way to work towards a common goal. Or if a kid is a brat or a bully there's no way he can be redeemed.
Though I did find it interesting that Rowling started off the book with Snape taking the Unbreakable Vow with some other Death Eaters. From what I recall, I can't really remember a scene in the book that Harry wasn't present for. For my memory, the book has followed Harry around and we've never really seen something that Harry hasn't.
I hope in book 7 it turns out Snape is still good and his hand was forced to kill Voldemort and that Draco didn't go over to the Death Eaters completely. Personally, it would piss me off that every one of Harry's suspicions turned out to be correct.
I do admire that Rowling killed off an important character with Dumbledore. One of the big problems with the Wheel of Time series is that the main characters fight tons of battles and no one close to them really gets hurt. The Potter Universe has taken hits with Black and Dumbledore dying, so it does add a bit of realism there.
Also, -and this is either really good writing or really crappy writing- the book starts off with the Weasley parents always making sure they are who they say they are by asking personal questions. Dumbledore tells Harry to do the same. People could be impersonated and you need to stay on your toes. Rowling goes through all the trouble of telling us this and then never delivers. Or does she? Part of me thinks someone in the book wasn't really who they said they were. There was so much talk about knowing Dumbledore's favorite jam or the Weasley's pet names for each other not to have something like that follow up.
I must point out I didn't care for the cliche of Harry pushing away Ginny at the end of the book. He says how she's unsafe being with him or some crap. Like she isn't in danger anyway because she's part of the family Harry stays with during the holidays. Plus, and Spiderman 2 did this, it makes it seem like the woman has no choice in this. 'It's too dangerous, blah blah blah I gotta go' ugh...
I'm sure there's a ton of stuff I missed or didn't get to. But overall, the book was worth the wait and I now get to wait for book 7.