I'm not really good at writing the coherent, well-thought reviews like some of you have done, but I shall try.
First of all, I think this is the best writing JKR has done so far. Not just because it's for older kids/adults now, but it's just so cohesive. Thing X does not hover in space, it connects to Thing Y and Thing Z. Hopefully this review will be half as cohesive.
First of all, is Harry. Oh, Harry, how I love you. I've seen reviews that talk about how Harry is not your normal teenager, and well, he is and he isn't. He's normal in that he gets crushes, gets angsty, worries about grades, teachers, and what people think of him (as the parent of a sixteen-year-old, I can attest that all this happens to boys his age). He's not normal in the fact that he's almost literally been through hell in his sixteen years. Even less "normal" is the fact that given all the abuse and heartache he's had to endure, he remains, as Dumbledore says, "pure in heart". I think if Ron and Hermione hadn't been with him this whole time he wouldn't be so pure. But also I think while in history his and Voldemort's pasts are somewhat parallel, their natures are not. Tom has his Marvolo evil streak, and Harry has his Evans warmth. We don't know much about Tom Riddle, Sr.'s personality and I'd like to think that Harry's inherited more from his mother than from James, although there must have been something about James that made Lily fall for him.
Harry is also someone who is finally accepting his role in the war. His choice may be Hobson's Choice (as was said so wonderfully in a fic I read recently, I forget which one because I've read a lot of late), but he's accepted it, even breaking off with Ginny because he needs to be unfettered, as it were, to do what needs to be done. That Ron and Hermione choose to be with him is their choice, and he wouldn't have dreamt of asking them. He's realising that what's important isn't a girlfriend, or Quidditch (even wanting to follow Draco during a match because it was important), but Saving the World, because if he doesn't do it, nobody will, and there won't BE a world in which to have a girlfriend or play Quidditch. Go Harry.
I know Harry didn't grieve for Sirius as much as I thought he would, but he did an awful lot of Avoiding the Subject, which means that maybe the grieving will still happen. I'm just glad he didn't mope around feeling guilty the whole book (apparently, that job was given to Tonks, for some odd reason).
Then there's Ron and Hermione. I think they were both a little juvenile with the whole Lavender thing. Ron was upset that Viktor and Hermione snogged two years before? I dunno about that. Ron IS obtuse, but that's a bit much. And the birds? Geez, Hermione, you could have just yelled at him. They redeemed themselves, though, when they told Harry they'd go with him to find Snape and Draco and Voldy (oh, my!). HERMIONE IS QUITTING SCHOOL TO BE THERE FOR HARRY. Do readers realise how significant this is? Ron and Hermione are a big reason Harry stays on as even a keel as he does. *sigh* I adore the Trio completely. H/D is my OTP, but I love me my Trio, yes.
May I say I LOVE Remus' backstory? So much info on Remus crammed into so few lines. That's one of my problems--not enough Remus! I'd be happy if the last book was called Remus Lupin and the Lycanthrope's Curse or something. I love him, love him, love him. Which brings us to:
Tonks. WTF is wrong with her? She is NOT a mopey person. THIS IS NOT TONKS. Someone came along and gave her a character transplant, and it's not a good one. Okay, she can't make her hair pink or change her nose, but mope around like that? Maybe she's taking on Harry's survivor guilt along with her own, and okay, she's upset because Remus won't love her back, but you can't tell me that an intelligent and skilled Auror like Tonks would sulk around all day because she Can't Have Her Man. And speaking of Remus/Tonks, listen up, fandom: It is possible to ship R/T AND R/S. What's up with all this "OMG, Remus loves a woman, he can't have loved Sirius, JKR's trying to de-Gay him" nonsense? It's entirely possible that Remus is bisexual, folks. I'm one of those OMG S/R is SO canon, and Remus/Tonks doesn't change my mind at all. Remus is moving on, that's all. What DOES bother me is Tonks' odd and unnecessary personality transplant.
Okay, now for Narcissa and Bella: I loved their chapter. I love Narcissa! She's living up to my belief that yes, the Malfoy nuclear family indeed loves each other. They're bigoted and wrong, and Draco is being unknowingly emotionally abused, but they are a loving family within the three of them. Narcissa is willing to risk her life for her child (as most mothers would), and woah, she loves her husband too. Who'd've guessed it? *g* As for Bella, she's not quite as crazy as we thought, but she's so addicted to Voldemort she can't see straight. I love her character; I hope we see more in book 7.
*sigh* Now for Snape. Such a mystery, such an enigma, such a wonderful, fantastic, incredible character. My Snape-love has gone up a hundredfold, and I already had such love for him. I don't think he's teh ebil, either. I think he has his own code of morals, and they're as ambiguous as his story is. He obviously killed Dumbledore because of the Unbreakable Vow; Draco couldn't do it. (*pauses to squee*), and Snape would've died if he didn't do it. So why, if Snape Is Not Evil, didn't he just die for Dumbledore? Because if nobody killed Dumbledore, Draco would have died. Snape did the deed for Draco, IMO. Snape didn't have to make the vow (or if he did, there was some other reason we haven't learned yet). I think Snape sees beyond good and evil. He's planted somewhere in between, and probably for very good reason. Besides, Dumbledore trusted him, and I think it's true that Dumbledore is Right Most of the Time. I think that maybe Dumbledore knew what was going to happen, but I also think that he was very glad at the end that it wasn't Draco. Also, Dumbledore knew that the DADA job was cursed, yet he gave it to Snape, anyway (although, as patchfire said, Quirrel was in for more than one year--maybe that was a Flint?). In any case, Dumbledore knew something was going to be up with Snape, and yet he still trusted him.
As for Dumbledore, he was pretty okay this book. I'm not a big Dumbledore fan, but I like him here, and how he was willing to sacrifice himself for what he thought was a horcrux, and how he was portentious in bringing Harry along to help him. And I loved his conversation with Draco. He really didn't want Draco to lose his innocence. There was something that Dumbledore knew, probably always, about Draco, or he would have hauled him in earlier, I expect, because, well. Dumbledore Knows All.
Which brings us to the last, best, finest thing about this book--Draco Malfoy.
Oh, Draco. Oh, Draco, Draco, Draco, my very dear, you are a Real Boy at last. This was everything I'd hoped for, and the biggest hope I had for the story, and the thing I honestly never thought would happen. She made Draco real. You can see him when he turns sideways, now. *g* He's real, he's a character, he's got a personality that's not cookie-cutter, he can cry, he loves his family, he has regrets, and hopes, and fears. AND HE COULDN'T KILL DUMBLEDORE. My Draco is Redeemable (although, as of yet he's still innocent, isn't he?)! He's also realising there's a big, wide world out there that doesn't centre around Draco Malfoy, and he's scared to death, which is so IC for him it isn't funny. And his obsession for Harry has been blotted out by his fear of killing and of dying. It's been transferred to Harry, though, so I'm happy.
Shipwise? I couldn't be more confident that H/D is not only alive and well, but fresh and new again. The H/D fics that come out of this book will NOT be like the others. Harry will have to find Draco, deal with Snape, and be in some situation that's new and unusual and not just OMG fight!sex inna hallway. I think my fic will be just fine, with some tweaking and figuring out of Snape's role in it. I'm even more determined to write it, now, as I think it will be better with the new canon.
I'd like to see what the Pumpkin Pie-ers and the Snarry people and the Draco/Ginny people will be saying about the latest Events. Also, I think there will be an upsurge in Snaco. Which makes me happy, because the ship makes so very much sense. And much, much more fresh, new, original H/D. I predict stories as sharp and gorgeous and wonderful as Underwater Light, Irresistible Poison, Love Under Will, all those oldies. H/D fandom, it's a whole new ball game for us. I can't wait to read the first efforts.
I've already ranted about the Remus/Tonks. I like Remus/Tonks, just not the whole Depressed!Tonks thing. I've also mentioned Ron/Hermione. *thinks* Yep.
I overlooked the mild (and it WAS mild) H/G, because well, it ended, and it was pretty boring. I hope patchfire is right, that it was just Harry saying, oh, it's nice to have a girlfriend, and it won't rear its boring head next book. I'm not a fan of OBHWF when it includes Harry. I'd rather see Harry/Luna, or, even more, Harry/Nobody. I don't think anyone can be with Harry right now. It's good to see Harry acknowledging that, as well. He has to go it alone. The last leg of a hero's journey has to be alone (except if you're Frodo, who had his Sam, and thank the Maker for that. *g*) And Harry will have his Sam--two of them. It all does come back to the Trio, and I'm glad that I'm a Trioshipper, even if it's not my OTP.
*whew*. Well. That's my review, as rambling and unformed as it may be. Most I liked, some I didn't, but in the end it's all good, and my favourite thing is Draco, Draco, Draco, whatever his choices may be. My Real Boy. *loves*
My Current Music is the main theme for my fic. Canonwise, it's never been more true for Draco. Listen for yourself and tell me what you think:
Indigo Girls - Prince of Darkness
Oh, and willysunny? Can I still beta or is it too late? I was afk because of spoilers and then I got caught up in the squeeage. Am bad beta.
ETA: The horcruxes, the zombies, the Apparation test, Fred and George's shop, Draco's Detour, Dumbledore and Harry on Brooms, Harry force-feeding Dumbledore, all those were wonderful things. I tend to focus on the characters in reviews, is all. The story had just the right amount of twists and turns. I don't understand how some reviewers can say JKR is playing to the market, when she's just telling a story (which started a long time before there WAS a market), and doing a good job of it.