Read: July 2005
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the calm before the storm, it is the 1939-1940 impasse, in which war has been declared, but both sides are still getting organised and working out their grand strategies. For Voldemort, this lies in a special task which has been given to Draco Malfoy, for Dumbledore it is in education, and a quest to understand the gaps in Voldemort's life. But Harry is still not ready to fully trust those around him, and because of this he is placing all their lives at risk. The tension is building, full blown war is inevitable, it just requires a spark to really set it off.
But most of all, Half Blood Prince provides a retrospective glance into life before the series begun, into Voldemort's psyche, and Harry's own parents. One thing I think Rowling does better than most is in making her 'baddies' human, even while never forgiving or limiting their vile actions. She creates real villains you can understand yet still hate, and shades of grey in which characters like Snape can perpetually balance between the two. If Severus Snape is the real star of the entire series, and to my mind he is, then this is his solo. A major event is coming, and when it does, Snape will be at the forefront of it all.
7.5 out of 10