Free Stan Shunpike!
Just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince this morning. I think it qualifies as the best book of the series so far. Fortunately, it appears that Rowlings has either gotten a better editor or has come to the realization that a tighter story is a better story. The last two books were overly long while this book is very economical in its use of page space. Furthermore, it ties a lot of threads from previous books into an overall narrative that adds a whole new layer to what has gone before.
Michael Gitz of AMERICABlog has a good (non-spoiler) review that discusses some of the political similarities between what happens in the book and what is happening in our world today. I especially appreciated this point:
But one element -- that doesn't spoil the plot at all -- involves people thrown into jail by the wizards in power. As Dumbledore and Harry discuss it, some of those people are completely innocent AND THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS IT. But they leave those people to rot in jail because they're desperate to be seen as doing SOMETHING to fight the terrorists...pardon me, I mean the Death Eaters. Harry knows this is wrong and says so.
So think about that. Millions of kids around the world have been reading and respecting Harry Potter. They probably can't imagine anyone in the real world would ever do something like leaving people they KNOW are innocent to rot in jail. And when these young people realize it's actually being done this very moment by their own government, they'll say, quite simply, "That's not right!"
Of course, I wonder how many readers will make the connection between the plight of Stan Shunpike (read the book) and the current erosion of our civil liberties.