Everything Ms Rowling’s been setting up since at least book two came to a head in this book. Death Eaters, Dementors, the return of Lord Voldemort, why Snape is trusted by Dumbledore, and more. She had me on the look out for red herrings and I STILL got surprised by the villain (outside of Voldemort). The level of tragedy she allows to befall the characters continues to grow as her presumed audience continued to grow in age. This raises the stakes on Harry Potter and his allies as they are even more likely to run into trouble.
This was also the most up front in dealing with teenage hormones. That’s not saying much – perhaps it’s risque by British standards, but I thought Harry and friends were still a bit on the innocent side given their age. Still, we do see Hermione blow up at the fact that she’s been carrying a torch for (view spoiler)[Ron (hide spoiler)] without much reciprocation.
I’m unsure of whether the remaining books can even return to the normal school goings on given what’s happening in the outside world now.
One thing that was referenced a lot without payoff in this book was Dumbledore’s legendary forgiveness. I’m not sure if it was implied this came from his time in the Death Eater trials. But a seemingly throwaway line has me wondering about his own past. All in due time, I guess. Just remember this is my first time through the novels and I’d prefer not to have a spoiler about that.
The other thread that seemed not to go anywhere was Hermione’s startup of SPEW to get more rights for the house elves. Perhaps there’ll be a payoff in future novel or perhaps it was just showing her growing as a person.
Either way, it’s on to the next novel.