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I snuck into a book shop on the way to work and traded in some red notes for a book. Luscious hardcover, with possibly the worst cover illustration I’ve seen on a Harry Potter book.

If that’s all that’s wrong with the book I’ll be delighted.

On the way back from work I cracked it open and started reading. The beginning was different enough to catch my attention from what I had expected. After that the pages began to turn quicker and I got lost rapidly in the story.

Having rushed through a dramatic Part 1, it became harder to keep reading. Part of it is this sense of nervous tension. As odd as it sounds, I’m so keyed up about the story as it has unfolded so far, I don’t have the focus to sit and find out how the knots that seem to be getting almost infinitely deeper unlock themselves.The rabbit hole Rowling weaves is getting worryingly deep, and you you have to wonder whether she’ll be able to dig her self out of it satisfactorily.

Now, almost 200 pages in, I’ve stopped.

Not because the book is bad, but because it’s all become a shade too much to take in. Too much exposition, too much new information, too many old characters wearing new hats and new characters weaving in for a word or three. It’s all become a little too much you might say.

Some of this information you feel could have been dropped into a book three or five years ago. The reader could have used some of the time to digest all the extra back story that keeps expanding the reach of Rowling’s canon.

Now in the light casual reader mode, one might gloss over these things, trusting Rowling to do a Papa Poirot / Sherlock Holmes moment in which the case for the prosecution is summed up in the last five pages, or something to that effect.

The problem with that is that Rowling’s supreme talent is that everything is relevant. She doesn’t include a single detail that does not tie together and reinforce her story in some way. In some senses this becomes unmanageable. Too much information must be retained and applied to appreciate the magnificent complexity of her books.

Instead I’ll provide some first impressions

The new book is decisively better then the last three books. Compared to the dull slog that so much of The Order of the Phoenix and The Half Blood Prince were, I have to say I’m very impressed.

There’s a great sense of tense plotting, heady exposition and events moving at a break neck pace all while keeping alive the exhilaration of a story moving into its climax. It has the freshness of language, the sense of purposeful plotting and the clear direction that those interim books lacked. Rowling has tapped back into the roots that made Philosopher’s Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban rise so far above their peers in terms of sharpness and clarity as well as story telling vision.

There’s a return to a slightly simpler story then before, not so many odd plot arcs, nor so many peripheral complications; something again very much in the mold of the first three books and so very different from the second half of that sextet. It is possible once again, with a sense of certainty to know which way the main story is going, admittedly because all that has gone before dictates that it must head down a single road.

What I’ve read so far is compelling easy reading. Twists, turns, the odd joke (feeble) and a little more adult in its deeper more reflective undertones, but its their effective combination that makes the book stand out so much from the preceding three.

That doesn’t mean the literal writing flaws that are so endearingly Rowlings have gone. Chapter one certainly could have done with a bit tighter editorial control, and sometimes the awkwardness of the language was so clear that it broke the spell of an entrancing opening scene. But these fade away as the story kicks into gear, and Rowling herself relaxes from the tension of starting a very long awaited story.

What it means though, that so far, Harry Potter, no matter what happens at the end, is going to get the send off he deserves. And that is a great relief indeed.

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