Internet provides instant Harry Potter reviews

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In the age of the Internet, a book review can be virtually instant.

The latest instalment in the Harry Potter series, on sale from Saturday in one of the most eagerly anticipated book launches ever, is already under the microscope of speed-reading critics, and opinion is divided.

Within hours of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" hitting the shelves, Harry has been likened to Luke Skywalker from the "Star Wars" films, Henry V and King Arthur, and evil afoot in the plot to recent bomb attacks in London.

Plot summaries are also appearing with what publishers may regard as unseemly haste, forcing readers to settle down and plow through the book's 607 pages of magic and mystery.

The British Broadcasting Corporation's Web site, www.bbc.co.uk, featured its own Harry Potter "review blog," with a staff member updating readers on his thoughts even before he reached the end of the hardback tome.

"I've just finished the last few words of the book," he wrote at 5.30 a.m. (0430 GMT), five hours and 30 minutes after the book's official launch.

"In many ways this book has been a mere staging ground for Rowling's final narrative to come," the review continues.

"Too much of the book was either a repeat of what we have seen before, or bogged down by Rowling's attempts to maneuver plot lines and characters into position.

"After a while all magic tricks begin to lose their impact."

Others were more complimentary, some positively gushing, as Rowling fulfilled expectations that she would tackle the dark side of life at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft.

"Call out the grief counsellers," wrote Sandra Martin on www.theglobeandmail.com.

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