Any thoughts, comments what-have-you are both welcome and encouraged. I'm reposting this in an attempt to stir up activity in this community once more.
By-the-by, I still have yet to be sorted. :)
With the 6th installment of the Harry Potter series Rowling once again hits one out of the park and remains 6 and 0 without a dud book in the entire series. She's done a consistantly excellent job of aging her characters and maintaining an ever increasing level of tension as the books have progressed regardless of how hormonally distracted her protagonists are in any given book. Largely she's done this by having a truly specatcular calliber of villain.
Sounds horrible to say, sure but lets face it. Any hero is only as good as his or her archenemy. Without mad scientist CEOs and homicidal clowns Superman and Batman are just freaks in tights with cape fetishes. Part of what makes Harry such a cool protagonist is the fact that as villains go, Voldemort is one of the nastiest ones around. That, in my opinion is one of the most interesting facets of the series. Despite the youth of the hero, Rowling at no point ever waters down Voldemort or his Death Eaters. There's a reason that the wizarding community doesn't even like to say the semi-man's name outloud. He manages to be a menacing presence in the series even when he's unable to take a physical form and once he does get around to rising again in "Goblet of Fire" (via a really nasty dark ritual)he's every bit as menacing as he's hyped as being. Before he's even resurected we see him order the fricasse-ing of Cedric Diggory and the body count doesn't stop there either. The books make no bones about the fact that the Death Eaters are dangerous. Harry and his friends are in very real danger from the Dark Lord and his cronies and that's a huge part of what makes the series work.
Getting Wee Tommy Riddle's backstory in the "Half-Blood Prince" could have, in the hands of a lesser author backfired all over the place and destroyed the mystique of the villain. For an example of this, see "Revenge of the Sith". Darth Vader will never be scary ever again. Should a boggart ever assume the mantle of Lord Vader and come at you, all you would need to do at this point is say, "Ridikkulus" and imagine Vader screaming "NOOOOOO!" and the boggart is toast. However, Rowling did not fall into the quagmire of suckitude that Lucas did and fleshing out Voldemort did what it was supposed to do. It painted a 3 demensional portrait of a terrifyingly pathological psyche and provided Harry with several very important pieces of information about the man who killed his parents including his fatal flaw. (Here's hoping that Harry will be clever enough to use it to his advantage in this series there are no guaruntees that the charaters we love will be alright in the end) Voldemort's achilles heel is also, historically speaking, quite believable. He's a frightening sociopath with a narcissism worthy of a Hitler or a Stalin. (also his followers have a similar cultlike response to him. Bellatrix LeStrange is cut from a very similar cloth to Squaky Fromme of the Manson family)
Even in the Wizarding world, divination is largely dismissed as rubbish and there are a ton of prophecies that have never and will never come true. However, Voldemort's ego would never allow for the possibility that a prophecy about the Dark Lord and Heir of Slytherin might not be etched in stone. The fact that the "Boy who lived" with the lightening bolt scar is, ultimately, a creature of Voldemort's on design brought about becuase deep down Little Tom Riddle needs to believe that he's special is a truly great piece of writing. It takes an ancient mythic structure and puts a very human sense of cause and effect on it. I appreciate this on many different levels.
The whole Heir of Slytherin business, in my opinion, has only a cosmetic influence on Voldemort's power. I think that being Slytherin's heir has no real bearing on why Voldemort is such a skilled wizard. In fact, Slytherin's line has withered to a truly toothless banjo pickin' level by the time Voldemort comes along and it is in fact, his muggle blood that gave his gene pool some much needed depth. I truly believe that his being Slytherin's heir is nothing more than his own and his followers pure blood nonsense. Do I believe that Slytherin himself believed that his heir would be special? Yes. He was a blood purist himself and there's a reason why the Chamber of Secrets can only be opened by a parselmouth. However, do I believe that Voldemort is fulfilling some great and evil destiny because of his relation to Salizaar Slytherin? No. The only prophecies that Voldemort is influenced by are of the self-fulfilling variety and I hope that Rowling maintains that in the next book.