Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (2005), narrated by Jim Dale
Notable in this volume is a whole lot of back story about the young Voldemort, and it's the book in which we first learn about horcruxes. Persisting throughout the book is Harry's obsession with Draco Malfoy who he thinks is now a Death Eater, but nobody else will believe him. So he goes to great lengths to spy on Draco, even at the expense of very important things such as tasks assigned him by Dumbledore. Snape is now teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, and has been replaced in Potions by the new Professor Slughorn. Harry ends up using an old Advanced Potions textbooks that used to belong to someone who called himself the Half-Blood Prince, and it's full of helpful notes that assist Harry in acing the class. Harry is also becoming attracted to Ginny Weasley in this book, and there's lots of tensions between Ron and Hermione that also appear symptomatic of a growing attraction between them.
The romantic bits are kind of fun, as are subplots like their Apparition class, but this part of the story also comes with some pretty heavy serious stuff. A couple of students barely escape death, including one of our main characters, and there's a very significant and sad death late in the book. So it's fairly dark, but story-wise it's clearly building up to the final volume and I'm a little antsy to forge ahead soon because the anticipation is a bit too much, even though I've read all these books before and know how they end.
You know, I always think that I don't like fantasy. I don't know why that is because I really love this series and I love His Dark Materials and I loved The Mists of Avalon, and I can't actually think of a fantasy book I've read that I didn't like. I wonder why I continue to hold this prejudice? More importantly, what fantasy should I read next?