While You're Waiting for Harry Potter...
While you're waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you might want to look at the wizardry series by Diane Duane, beginning with So You Want to Be a Wizard. There are quite a few books in the Young Wizards Series and with girl and boy characters as self-taught apprentice wizards and a vast conspiracy of evil out to quash them, there's plenty of fast-paced, well-written action.
If Harry Potter afficionados hanker for that dreary English atmosphere, a new book, Endymion Spring, brings together the quest theme with a dark and evil wizardly force which American kids Blake and Duck encounter while their mom is doing research in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Blake and Duck's quest is interwoven with the story of Gutenberg's printer's devil, Endymion Spring, as they seek his lost book revealing all of human knowledge.
Another worthy alternative is Cornelia Funke's popular two-book series which includes Inkheart and Inkspell. In these books the main character Meggie deals with the consequences of her father's mysterious ability to "read" ominous characters into the real world from the books Inkheart and Inkspell.
For those Harry Potter fans who seek the "chills and thrills" factor in J. K. Rowlings' books, author John Bellairs has written three semi-related series which are highly popular with those readers who love a damp crypt or spooky old mansion in the mix. Bellairs and his first illustrator Edward Gorey are considered the masters of the juvenile Gothic genre.
The Louis Barnevelt series begins with the deliciously scary The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Louis goes to live with his eccentric and wizardly Uncle Jonathan in his appropriately Gothic old mansion and discovers that an evil wizard has planted a clock in its walls which is ticking down to doomsday. Louis and Uncle Jonathan continue to fight this nameless evil in many sequels, including The Figure in the Shadows, The Letter, The Witch, and the Ring, and Vengeance of the Witch Finder.
Bellair's second hero, Johnny Dixon, and his mentor Professor Childermass likewise take on many manifestations of evil in books such as Trolley to Yesterday, Curse of the Blue Figurine, Chessmen of Doom, and The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull.
Bellairs' third series involves a young teenager named Anthony Monday, whose mentor is Miss Eells, a librarian in a Gothic-style town library. Anthony is introduced in the mystery The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, and his ventures with the eccentric Eells' sisters continue in The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb and The Mansion in the Mist, as well as many others.
Bellairs' books are pleasantly but darkly scary and yet somehow have a comfy, reassuring ambience because of the closeness of the young heroes with their crusty but trustworthy mentors. Perfect for reading under the covers late at night!
After all, it's a long time until the rumored release of Rowling's seventh book in the Harry Potter series, symbolically awaited on July 7, 2007, (Book 7 on 7-7-07), and dedicated fantasy fans need to exercise those page-turning muscles until that fateful day!