SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS: Consider yourself warned!
Okay, I’ve had enough time to absorb Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to contemplate the last book in the series. I’ve mulled it over and talked about it extensively with colleagues, friends, and Adam. I have a bajillion thoughts swirling in my head about it so, for the sake of organizing my head, I’ll bullet point my review. First, I’ll start by listing my problems with the book:
- Lack of editing…again. What is the purpose of waiting until Chapter 20 before the first Horcrux is found? Not only that, but by Chapter 20 there still was not a single mention of the Deathly Hallows. One of my friends brilliantly and succinctly pointed out that the book needed to be renamed Harry Potter and the Interminable Camping Trip. That sums it up right there.
- I felt the Deathly Hallows were superfluous. Seriously, didn’t Rowling have enough to worry about with the war between good and evil, the Horcruxes, all the romance, and tying up all the loose ends? Why would you introduce an entirely new storyline at this point?
- The epilogue. If you feel you must do one, then at least give us some real information! Is Harry an Auror? Is Hermione the Headmaster? All Rowling did was confirm what we already knew would happen. Another colleague made the good point that, since we missed out on 19 years, it felt like this tacked-on ending that we had no emotional investment in. To paraphrase from this colleague, “can’t you just imagine 17-year-old Harry with spray-painted gray hair and a fake mustache to make him look older?” The good news is that if you visit the Rowling interview I linked to in an earlier post, you do get some epilogue-related questions answered.
- Rowling was condescending in the way that she kept throwing her readers a bone. You all want to see Neville kick butt? Here, he can kill Nagini. There’s a bone. You want Mrs. Weasley to kick butt? Here, she’ll use the word “bitch”. There’s another bone. It had a hollowness to it or, as Adam put it, it felt “cheap”.
- This book is where Rowling showed her weakness as a storyteller – the rules of fantasy that she made for herself were broken repeatedly. How can they talk to some people in their pictures but not other people? Isn’t it convenient that they can summon elves to their side to help them out of sticky situations – why haven’t they been doing stuff like that the whole series? The explanation for how the wands work was out-of-control. Rowling was just pulling stuff out of thin air.
- Let the Pensieve die. She completely overused that tool.
- Rowling really gave Hermione and Ron the shaft on this one. They’ve become characters just as major as Harry, and they didn’t get their due. Hermione was Harry’s silent sidekick during the entire Interminable Camping Trip, and Ron’s whole experience apart from the other two was explained away in less than a chapter. Ron needed his own damn chapter! And why didn’t we see more of them in the Battle of Hogwarts? You can’t dismiss the importance of Ron and Hermione.
- Rowling sucker-punched me and I didn’t appreciate it. She had me thinking she might – just might – kill off Harry. That scene was so great where Harry was prepared to die, prepared to sacrifice himself to save his friends. I love his determination and the acceptance of his fate. How brilliant would it have been for Voldemort to kill Harry…and thus kill himself? I was so excited at the possibility. I thought, “She’s gonna do it! She’s really gonna do it!” Should’ve known better. Instead, it seemed like the whole scene was written only to set up that final meeting between Harry and Dumbledore. Which was a silly chapter. Harry and Dumbledore should have had that talk before Dumbledore died…or Harry should have found this out in some other way. The two of them having a conversation like that was just one more example of Rowling’s convenient fantasy rules.
Lest you think I hated the book – which I did not – here is what I loved about it:
- I loved Dobby’s death. It was really beautifully done, and I think Dobby’s devotion until the very last was touching and poignant.
- I also loved Hedwig’s death. In the interview with Rowling, she says that Hedwig’s death was absolutely necessary as a symbolic end to Harry’s childhood and innocence. Cool.
- I loved the way in which Rowling dealt with the Malfoys. That even when Narcissa fakes Harry’s death, it’s not out of any goodwill toward Harry…she’s still pursuing her selfish motives. That said, wouldn’t any mother do that in order to reach her child? It humanized her. And Draco is humanized as well. He never befriends Harry and Co. – that would have been unrealistic. But there’s still a begrudging respect in the end. I appreciate that Rowling didn’t separate them as necessarily good or necessarily evil – the Malfoys truly walk that fine line. They’re the most realistically portrayed characters in this final book, I think.
- I love the whole concept behind radio-free wizarding world. Too cool. I was completely cheering them on.
- The kiss between Ron and Hermione was AWESOME. That was well-worth waiting almost 10 years for.
- The death scene for Wormtail was perfection. So fitting. So deserved. It was just the perfect way for him to go, and I didn’t see it coming.
- I still loved Mrs. Weasley going crazy on Bellatrix. Mrs. Weasley has always been one of my absolute favorite characters so I was ecstatic to see her break out…and she did it protecting her family, of course. Absolutely perfect for her character.
- The scene with Ron and the Horcrux where we finally see all his insecurities and inner thoughts come to light was incredibly well-written. On one hand, I was riled up and cheering him on and completely ecstatic. On the other hand, it was moving and heartbreaking to see all that angst.
So ultimately, I enjoyed reading it. If for no other reason than it confirmed my opinion that Prisoner of Azkaban remains the best of the series. It was when Rowling’s editor still, you know, edited. The whole storyline was tight: nonstop action, the Dementors, Harry gets unprecedented insight into his father’s life, Sirius and Lupin are introduced, Hogsmeade, Hagrid becomes a professor. It’s fabulous from beginning to end and can be held up as a perfect example of an editor and an author working together to make a superior product.