J. K. Rowling’s monumental, spellbinding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas – from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to “Star Wars.” And true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, “Soprano”-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big-screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people’s fates. Getting to the finish line is not seamless – the last part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the series, has some lumpy passages of exposition and a couple of clunky detours – but the overall conclusion and its determination of the main characters’ story lines possess a convincing inevitability that make some of the prepublication speculation seem curiously blinkered in retrospect.
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With each installment, the “Potter” series has grown increasingly dark, and this volume – a copy of which was purchased at a New York City store yesterday, though the book is embargoed for release until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday – is no exception. While Ms. Rowling’s astonishingly limber voice still moves effortlessly between Ron’s adolescent sarcasm and Harry’s growing solemnity, from youthful exuberance to more philosophical gravity, “Deathly Hallows” is, for the most part, a somber book that marks Harry’s final initiation into the complexities and sadnesses of adulthood.
From his first days at Hogwarts, the young, green-eyed boy bore the burden of his destiny as a leader, coping with the expectations and duties of his role, and in this volume he is clearly more Henry V than Prince Hal, more King Arthur than young Wart: high-spirited war games of Quidditch have given way to real war, and Harry often wishes he were not the de facto leader of the Resistance movement, shouldering terrifying responsibilities, but an ordinary teenage boy – free to romance Ginny Weasley and hang out with his friends.
Harry has already lost his parents, his godfather Sirius and his teacher Professor Dumbledore (all mentors he might have once received instruction from) and in this volume, the losses mount with unnerving speed: at least a half-dozen characters we have come to know die in these pages, and many others are wounded or tortured. Voldemort and his followers have infiltrated Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, creating havoc and terror in the Wizard and Muggle worlds alike, and the members of various populations – including elves, goblins and centaurs – are choosing sides.
No wonder then that Harry often seems overwhelmed with disillusionment and doubt in the final installment of this seven-volume bildungsroman. He continues to struggle to control his temper, and as he and Ron and Hermione search for the missing Horcruxes (secret magical objects in which Voldemort has stashed parts of his soul, objects that Harry must destroy if he hopes to kill the evil lord), he literally enters a dark wood, in which he must do battle not only with the Death Eaters, but also with the temptations of hubris and despair.
Harry’s weird psychic connection with Voldemort (symbolized by the lightning-bolt forehead scar he bears as a result of the Dark Lord’s attack on him as a baby) seems to have grown stronger too, giving him clues to Voldemort’s actions and whereabouts, even as it lures him ever closer to the dark side. One of the plot’s significant turning points concerns Harry’s decision on whether to continue looking for the Horcruxes – the mission assigned to him by the late Dumbledore – or to pursue the Hallows, three magical objects said to make their possessor the master of Death.
Harry’s journey will propel him forward to a final showdown with his arch enemy, and also send him backward into the past, to the house in Godric’s Hollow where his parents died, to learn about his family history and the equally mysterious history of Dumbledore’s family. At the same time, he will be forced to ponder the equation between fraternity and independence, free will and fate, and to come to terms with his own frailties and those of others. Indeed, ambiguities proliferate throughout “The Deathly Hallows”: we are made to see that kindly Dumbledore, sinister Severus Snape and perhaps even the awful Muggle cousin Dudley Dursley may be more complicated than they initially seem, that all of them, like Harry, have hidden aspects to their personalities, and that choice – more than talent or predisposition – matters most of all.
It is Ms. Rowling’s achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar adolescent – coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating – and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spider-Man and Luke Skywalker. This same magpie talent has enabled her to create a narrative that effortlessly mixes up allusions to Homer, Milton, Shakespeare and Kafka, with silly kid jokes about vomit-flavored candies, a narrative that fuses a plethora of genres (from the boarding-school novel to the detective story to the epic quest) into a story that could be Exhibit A in a Joseph Campbell survey of mythic archetypes.
In doing so, J. K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s Oz or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe, which may be one reason the “Potter” books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis. With this volume, the reader realizes that small incidents and asides in earlier installments (hidden among a huge number of red herrings) create a breadcrumb trail of clues to the plot, that Ms. Rowling has fitted together the jigsaw-puzzle pieces of this long undertaking with Dickensian ingenuity and ardor. Objects and spells from earlier books – like the invisibility cloak, Polyjuice Potion, Dumbledore’s Pensieve and Sirius’s flying motorcycle – play important roles in this volume, and characters encountered before, like the house-elf Dobby and Mr. Ollivander the wandmaker, resurface, too.
The world of Harry Potter is a place where the mundane and the marvelous, the ordinary and the surreal coexist. It’s a place where cars can fly and owls can deliver the mail, a place where paintings talk and a mirror reflects people’s innermost desires. It’s also a place utterly recognizable to readers, a place where death and the catastrophes of daily life are inevitable, and people’s lives are defined by love and loss and hope – the same way they are in our own mortal world.
I like this review, because it’s not only a review of the seventh book. It also tells about what happened through the seven years and the changes. Sometimes it’s not really clear if the writer of the review is talking about the final book, or about all the books about Harry Potter.
Overall, I think this is a very good review, and I quite agree with the writer of it.
Too bad, I was expecting a real story…, July 25, 2007
All I can say is wow. This book is the absolute worst of the series. The pace of the book is either frantic or nonexistant. The hero’s are either in full-on battle or sitting on their butts waiting for the next action sequence. You would be reading on part and all of a sudden, the author zooms you along to the next plot point.
One of the two biggest dissapointments is how the hero’s (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) solve their problems. Any roadblock that they run into is solved by the “act of God”. The main heros act either out of character or “magically” get the new power needed. By this I mean that the solution required a suspension or the rules the author created the world of Harry Potter(which was foreshadowed in book 6). A hero would mysteriously gain a power or a completely random event would solve a plot ending problem. No real stuggle for the hero’s other than not splitching.
The other big problem, our hero’s abandon their struggle to do what is right and good consistantly. I am not saying that they needed to even by 90% morally right in what they did, but come on. The use unforgivable curses without ANY hesitation or even questioning of their use. The eplilog only confirms our much loved heros abandonment of what is right and wrong, spewing the hate they once despised and laughing about doing wrong.
This is just sad.
Other things that bothered me were, the overemphsis of a Nazi-likeness of the Death Eaters. It felt overplayed and over-the-top as if the reader might be too dumb to realize the connection. The hero’s spend more time bickering that it is amazing they get anything done, let alone be friends. The fact the Voldemort for all his greatness as a villian, in the end, is stupid and repeats the same mistake over and over. Also the rip off from the Lord of the Rings with the horcruxes evil power when worn, way too much like the one ring. Rant – come on you can create a whole world but have to rip off from LOTR and cannot come up with an orginal idea, better to leave the item just cursed instead of cantaminatingly evil. Okay rant over.
I have liked or loved the previous books in the series and thought they were good books to grow with as young kids began to learn that the world is more than good or bad and never as black and white as we hope.
The most confusing aspect was the insertion of the Hallows subplot. It did nothing to adavnce the story in any real way and if it had not been there, the main plot would not have suffered at all.
There are parts of the book I did enjoy. Neville continues to develop as a character. The mystery of Snape is solved. Some the hero’s adventures nicely illustrate the complexity of the problem they face.
Unfortunately, as a whole the book requires such a large suspension of belief in the world of Harry Potter thus far and the complete abandonment of telling a story where the good guys end up in the end being good and learning what that means, doomed this story and ended the series with a dull thud.
I already disagree on the first point the writer tells. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the pace of the book. Certainly after summarizing the book chapter by chapter, I realize there are so many things that happen in the book.
I can imagine that the writer of the review thinks things go a bit too easy for Harry and his friends. They somehow narrowly escape from Voldemort every time and nobody really gets any serious injuries. I can imagine that he thinks that, but I don’t really think that way. Harry and his friends had to do a lot of difficult things to reach their goal, and it certainly wasn’t easy.
That “our heroes” used unforgivable curses, isn’t really a bad thing for the book I think. They used those curses in life threatening situations. I must admit that they did it like it was no big deal, but the circumstances were not good for them, so I understand why they would have used the curses.
I can’t really say anything about the horcruxes being stolen from Lord of the Rings, because I never really saw that movie or read the books.
I do agree about the hallows. It’s a quite useless part in the book, and after reading the book a couple of times, I still don’t understand why it’s in the book. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Not everything has to be in the book for a reason. Not everything has to be unmissable.
I think it’s clear that I really liked the book. I read all the other Harry Potter books in Dutch, and it wasn’t a problem at all to read a book in English. I really liked the end of the book. You keep thinking Harry’s going to die, and still he comes back and kills Voldemort. There are a lot of moments that you think it’s going in the wrong direction, but it always turns out good.
The book is written in a way so you can’t stop reading. I spend days of my holiday in France reading, also in the middle of the night. There are not a lot of moments in the book that there’s nothing happening. There’s always something going on, and that makes you want to go on reading.
I do think that the final part of the book is a bit weird. You actually only get to know who married who and about their kids, but nothing about what they do now and where they live. So after reading the book, not all my questions were answered.
All in all, I really liked the book, just like the other parts. Sometimes I missed a couple of things, because I was trying to read too quickly when it got tense. But I don’t think that’s just because the book was English. When I read a book for a second time, I always read things that I didn’t see before.
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