Friday, July 27, 2007

Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," by J.K. Rowling

Note: This review is as spoiler-free as I could possibly make it, but if you don't want any clue whatsoever about Harry's fate, don't read the last paragraph.

I opened my copy of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" feeling equal amounts of anticipation and regret. Here, finally, was the conclusion of the seven-book cycle (conclusion being something that most fantasy series these days never seem to reach), the answers to all the questions, the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort. On the other hand, I also knew it was the end of Harry's story.

The book starts with a bang. More than any other book in the series, the action begins immediately and never lets up. By page 50, there's carnage in what becomes a dark and bloody chapter of the saga. It almost had to be that way. Though we've never truly seen Voldemort and the Death Eaters in action, we knew they would be vicious, blackhearted and evil. They live up to their reputation here.

As we learned in "The Half-Blood Prince," Harry is not going back to Hogwarts for the new year. He's about to turn 17, legally able to use magic outside school grounds, and he's going to collect Voldemort's horcruxes, the pieces of his soul that he's split up and hidden, and destroy them. Hermione and Ron, of course, are going with him, despite his protests. The downside of turning 17 is that the spell protecting Harry will fail and Voldemort will be able to find him, so the Order of the Phoenix has to spirit him away from the Dursley's home and hide him in a safe house, and that's where things start to go wrong.

While the Order of the Phoenix tries to protect Harry, Voldemort and the Death Eaters are maneuvering to take over the Ministry of Magic, implement their anti-Muggle policies and, of course, declare Harry an outlaw. Harry and his friends go on the run on a wild magical journey that leads them to new places and forces them to take a hard look at themselves and those that are closest to them.

As promised by Rowling, people die and people change - or at least our perception of those people does. Actions both heroic and not-so-heroic come from unexpected sources, and by the end of the book nearly every character has undergone some sort of transformation.

I quibble with one point late in the book, which I won't reveal here so as not to spoil it for those who haven't finished yet, but I was left with mixed feelings. While a powerful scene, ultimately, I felt that Rowling may have cheated a bit. But it wasn't enough to ruin the book for me.

SPOILER ALERT: There are clues to Harry's fate in the next paragraph. If you don't want to know, don't read it. You've been warned.

"The Deathly Hallows" is a fitting ending for the wizard who is no longer a boy in this book. And though fans around the world will protest, wanting to read more about Harry, it should be an ending. Like all true heroes, Harry has played his part in the grand story and deserves some peace. No future story could match up to the one told in these seven books, and would only cheapen what Rowling has accomplished with this story.

Read my thoughts on the ending of Harry Potter.

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