Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: 2007, Scholastic
Category: Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: 9.5/10

Oh, trying to do a review of this book is so hard. I read it in one day, directly after it was released (9 am until 4 am, pretty much nonstop). And it's been simmering in the back of my mind ever since. The whole epic series is just so huge (and I am such a demented fan) that I could probably go on forever and still have things to say. I will try to be brief. ;)

I also don't want to spoil anything for anyone who might come across this review and hasn't read the book yet. But I have to get a couple things off my chest that include major spoilers, so after I post this, I'm going to add a comment to it with those spoilerish thoughts. The thrilling conclusion is so exciting that I HIGHLY recommend that you read the book (the entire series, if you haven't done so already) first. Really, I mean that.


So. Let's see, what can I say that's not really spoilerish? Hmmm. Well, we know that Harry, Ron, and Hermione have been given the mission of finding the four remaining horcruxes. The whole wizarding world is at war now; things are as bad, if not worse, than they were the last time Voldemort was powerful. Everyone is terrified, and Harry is in the worst danger he has ever been in. The protection that Harry's mother gave him when she gave up her life for him wears out the minute he turns 17. He has been the thorn in Voldemort's side (to put it mildly) for sixteen years, and Voldemort's had enough. The big showdown is impending.

This book was actually quite a departure structure-wise from the rest of the series. Though the timeframe is the same (one school year), the kids are not really kids anymore. They're not schoolchildren going about (for the most part) normal schoolchidren's lives--they are adults fighting a serious enemy in the midst of a very frightening war. I was really not expecting this. And I have to say that, IMO, this is NOT a children's book. YA, okay. Children's book, no. Because Rowling doesn't pull her punches here. Not to give anything away, and I really know almost nothing about children and what is appropriate for what age child, but parents of very small children might want to have a read first and see what they think.

Deathly Hallows has such an incredible amount of action. Every other book has seen the kids dealing mostly with regular kids-at-school stuff, with whatever evil plot Voldemort was hatching slowly gaining force through the book and leading to one big climax at the end. Deathly Hallows is a long series of explosive scenes---I couldn't believe how many close shaves Harry had. Voldemort is no longer a shadowy figure that appears in the final scene only. He's all over the place! One of the earliest scenes is Harry leaving Privet Drive. Now that is something that's happened in every single book, but I finished this scene in DH and I thought, "Well, holy hell, she's really kicked that up a notch, hasn't she?" And it hardly ever let up. My heart was in my throat for nearly the entire time I was reading.

There were also so many new elements introduced! Like the Deathly Hallows and all the extra info we got on Dumbledore. I was surprised by this too because there were so many loose ends to tie up from all the previous books that I didn't know how she was going to sort that all out, plus this new stuff. But she managed it. And it all comes together at the end to make sense. Dumbledore goes from being a rather flat character (though lovable, he is two-dimensional: the wise mentor) to being very complex and interesting. We come to understand why the most powerful wizard in the world could not defeat Voldemort. And why the task falls to Harry, who we all love, but by comparison is just a teenager.

Okay, I have two complaints. One is majorly spoilerish, so I'm leaving that for the comments. The other is that it got a bit grim there in the middle. For all I say that the action was unstoppable, there were some scenes in the middle that I thought was just going to drag on and on. The trio seemed stuck in place, unable to do anything and GRIM, GRIM, GRIM. I'm being sort of vague here, so someone ask in the comments if you don't know what I'm talking about.

I haven't been very brief at all, have I? Ah well, I tried. But overall, I was very satisfied with the book. It is huge and powerful and epic, and the sort of book that I can (and will) read again and again. The final conclusion was surprising and just . . . right. The way it was supposed to happen, if that makes any sense.





Jennie said...




WHY OH WHY DID FRED HAVE TO DIE????!! Oh my god. Really, I am ridiculously cut up about this. I managed to avoid all spoilers, so I wasn't sure whether Harry was going to live or die and I remember saying to Twin, "I don't care if Harry dies, as long as the twins make it out alive." Truly. Now this is probably because I am an identical twin myself and not to get all mushy and sentimental, but I really don't know what I would do if my sister was killed. So, J.K. Rowling, you went too far! That scene when Fred dies was a knife to my heart!! I hate you a little bit for writing it.

The Weasley twins were the funniest, most joyful characters in the series. Especially in this book, with its overwhelming GRIMNESS, their jokes and unfailing good humor were nearly the only light and happy bits to be found. When they take the polyjuice potion and turn into Harrys: "Fred and George turned to each other and said together, 'Wow---we're identical!'" And when George goes saintlike and holey! I loved that part. Oh, just, oh. WHAAAAA! I am seriously considering taking a magic marker to my copy and inking out all mentions of Fred's death. I, who think defacing a book to be completely unthinkable and total sacrilege. I understand that Rowling was trying to make the war seem more serious, and I was totally prepared for some deaths. But this was too much. And then Lupin and Tonks's deaths seemed like complete throw-aways. I loved Lupin, but after Fred it was nothing to me. She should have made their deaths more momentous, and left my beloved twins alone. Humph!

Okay, that was what I had to get off my chest. I feel a little better now. The only other spoiler thing I have to say is how much I liked the final scene. WOW. It was BIG. For much of the book, I was very worried that Harry would die, but then as soon as Snape's memory told him that he had to and he just goes off to die without saying good-bye to anyone, I was relieved because I knew that it wouldn't work. He might try to die, but surely that wasn't the way it was all going to end. And I was happy, because I did want Harry to walk away victorious and marry Ginny and live happily ever after. Of course. The epilogue was sweet and lovely. Not enough info of course, but I don't think it would have worked if she'd crammed more stuff in. Has everyone read J.K.'s interview she gave recently? HERE. She gives a few more details.

OMG, I've written too much. Obsessed much? If anyone reads all this, I'll be surprised.


Kristina said...

Oh, I know what you mean about Fred. Tonks and Lupin, I understood because it mirrors Harry's experience of being orphaned because of Voldemort, but Fred? I was shocked.

And Hedwig... all I could think was, "Why didn't he just let her fly free?" I mean, honestly -- HEDWIG!! That made me very sad.

And I knew Snape was trustworthy. And then he dies while looking into Harry's eyes, which are the same as Lily's. That was a nice touch :)

I loved the book. I thought it was a great ending. But I actually didn't care for the last chapter. I was never a Harry & Ginny fan.

C2 said...

OMG, a friend (who just finished reading it) and I were talking about the "We're identical" thing today at work. LOL

I love the twins and I agree that Fred's death was the hardest to deal with (and Hedwig's which seemed so horribly cruel and needless). If she had to kill a Weasley, why not kill Percy?? He could have finally seen what a pathetic, blind drone he had become and then zap.

Ah well, who am I to second guess the most successful author in recent (and not so recent) memory?

Oh - and I so agree that this is NOT a children's book. I hope parents are paying attention if they have young kids that want to read it.

Rosario said...

Fred's death just killed me. I was already teary-eyed from Harry's walk into the woods going to his death, and when we're told about Fred I just started bawling. One of the things I wish had been in the epilogue is a glimpse of George so that we could see he was doing all right.

And I agree, Lupin and Tonks' death after that just didn't seem so big. Though I think the reason she killed them wasn't to hit us with their deaths, but so that there would be another orphan in the next generation whose parents died fighting Voldemort. So then in the epilogue we see that this generation's orphan has a life very different from Harry's. He's having dinner 4 times a week at his godfather's house, for starters, so it's another sign that all is well.

Marianne McA said...

See, I somehow loved the bit where they were stuck doing nothing. Unconsciously I had expected them to know, or to be told, what to do, and enjoyed that JKR undermined that expectation, and left them clueless.
Fred's death was the killer - more than any other death in the series - so horrible. I wish, as Rosario says, the epilogue had mentioned George.

As for whether it's a children's book - I just finished reading it to my eleven year old last night - and nothing in it hugely disturbed her. At a guess, I think an adult might find the torture scenes more difficult than a child would - there's very little explicit writing. As an adult, you're bringing your ideas of enduring torture to the text, whereas for the child, Hermione is just screaming, and the pupils being disciplined with the cruciatus curse are off-page.

Elder Wand question - how could Dumbledore beat Grindewald if the wand was unbeatable?

Li said...

I thought I was the only one in tears over Fred's death. I really really felt for George.

Did you read the JK Rowling article where she originally said she meant to kill off Mr Weasley, but changed her mind because she couldn't bear to, and so killed off Lupin and Tonks instead? She also talked about the reason why it was Fred that died, not George. Here's the link:

I'm so glad that the series ended with a great book - it's sometimes difficult when you've so high expectations for a book, but IMO, Rowling did it well and tied up all the loose ends. Heck, she even tied up some loose ends I'd forgotten about!

Epilogue - I didn't really mind it one way or other. I think she put it in as a bonus for those who wanted to know what happened to Harry 20 years on, but personally, I wouldn't have minded having it end on the previous chapter and leaving the future up to my imagination.

Err.. what else? Oh, the bit I didn't like was when they were in the woods, and how prolonged wearing of the locket changed their character. It's probably just me but I really dislike that plot device.

Oh, and WHO or what was the child in the King's Cross station dream? Am I being really thick here?

Jennie said...

Hi Kristina--The part about Hedwig was sad. But then I was so worried about all the other Harrys that it didn't make too much impact on me. Though I'm not a huge pet person, so maybe that's why. The bit with Snape was nice, though I wished he'd had a bit more to do to help Harry.

C2--Yeah, I was figuring that the Weasleys wouldn't come out completely unscathed but I was thinking maybe Charlie or Mr. Weasley would be the one to die. Not the twins! (Or Ron or Ginny, of course.)

Rosario--Yeah, I wish we'd seen George doing okay in the epilogue too. Still managing the joke shop and everything. :( I guess I will just imagine it that way for myself. And good point about Teddy the orphan. Tonks and Lupin dying was actually a clue to me that Harry wouldn't die, because I figured with Harry as his godfather, Rowling wouldn't want to leave Teddy completely without family (the way Harry was).

Marianne--I guess you're right about the age-appropriateness of the book. But when I was at the release party there were a lot of really little children running around. Like 6-7 year olds. The part where Hermione was being tortured seemed really awful to me, but maybe it wouldn't faze kids as much as I think it would.

Hmmm, about the Elder Wand. Good question. But there was a lot of emphasis in the book about a wand not making the wizard. And that Voldemort's obsession with finding the Elder Wand and thinking that it would make him all-powerful didn't work out at all. But then he wasn't the wand's "master" or whatever. Hmmm. My head's buzzing a little on that one. Maybe next time I reread it. ;)

Jennie said...

Li--I hadn't seen that article! Interesting. I'm glad she didn't kill off Mr. Weasley, but if that's the reason Fred had to die, then I wish she'd gone the other way. ;) And I don't think I realized that the twins actually had individual personalities. One is gentler and the other is funnier? See, I didn't get that. Maybe that's bad, but I always saw them as team Fred&George. Always together.

Now Hagrid could have gone imo, though the scene where he carries Harry out of the woods was really good.

Which King's Cross station dream? Not the epilogue? I can't think what you're talking about. :(

Marianne McA said...

I thought the child was the residue of Voldemort's soul. Doesn't Harry say to Voldemort that he's seen what he'll become? Or am I imagining scenes now?

Jennie, I'm still trying to work out the whole Deathly Hallows thing - & that's after a re-read. I'm not sure if the three objects really had power over death when reunited, or if that was a myth. Given that Dumbledore had access to all three objects for a year before he died, seems that it must have been a myth (he'd surely have saved his own life if he could - even if only to ensure Lord V's defeat) but, but, but - if it was a myth - why did he start that hare running? Why leave Hermione the book? So then it can't be a myth. Confused.

Marmee said...

Voldemort knew about all three Hallows -- but was interested in two of them for other reasons than their power over death. (It was pretty clear that he had dismissed the children's story of the Hallows, if he'd ever heard it -- but that's consistent with his character.) So the trio needed to know about the story to understand that they were objects likely to be of interest to the Dark Lord, IMHO.
That's why Harry followed his gut -- that he was meant to find the Horcruxes, not the Hallows -- and as always, his gut was right.
The Elder Wand had to be introduced to tie together Dumbledore's past with Grindelwald plus the Dark Lord's search for a weapon that could overcome Harry's wand.
But I'm confused about why the Peverell ring with the Hallows Stone would cause Dumbledore's hand to die and shorten his lifespan. Must be something Voldemort added when he created the Horcrux? It's not part of the Hallows legend-- you'd have thought he would see his sister again and die of melancholy if that were the case.
Three times through, and still more questions....

Li said...

Jennie - Chapter 35, when Harry meets Dumbledore, he says the place reminds him of King's Cross.

I also didn't really think of Fred and George as having different personalities, but I bet if I do a re-read of the previous books, it'll come through clearly now that I'm aware of it.

Marianne - what you said about the child being Voldemort's soul sort of makes sense, I don't remember reading that, but then again, I've only read the book once so far!

Jennie said...

Li--Right, that scene. Yes, I was confused by that too, but I think Marianne's right and it's the bit of Voldemort's soul. Dumbledore says something like, "Don't worry about that, you can't help it." Meaning Voldemort was past redemption.

Marianne--Yeah, I agree with my mom. I think that Dumbledore knew of the three objects and saw them only as powerful magical objects, and not as a way to defy death. Maybe he was just giving Harry all the tools he could to help him defeat Voldemort. And the ring did help a bit because the ghosts it brought back helped give him the courage to do what he had to do (die), and he had to know about the wand because Dumbledore must have realized that Voldemort would want to find it after he was dead.

Mama--I think Dumbledore says at some point that Voldemort had put some sort of curse on the ring when he made it a horcrux, and that was the reason it almost killed Dumbledore. Dumbledore must have known that it was dangerous to try to use the ring (as the stone that would bring back dead people), but he couldn't help himself.