Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Review Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There are NO spoilers from ANY Harry Potter book in this review, though I mention some minor plot points from Books 4 and 6.

By now, everyone knows that the final book in the Harry Potter series was released last Saturday -- this release had more hype than the Matrix, Star Wars 1, Knut the polar bear, the baby panda bear, and Bob Barker's retirement combined. I picked up my copy on Saturday morning at an eerily empty Target which had rows and rows of unsold books, and read it off and on through the camping trip that followed, finishing it between other responsibilities on Monday.

I once knew a guy at work who had deathly hallows -- as soon as he appeared at your office door waving and ready to talk, you'd want to die. But I digress.

Coming in at 759 pages, Deathly Hallows isn't the longest of the series (that award goes to the angstfest that was Book 5), but it's still pretty daunting. It doesn't feel long though, because the narrative hits the ground running from page 1 and remains a page-turner all the way to the end. The pace may be unforgiving for someone who hasn't reread the old books recently, since Rowling wisely cuts the recaps and reminders to a minimum. In place of the boilerplate "Harry is a wizard and this is his owl" prose, Rowling constantly pushes the plot forwards with a fine balance of laughter and danger. I read the first 250 pages in a single sitting, occasionally laughing out loud (a rarity for books not written by Gordon Korman).

The story opens soon after the events of Book 6, in which Harry was tasked to fulfill a mission for a professor, enlisting the aid of his wizard posse, Hermione and Ron. It became clear at the end of the previous book that Year 7 would stray a bit from the standard "Harry spends a year at Hogwarts" formula, but this is actually a strength, since it injects a fresh setting into the story on occasion, while still remaining true to the audience who feels that Hogwarts, itself, is almost a character in the plot.

There is always controversy over the endings of series (except for Six Feet Under, and maybe Friends), but I have to admit that I was completely satisfied with Book 7 as the final saga, and felt that there was no other way to end things that would have fit so well. People are always obsessed with the spoilers and who lives or dies, but those concerns are irrelevant to the strength of the ending that Rowling has written, which ties everything together from the beginning (and I do mean everything. Through the first six books, she created a complete, breathing world with internal consistency, and instead of making the world larger in Book 7, she chose to make it deeper (something which I also enjoy in the writing of Janny Wurts). Plot points that were mere phrases or offhand comments in previous books reveal a deeper meaning in Book 7, and always in a logical fashion. To me, it never felt like she was stretching her story to account for writing herself into a corner (and even that annoying S.P.E.W subplot from Book 4 gets vindicated a bit).

I plan on going back to the beginning and rereading the series (something I haven't done in two years), this time reading Book 7 at a slower pace to appreciate the writing more, but I can already wholeheartedly say that J.K. Rowling deserves every single dollar and pound she has earned for this series. There simply isn't anything to complain about in this book.

Final Rating: A+

You can read my review of Book 6 from two years ago here. Please do not post spoilers in the Comments section.

P.S. We find out that Hermione is a dude.

Happy Birthday Emily Ferry!

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