So is it any good?
We review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Including spoilers.
Marco Ursi | Jul 23, 2007 | 19:26:00
First and foremost, this review is NOT recommended for those who haven’t yet read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and still plan on doing so. I will reveal things that happen in the book - important, spoiler-ish, things. If you don't want to know, off you go, so the rest of us can discuss what happened in peace.
We begin with the death of Ron Weasley.
OK, not really. Just making sure the spoilerphobes have stopped reading.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a quest novel - no Quidditch, no potions lessons, no new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, no visits to Hagrid’s cabin. This surprised me. But Rowling handles the break from form by tucking the quieter, safer, more contemplative moments in new places. As for the important stuff, such as the Hogwarts library - always so essential to our heroes' search for clues - well, it travels with them. Inside Hermione’s magical purse.
In the early going, Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the run from Voldemort and his followers, camping out in close quarters and totally baffled as to what to do next. Here, Rowling takes us deep inside the three-way friendship that’s always been the emotional core of the series. These scenes are claustrophobic, frustrating and uncomfortable - we’ve never really had anything like them before - and Ron’s decision to quit halfway through is the tensest moment in the trio's relationship to that point. Like the Helm’s Deep-esque Battle of Hogwarts, the sequence is oh-so-very Lord of the Rings, with the locket Horcrux filling in for the Ring of Power and Sam, er, Ron returning just in time to save Harry’s life.
And this harrowing, last-second, life-saving stuff is what Deathly Hallows is all about - it’s the fantasy, action-adventure thriller we were all craving. In set piece after set piece, Rowling brings our heroes to the brink of oblivion, only to have them find some last-second escape, like riding out of Gringotts on the back of a dragon, or Dobby, the house-elf, turning up to free them from the Malfoy Manor(and dying for his efforts).
That Rowling packs so much suspense(and I really did feel the suspense)into this book is impressive. In the end, nearly everything we expected to happen happens. Snape turns out to be a good guy and sacrifices himself for the greater good. Harry turns out to be a Horcrux and tries to sacrifice himself for the greater good, only to realize he doesn’t need to die after all. Dolores Umbridge tries to lead a Ministry of Magic Mudblood bloodbath. Ron and Hermione kiss at last and, like Harry and Ginny, end up married. Percy and Draco and Goyle(but for some reason, not Crabbe)are redeemed. Neville plays a heroic leadership role(and lives). Lots of good characters die, but not before they’ve committed their last act of incredible bravery. In other words, we got a very satisfying conclusion. Packages don’t get wrapped much neater than this. This isn’t The Sopranos.
The most surprising angle in the book is also, unsurprisingly, the most interesting. As Albus Dumbledore’s previously hazy history unravels, we get the portrait of a man far more flawed than the saintly headmaster of the first six books. By blemishing the previously unblemished headmaster, Rowling makes him more human. And her rounding out of what is arguably her second most important character illuminates the complexity that’s always been there, but didn’t always show itself from underneath all the adverbial characterizations.
On Friday night, I visited an Indigo bookstore and saw for the first time the madness that has met the arrival of every Harry Potter book since Goblet of Fire. The line of eager fans snaked around the store. Waiting kids had their faces transformed into Voldemort’s on a computer screen, while a DJ played terrible music and asked stupid questions like “Who’s ready for this book?” As I was leaving, I noticed a young girl, maybe eight or nine years old, leaving the store with her mother, holding two books in her hand: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. While Harry Potter’s story has ended for most of us, there are generations of kids who are just now entering J.K. Rowling’s magical world. Lucky them. It’s a pretty fascinating world.