Well, I just finished the last Harry Potter book, and so it is time to post my review of the book. I will start off with a short summary of my feelings about the book in general and then move on to a fuller review with spoilers.
In this book, it seemed that Rowling was trying to fit as many events into as few words as possible, which made it a bit difficult to understand what was happening at certain points. Because of this, I thought that the book lacked a lot of the charm that made its predecessors so popular. Most of the book was devoted to explaining in fuller detail past events and finishing off the storyline, which had quite a ways to go after the sixth book.
Overall, I’d say it was one of the less enjoyable Harry Potter books. However, despite this, I would still recommend recommend it to those who have liked the previous books because of its explanations and completion of the story. Of course, some of you may be tempted to read the spoilers (some of which are provided below), but you won’t get a fuller experience or explanation from anywhere but the book itself.
SPOILERS BEGIN HERE
One of the major questions going into this book was whether or not Harry would die. The answer is yes and no. Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra curse sent Harry to a metaphysical version of King’s Cross station where he had a conversation with Dumbledore that tied up a lot of loose ends. However, after their conversation, he decides to go back to the world of the living, where he acts dead for a while and then reveals himself in the middle of a battle after Mrs. Weasley kills Bellatrix Lestrange.
I’m going to start with my main gripes with the book:
I think that one of the major problems in the book was inherent in the design of the series. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up, and while it was nice to find out some of the reasons behind past actions and occurrences, much of the book was devoted to explaining the connections between past events and tying them in to the new set of lore introduced in the seventh book. As well, the book finally put a fuller light on the histories of Dumbledore and Snape, which though refreshing to find out, consumed quite a bit of the book.
The another related problem problem I had with the book was the feel and style of it. It was not set as the seventh year at Hogwarts, and I think that the style suffered because of it. Instead, it mainly focused on Harry, Hermione, and Ron traveling about England. This limited the interactions between characters, and much of the bickering between these three became repetitive.
Furthermore, there were many abrupt location changes. Since the main characters were always on the move, there were often times where there would be a dialogue and the next paragraph would say that they had moved somewhere else. This made the story jarring and disorienting. And it wasn’t just when they were on the run, many of the fight sequences were much more disorienting than I remember the previous books being.
One instance of this is the sequence that leads to the destruction of the Ravenclaw diadem. Harry meets Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle in the Room of Hidden Things. The setting isn’t particularly well-described and it is rather mysterious why Malfoy decided that the Room of Hidden Things was the place to be. Furthermore, the action wasn’t particularly well-described. All this made forming a mental picture of the scene harder than usual.
Not only were these action sequences often confusing, they were overly common. There were so many epic danger scenes that after a while, they became a bit boring.
Another part of the book that bothered me was the slowness of the characters to realize what was going on. For instance, during the scene at Bathilda Bagshot’s house, Nagini the snake (one of Voldemort’s horcruxes) coils around Harry, who is wearing Slytherin’s locket (another horcrux), pressing the horcrux into his chest. This gives Harry a vision of the night his parents died from Voldemort’s point of view. Here is an excerpt near the end:
And then he broke: He was nothing, nothing but pain and terror, and he must hide himself, not here in the rubble of the ruined house, where the child was trapped and sceaming, but far away…far away…
“No,” he moaned.
The snake rustled on the filthy cluttered floor, and he had killed the boy, and yet he was the boy….
This part really advanced the idea that Harry was the last Horcrux. Why? For a few reasons. The first being the situation, the snake had coiled around Harry, pressing the locket into his chest, which set off the memory. The second and most compelling reason is in the last line of the quote above. The point of view was not from the snake, as the narration described the snake as in the third person, and it could not be from the locket, as that horcrux had been made long before Voldemort visited Godric’s Hollow. The third was that Hermione had to use the severing charm to separate the locket from Harry’s chest, suggesting a special affinity between it and him.
Now afterwards, Harry does not connect the dots. It seems that the vision was written in purely for the benefit of the reader, as Harry doesn’t end up thinking much of it until it is revealed to him outright near the end.
On sticky particular for me was Rowling’s explanation of the Elder Wand’s allegiances. In particular, the part concerning Grindelwald was a bit difficult to swallow. If Grindelwald did indeed gain the allegiance of the Elder Wand, it seems unlikely that Dumbledore would have beaten him in an (otherwise) fair duel, as the wand was supposed to be unbeatable when wielded by a powerful wizard, which Grindelwald was. On the other hand, it was possible that the Elder Wand did not win Grindelwald’s allegiance, as he had merely stolen it from Gregorovitch, but that would not explain how Dumbledore won its allegiance, only to lose it to Malfoy, who then lost it to Harry, leading to the final duel when the wand backfired on Voldemort who was wrongly convinced that it had one his allegiance. I think Rowling knew this was a weak point, as she omitted any details about the duel.
Another irksome part of wand allegiances is how they don’t seem to have shown themselves earlier in the books. For instance, in book 3, when Lupin disarms Harry Ron and Hermione, why don’t their wands change allegiances? I’m sure some of the holes here can be fixed through retcon, but the idea of wand allegiances seems not to have any basis in previous books.
The epilogue of the book (called “Nineteen Years Later”) is kind of corny. Its a scene at Platform 9¾, where Harry and Ginny are sending their second child of three, Albus Severus, off to his first year at Hogwarts. It reveals that Ron and Hermione have married and had children and that Neville works at Hogwarts, but doesn’t reveal things like what the main characters have done since the
Now, I have spent most of this review talking about the troubles of the book, so I may have given the impression that I thought that the book was terrible. It was not. I simply didn’t find it as enjoyable as some of its predecessors, and I was a bit disappointed in that. It was still a fairly entertaining book and there wasn’t any time where I wanted to stop reading, but on the flip side, it wasn’t one of those books that you can’t put down.
I think that Rowling did a good job putting the final blocks into the puzzle. Of course, one of the main issues that fans wondered about after the sixth book was where Snape’s allegiances lied. Rowling did a good job of keeping this ambiguous throughout the book by casting him in a bad light while dropping subtle hints that he might not be in Voldemort’s league. For instance, he provided Voldemort with the correct date for Harry’s planned departure from the Dursleys, but it was unclear how he got the information or why he did not tell them about any details, as everyone in on the plan seemed to know all the details, so a snitch would have likely told all.
Another instance came when as the new Hogwarts Headmaster, he banned student organizations and instated two Death Eaters as professors, but when Ginny Weasley tried to steal Gryffindor’s sword from his office, the punishment he gave them was to help Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest, something that was a fairly light punishment.
Of course, in the end, it was revealed that Snape had indeed remained loyal to Dumbledore throughout and that he had been acting on Dumbledore’s orders all along. And the reason for his devotion was Voldemort’s murder of Lily Evans (as he called her even after she married James), whom he had develop an affection for starting from childhood, when he was the first person to recognize that she was a witch.
I personally thought that Rowling did a good job explaining Dumbledore: as a mostly benevolent manipulator. Before this book, Dumbledore was a rather flat character. He was seeming the major force for good and one of the people seemingly most fond of Harry. His history was unknown as were his motives. All we saw of him was Harry’s view as a student looking up at a benevolent authority figure.
But we learn that Dumbledore’s aims had been benevolent, nor were his motives always as they seemed. For instance, not many knew of his friendship with Grindelwald and wizard-supremacist views as a young adult nor his culpability in his sisters death. Of course, he learned from those mistakes and modified his views, though he still seemed to be working on an idea that things that seem evil on the surface could be done for the greater good.
This shows through most in his strategy for destroying Voldemort. Dumbledore knew that Harry was Voldemort’s last horcrux and an unintended one at that and knew that Voldemort would have to kill Harry to be defeated. Though he had acted as a friend toward Harry, he actually was leading Harry to his death. At one point, he tells Snape:
In the case of Harry and Voldemort, to speak of one is to speak of the other.
Now, this is not to say that Dumbledore was completely malevolent in his feelings towards Harry. In fact, he does reveal an admiration of Harry in his carrying out of the plan when discussing things with Harry in limbo. But I think that the picture that Rowling painted of Dumbledore in this final book is far more interesting than the dimension of him that we have seen so far.
Obviously, this review isn’t a complete list of spoilers. If you want a more detail, you should read the Wikipedia article for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Of course, the best thing to do in my opinion would be to read the book.