Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The End of Harry Potter

We've all gone a bit potty at our house. Son #1 and I both read THE BOOK last weekend. My wife just finished it last night, and son #2 will probably be done in the next couple of days. Son #3 just started reading the series (on his own--I've read most of them to him aloud) a few weeks ago and is almost done with Chamber of Secrets. We've been fans of the books since they first came out here in the U.S.

So here is a short, spoiler-free review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I posted over at Library Thing (if you are not familiar with LT, you must check it out.) They've got a contest going where you can win prizes for reviewing the book and giving a thumbs-up to other reviews. This review, if you can call it that, doesn't address all the issues I had with the book (the completely unnecessary device of the Hallows, for instance) but sums up my overall reaction quite nicely.

Expectations were high for this final installment in the HP series. One hundred pages in, I felt sure those expectations would be met. Three hundred pages in, I was beginning to have my doubts. By page 500, I was seriously worried. But by the time I read the last word on page 759 I was completely satisfied.

The book starts off with a bang, but the bulk of the middle chapters turn into a standard fantasy quest. Which, in and of itself, isn't necessarily a bad thing; however, in this instance, the story really gets bogged down and never seems to advance in any meaningful way until the very end. This isn't to say there aren't some wonderful, exciting scenes mixed in along the way--they are just few and far between.

The problem is that one of the series' main characters doesn't really make an appearance until the end of the book. No, not that guy. I'm talking about Hogwarts. So much of the wonder and magic of the series has to do with the school itself--the classes, the teachers, Quidditch, the castle with its myriad rooms and hidden passages, the Forbidden Forest, etc., etc. I know it was necessary for the story that the main action take place away from Hogwarts, but I think it really hurt the book to keep Harry away from his only true home for so long.

Because once Harry and friends finally arrive at Hogwarts, things really get moving. Everything kicks into overdrive and leads up to a real corker of an ending. I'll forever have imprinted in my brain the image of a certain character's charge across the room, wand waving, shouting out "..." (Sorry, I almost forgot I want this to be a spoiler-free review!) Shades of Ripley's final stand against the Queen in Aliens!

Despite my concerns, Rowling manages in the last couple of chapters (plus the epilogue) to close out the series in absolutely satisfying fashion. I've gone back and reread the epilogue a few times already, not only for what it reveals, but for the way Rowling is able in a few short pages to come full circle and set the ending tone back to that optimistic sense of wonder and magic that so fully embodied the first few books in the series.

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